Featured artists: Virgil & Steve Howe | Adarsh Arjun | Midas Fall | Ancient Future | Exowst Scotland ||:
TPA’s Leo Trimming and Bob Mulvey take a look at some of the recent releases in one of our periodic ADA reviews updates – the first for 2023…
• Virgil & Steve Howe – Lunar Mist
• Adarsh Arjun – Aches and Echoes
• Midas Fall – Covers [EP]
• Ancient Future – Lustful Elephants Trumpet Spring [Single]
• Exowst Scotland – 20231969 | 202310 | 2023999
Lunar Mist is the latest posthumous album released since Virgil Howe’s unexpected death. Following that early demise in 2017, Steve Howe had the sad task of pulling together their album Nexus, and similarly he created Lunar Mist late in 2022, based on a series of largely keyboard sketches by Virgil. Multi-instrumentalist Virgil, who had previously worked with Amorphous Androgynous, clearly had a talent for creating impressionistic soundscapes, to which his father has lovingly added some delightful guitar strokes and subtle accents, particularly in the shining steel guitars of Plexus. More Than You Know slowly emerges from a mist of echoing synths and guitars, as father and son seemingly play off each other intuitively. Never Less features a flowing piano-led melody from Virgil, whilst As If Between dances along, waltz-like, with stately keys and guitars intertwining with occasional synth effects echoing in the fringes.
Some pieces are less assured, such as Mariah’s Theme, which plods along quite sedately with some peculiar vocalisations. However, Lunar Mist is generally a highly satisfying collection of attractive instrumentals played with skill and feeling. A Month of Sun is a highlight which trips along with sonic sunshine flowing out of the keyboards and electric guitar. On the whole, these are subtle, delicate compositions so the strange sci-fi sound effects and experimentation of the final Martian Mood is a surprise, not really gelling with the rest of this soothing – if rather lightweight – album. Aside from that curious ending, this could easily be used for meditation, or maybe playing gently whilst in the bath with some candles on!
Lunar Mist certainly shows a father lovingly paying tribute to his sadly departed son in a fitting and rather beautiful manner.
Across 2022 I watched and enjoyed the four video releases from guitarist and composer Adarsh Arjun, so much so it piqued my interest enough to look out for the release of the Aches and Echoes album, mooted for early 2023, and it duly arrived very early in January. Hailing from Kerala, India, Adarsh Arjun is a versatile player and Aches and Echoes features ten melodic rich and powerful guitar driven instrumentals. Joining Adarsh and making up the band are (as far as I can gather) Antony Raphael Nellissery on bass and Antony Varghese on drums.
Musically, Adarsh draws from the heavier end of the progressive rock and metal spheres, with forays into the off-beat and complex realms of djent. Adrash cites Plini, David Maxim Micic, Intervals, TesseracT, Periphery and Dream Theater. Strengthening this assertion, the album contains a couple of tracks featuring guest guitarists, notably Plini’s Jake Howsam Lowe on Heartsick and Richard Henshall from Haken appears on super catchy Hide N Seek
Across the album, Adarsh blends “the western color with the Indian music”, although the latter not overtly so. Certainly tracks such as the excellent Hide N Seek hint at it, whilst the multifaceted Tirade certainly brings the flavours of South Asia to the forefront.
Aches and Echoes is powerful, with an abundance of light and shade, hugely melodic – so if you’ve an inkling for such, I can heartily recommend this album…
Whilst writing their fifth album, Scottish duo Midas Fall decided to explore covers of some well-regarded songs, and have released an E.P. of three covers of songs by Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead and Placebo. Midas Fall ensure they do not fall into the trap of unimaginative straightforward copies of original songs, taking the opportunity of stamping their own identity on these pieces, whilst also applying a fresh perspective to some iconic material. Releasing such songs also gives Midas Fall the opportunity to appeal to new listeners. Previously known as purveyors of post-rock with elements of electronica and alternative rock, Midas Fall have also shown some progressive tendencies, whilst having previous form with fascinating versions of ethereal Christmas classics Walking in the Air and White Christmas.
The Covers E.P. sees the soft vocals of Elizabeth Heaton invert Bruce Springsteen’s ebullient Dancing in the Dark into a more introspective and ethereal soundscape, dripping in synths and pulses. It’s quite beautiful. Placebo’s Every You, Every Me is less familiar, but Heaton and Michael Hamilton drench it in spectral swathes of floating tones, under suitably icy vocals. The highlight of this release is the utterly beguiling version of Radiohead’s iconic Creep. Heaton’s beautiful, diaphanous vocals echo the fragility of Thom Yorke, but Midas Fall set Creep in a sparse but shimmering post-rock waltz which slowly builds tension, reaching a great crescendo before receding. These are very special covers and are a perfect calling card for the band to attract attention to their own original material – take the chance to touch base with Midas Fall.
Many moons ago, whilst flicking through YouTube, I stumbled across Yearning for the Wind performed by guitarist Matthew Montfort and Vishal Nagar on tabla. Wonderful stuff. It prompted me to track down more of Ancient Future’s blend of World Music – which I have to say turned out to be equally rewarding.
Now ‘World Music’ is a somewhat overused and often misrepresented term. However, in the case of Ancient Future it is very apt, although I prefer how AF put it: “…where new cross-cultural music is created by learning from the world’s great ancient traditions.”
For those unfamiliar, Ancient Future was formed by Matthew Montford in the late ’70s, and with an ever evolving membership released several albums between 1979 and 2001. The ensemble, in various guises, are still active, both performing and recording. Fast forwarding to this latest offering, Lustful Elephants Trumpet Spring (L.E.T.S.) was initially released in May 2022 on ‘Endangered Species Day,’ with a video version in September to coincide with Elephant Appreciation Day.
So with all the elephants in the room, Matthew Montfort along with Aditya Kalyanpur on tabla and keyboardist Frank Martin perform an evocative melange of world fusion tinged with western jazz. Fascinating…
Across 2022, Exowst Scotland released twelve singles, one per month, collated here on TPA in a series of quarterly ADA updates: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and finally Part 4. Spurred on by the success of these monthly releases, Exowst Scotland, performed by Snow (Alan Emslie), has decided to continue the trend throughout 2023. And we will be doing the same…
A quick note on the addition of ‘Scotland’ to the Exowst name: to I’m sure immense frustration, following the release of the early singles, another Exowst appeared, a French DJ version. Hence the addition of the epithet Scotland. And in case you are curious, and according to the Scots dictionary, ‘exowst’ denotes ‘to exhaust’.
Continuing the trend of all twelve previous singles, they are denoted only by a number, leaving the whys and wherefores to the listener, and as with the previous ‘singles’, the significance of the numbers is open to an number of interpretations. Whether or not my assumptions were correct is irrelevent, I did enjoy the challenge. The opening gambit of 2023 may not be too tricky, the first part seems to speak for itself, and the second ‘probably’ refers to a birthdate? I’m thinking back to 2019’s AE 50…
January’s 20231969 is short and sweet with Emslie employing live takes on 8-string guitar and synths. An anthemic opening to 2023…
Again, released at the end of the month, February’s 202310 is a somewhat darker affair. Deep droning synth, growling low-tuned guitar and drums… with the mearest whiff of Rush’s Tom Sawyer initially filling the airwaves. Like all of the ‘number’ tracks released by Exowst, repeated listens reward, and 202310 is no exception. Alan Emslie’s pointed and guttural vocal is superbly contrasted by the multiple layers of synths…
Concluding this first quarter is 2023999. During 2022 I offered some ‘potted’ explanations as to the significance of the numbers chosen, and some may have hit the mark, but the numbers can – and do – have multiple translations depending on your view point. I suspect, given the lyrical content, that 999 refers to the ‘old’ emergency call number. An urgent wake-up call for mankind. “One day soon | We’re not gonna make it | One day soon”. Musically we have a rich wash of keyboards and found-sounds, the familiar down-tuned guitar and this time around Alan’s tight snare and ride cymbal holding it place.
We’ll be back – circa 202307…