Random Earth Project (REP) are a four-piece, formed in January 2022. The band are a group of experienced musicians who seem driven to taking this opportunity to create themselves a space in the re-vitalised neo-prog scene. Having spent time in various bands on the fringes, including house bands and tribute acts, whilst also developing expertise on the production side, the band has now released their debut album Airwaves.
Creating absorbing and original progressive rock music is very difficult to get right, and REP don’t need to make any excuses for emulating familiar stylings in this first release. This collection of songs draws on their experiences but also begins to highlight their own style. The song-writing is, in the main, original and interesting and there are some outstanding musical passages. Not everything works, understandably, but this album definitely shows promise, and contains some real highlights.
As is the way now, the album was recorded virtually, not in a studio environment, and for me it is plain that a period on the live circuit playing together more should be a priority. In that respect, this album clearly shows their capability in both performance and musicality, and they should have no problem securing slots. They are obviously making the right connections in the industry as they have been able to secure the services of Amanda Lehmann as a guest on a couple of tracks.
The album kicks off with Airwaves, and having the album moniker against it should make it their statement of intent. I’d like to be more enthusiastic at this point (and I will be much more enthusiastic, in time) but this track contains the first of quite a few heavily clichéd moments. In other circumstances Airwaves could have turned out to be a rollicking arena-friendly anthem. The song itself is actually ok, but for anyone with a passing knowledge of the heavy use of radio static sound effects or Porcupine Tree’s Even Less the final execution of the arrangement doesn’t sit well with me, a premise that even Ed Sheeran might agree with.
Airwaves segues incongruously into Egyptian, a psychedelic romp that is in no way related to what has gone before and which therefore sounds a bit out of place. Fortunately, up next is one of the real highlights. Time to Dream is a simple melodic song that is just interesting enough to set itself apart from its obvious influences. The arrangements are spot on this time and the track is delivered expertly. The simplicity works really well and shows a level of skill on which the band can build.
Window features Amanda Lehmann on vocals and guitar, but not before an uninspiring 3-minute intro. Whereas the previous track was neatly packaged, the beauty of the song contained in Window is diluted by the arrangement that precedes it, and it seems to me to be a missed opportunity to showcase the talents of this guest more appropriately.
Having already presented a mixed bag of influences the next track is Holy Blues. No surprises that this is a straightforward blues song that, with a heavy dose of irony, begins with the line “Here comes that old cliché”. Again, this has the makings of a decent track and will be great fun to play ‘live’, but I don’t see how it fits in to this collection, at this point of the band’s development.
All told, so far, I’m actually not that discouraged or disappointed. Underlying it all is good musicianship and decent song-writing. Where the musical direction falls short, there are obvious mis-steps that the band can learn from, and for which they may need to find some additional support.
The second half of the album gets off to a great start. Kym Blackman’s voice has more than a hint of Peter Gabriel about it and Keep Your Head Down sails close to the wind in terms of its Genesis-like influences, but since when has that been an issue for up-and-coming neo-prog bands? This is a fine example of the genre and feels much more representative of the real nature of the band at this moment. The follow up is England which tracks the same ’70s prog furrow. Maybe not with the same level of excitement, but it feels like progress to have these two tracks partnered up in the playlist.
However, Gambler is another track that seems out of place. The song has a very wordy, cliché-ridden lyric and musically it lacks focus. Gospel is the next track to feature Amanda Lehmann, and by now you will be able to predict confidently that it’s a song in American Gospel style, oh yeah! The slightly corny nature of the tune and the overblown vocal arrangements are a distraction that detracts from the potential impact that the lyrics may have had, if they had been set in a different, more dramatic, context.
The whole exercise is now redeemed by the final track Fame and Miss Fortune. So far, the nine preceding tracks have been written by the pairing of Carleton Van Selman and Kym Blackburn, with just this final track being credited to Larry Homer. It’s a nine-minute epic that has a recognisable prog structure with a noticeable increase in drama and tension throughout and a proper opportunity for the band to let rip in a superb instrumental section. At last, now we know what the band is really capable of.
Repeated listens to this album have led me to appreciate the band more and more. I can see how a new band with loads of ideas would want to showcase everything they have to offer, but in this case, my opinion is that a shorter form EP or 35–40 minute LP focusing on the core musicality of the band may have had greater impact. No doubt the band will gain from this experience and I hope they get more chances to showcase their brand. All the components are there, if they can deliver drama and tension in the song-writing more consistently and produce the live performances that they are no doubt capable off they should have a bright future ahead.
01. Airwaves (7:06)
02. Egyptian (4:38)
03. Time to Dream (4:14)
04. Window (7:50)
05. Holy Blues (6:06)
06. Keep Your Head Down (6:02)
07. England (4:51)
08. Gambler (5:36)
09. Gospel (4:27)
10. Fame and Miss Fortune (9:04)
Total Time – 59:54
Carleton Van Selman – Keyboards, Accordion
Kym Blackman – Vocals
Larry Homer – Guitar, Drum Programming
Trev Turley – Bass
Amanda Lehmann – Vocals, Guitar (tracks 4 & 9)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 7th April 2023