‘Seamless’ – Definition: Smooth, without seams and obvious joins.
It’s a word readily associated with the rag-trade, sewing, fashion combining materials and surfaces with no apparent gaps or spaces between one and the next.
It can also apply to music, as is the case here with the latest album from IO Earth, Sanctuary.
A multitude of musical genres, interwoven with the silky voice of Linda Odinsen as it twists and threads through delicate to strong textures. The torn rhythms of electric and acoustic guitars from founders and master tailors Dave Cureton and Adam Gough, one minute smooth, the next shredding across the seams, buttoned together by Christian Nokes on bass and Tim Wilson’s drums and percussion as he showcases a heavier and more technical side than his previous outings with IO Earth.
Luke Shingler’s ribbons of saxophone, flute and electronic wind instruments wrap neatly together with the pockets of bass, keys, vocals and percussion from Dave, whilst Adam lines the tunes with patterns of keys, guitar, orchestration and percussion.
There are no dummies, mere sewers or padding here, as songs are finished to the highest of quality by these musical fashionistas, strutting along the catwalk and sashaying through the tracks on this production. There are no shop-soiled goods here, just well-tailored garments made to measure, that flatter the cut of the album.
In a bid to research these creations, and for you potential wearers reading this, or anyone window browsing with a view to a fitting and purchase, I had the opportunity to pose questions to one of the Master Tailors, Dave Cureton, who was kind enough to throw some light on the understructure of the musical cloth.
Thanks for taking time out to provide us a little insight into the new album, Dave.
You are welcome.
Once again the line-up has fluctuated, finding Linda Odinsen returning to the guild. You must be pleased to have her back and settling in on Sanctuary.
We are very pleased that Linda is back where she belongs in IO Earth. For me, Linda is the voice of IO Earth. When we had to part ways due to the logistics of her being in the north of Norway, I told her that the door is always open for her and when the time is right she can return to the band. Her vocals on the new album are sublime. It is like she has never been away.
As always, it is difficult to tie down your music as you incorporate so many influences on the album. Is this a deliberate format or what could be termed as a rock of eye method, so to speak? A freehand way of drafting a pattern naturally by trusting your ears and experience, rather than a conscious effort to subvert the sound, giving a more contemporary appeal.
When Adam and I start to write the music for IO Earth, we have a complete blank page and we just let the music grow organically. We don’t try to shoehorn in things because another band did it or anything like that. In fact, we have scrapped whole sections and songs because it is reminiscent of something else. We also only give the song what it needs… our motto is ‘no one is bigger than the song’.
If you wouldn’t mind, could I ask you to give us an insight into the tracks on the album, starting with the first released track, Outside. What’s the story behind this, as it is accompanied by a wonderful animated video from Wendy Hagenbeek, and how did you come to involve her?
I met Wendy in 2007 on MySpace. Wendy was helping Steve Balsamo (guest vocalist on our debut album) get some radio and promotion in the Netherlands for his band at that time. She discovered IO Earth after hearing the track Steve sang on (Come With Me). Wendy and I started talking and spoke about her helping IO Earth get some more reach in Europe, so she helped us get some radio play and interviews in the Netherlands in 2009. After that we became best friends and now she does so much for IO Earth… photography, videography, album art, promotion – she even sings backing vocals on Airborne. The animation came during Covid. When the world shut, us creative people had to think of new ways to keep active, so Wendy created the Outside video after multiple hours of animation. I think it is her best video to date.
Running is the album’s second track, and it appears to show a change of compositional style, leaning towards dance rock. Was this due to influences from the other band members or something Adam and yourself consciously decided was needed for this album to move forward?
Adam and I have been fans of dance and pop music forever. We really enjoy listening to bands like Faithless, Massive Attack, Groove Armada and Moby amongst many others. So that contemporary sound is in us from an early age. All the music in IO Earth is written by Adam and myself and it will always be that way. As I said previously, we don’t force any of our compositions or purposely set out to write in a certain style, the songs grow organically.
Title track Sanctuary then follows, showcasing the more powerful range of Linda’s vocals and incorporating heavier passages allowing you to indulge in some fret frenzy solos, which also gives the track a clean-cut ending. It never appears to be a case of just showboating, are guitars solos something Adam and yourself enjoy particularly or do you see them more as serving the particular track?
Of course… Adam and I love guitars and guitar solos… I don’t sit and write any of my guitar solos. every solo I have ever done on an IO Earth album is completely improvised, I want it to come straight from the heart and let my musical brain take it where it needs to go. Improvisation is great because it is a snap-shot of that moment in time, it is a lot of fun.
As a change of pace from the bombast of the previous track, The Child follows a more plaintive path with Linda’s tender vocals and lachrymose instrumentation. Is it based on anything in particular?
The song isn’t based on anything in particular, as far as I know. The Child was a demo that Adam brought to the writing sessions, and it has not really changed much from the original demo. I remember him sending me the section for the guitar solo and saying “Put something on this.” I put down a solo and sent it him back and Adam replied back saying we don’t need to do another solo, that is perfect. The solo from the demo version is what you hear on the track today.
The beautiful Close By gives solace from the last song, as minimalistic accompaniment from the rippling piano binds with delicate vocals on the shortest track of the album. Do you find writing ballads/love songs come as easy as faster/heavier tracks to create another feather in your musical hats?
I love listening to Adam play piano and originally the opening part was written on an acoustic guitar. When he started playing it on piano it just sounded great. That riff found its home and it is really pretty. When Linda rejoined the band we both decided that we wanted a song that really showcases Linda’s voice, so Close By was born. Sometimes less is definitely more, and it shows in this song.
Airborne throbs from the speakers with Floydian guitars that tumble into heavier threads throughout the composition. You are clearly influenced by other bands and music you have heard growing up, do each member of the band have a favoured genre and how do your tastes differ?
Airborne was one of the last songs we wrote for the album, and it really turned out great. We all enjoy all styles of music, I don’t think anyone is submerged in one particular style or genre. The world would be a boring place if you only listened to one style of music… right?
A hint of Dire Straits appears in the guitar intro of Changes, then it throbs and builds to a dramatic ending. This seems to be the formula for quite a few of your tracks, whilst not post-rock you seem to like the idea of layering the song in waves and building to a climatic finish. Do you prefer this to writing in a straight forward verse/chorus format?
We feel a piece of music should take you on an emotional journey; Adam and I like to add dynamics to our music. There is a lot of music out there that, in my opinion, is one dimensional, no dynamics, emotionless. I hear a lot of bands put technique before melody and emotion and it doesn’t really move me. But of course, that is personal taste.
Penultimate song Sunshine pulses with energy and heavier passages, but it has a lovely relaxing saxophone interlude midway through which is joined by piano, leading into a sublime guitar solo which allows Linda’s vocal to soar to the song’s completion. Having such talented musicians who can play multiple instruments must allow you great flexibility when working on song arrangements.
We are lucky to have musicians that can interpret our music the way we want it. We also have lots of musician friends we can bring into the mix at any time. When we wrote the melody that became the sax solo, we knew we wanted it on that instrument and it works great in the song.
The last track, Won’t Be Afraid, takes a reflective turn with a lighter feel. Gentle acoustic passages allow the synths and strings with Linda Odinson’s gentler vocals to create heart-aching passages. The percussion and bass subtly feel their way along the strings of rhythm and a Gilmouresque guitar solo adds further drama, which leaves the album on an upbeat feel.
Won’t Be Afraid came about after digging through our archive of demos… we only had the chorus. when Linda was in the UK recording vocals, Adam and I built a quick scratch demo of Won’t Be Afraid and asked Linda to sing all the parts we had written for the song and we then built the song around her vocal. It turned out really great.
Each member of the band gets a chance to shine throughout the album without necessarily projecting them to the fore, which portrays a solidarity and camaraderie that seems to shine through on Sanctuary that can only come from enjoying working together, wouldn’t you agree?
Adam and I really enjoy composing and its great to bring everyone in to play our parts. We always have a blast.
I’d like to say thanks again, Dave, for taking time out to give us a better understanding of the band and the great album you have produced. Is there anything further you would like to add or feel I have missed?
You are welcome… oh, you can buy the album at the IO Earth website!
I hope the album does well for you all and look forward to hearing you live sometime, also maybe catching up on your progress, long may it continue!
That sews the review up nicely and all the required details are stitched to the bottom of the page.
01. Outside (6:22)
02. Running (5:59)
03. Sanctuary (6:15)
04. The Child (8:41)
05. Close By (5:17)
06. Airborne (7:13)
07. Changes (9:05)
08. Sunshine (8:58)
09. Won’t Be Afraid (7:42)
Total Time – 66:44
Dave Cureton – Composer, Lead, Rhythm & Acoustic Guitars, Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Programming
Adam Gough – Composer, Keyboards, Theremin, Acoustic & Electric Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals, Programming
Linda Odinsen – Lead & Backing Vocals
Christian Nokes – Bass Guitar, Double Bass
Tim Wilson – Drums & Percussion
Luke Shingler – Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Electronic Wind Instruments
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 23rd June 2023