Previously known as EleKtriK, an instrumental fusion band working toward an album before being hamstrung by Covid, Bridgend trio Tribe3 emerged with the addition of singing drummer Jon Kinsey. The change of focus resulted in a rebranding, and having adapted some of the instrumental pieces to include Kinsey’s voice and lyrics, the music that has come together over the last year is now ready to be released into the wild.
The six songs are lengthy (all but one over seven minutes) but none overstay and they make for an easy and rewarding listen. The core bass/guitar/drums power trio is augmented by liberal use of synths to expand the sound and add interesting detail. With an album release show imminent, it’ll be interesting to see how they manage to pull off the logistics in a live environment.
From the twinkling synth intro, Invictus develops with an almost choral top line, suggesting ’80s Rush whilst nailing the band’s electronic side. It builds to a sweeping overture that gradually coalesces as drums announce their presence. Jon Kinsey’s voice is calm, warm and confident, carving out a space in the synth wash. Guitar emerges and we’re left with the tightness of the core trio in a compelling sound, driving along on Steve Hughes’ busy and bouncing bassline. Jon’s delivery changes to fit the more muscular environment, the chorus expanded by harmonies, and a tricksy instrumental section moves to electronica before falling away for a majestic and uplifting guitar solo from Chris Jones.
The writing and arrangements immediately show the trio’s collective experience, built over many years of plying their trade in various bands. The skill that has gone into putting the album together is obvious. Nothing here is arbitrary; a great deal of thought has clearly been given to dynamics and flow, each piece different but they work together as a collection with variety and depth to easily sustain its 50-minutes.
The subliminal hints of Rush are subtly threaded throughout the album, like in Fear is the Key where the darker mood suggests an impending threat. Eery synth lines and pounding toms lay the foundation before guitar kicks things forward. Decrying the power that select groups of individuals hold over our lives, the verse is sung over strident chords, a striking synth carrying into the chorus, highlighted by cascading guitar to provide elevation from the gritty verses.
In many respects, The Downfall of the Birdwatcher provides the kind of character driven light relief that used to pepper Genesis albums, an instructive tale of a twitcher pinched by the fuzz after climbing a tree with binoculars and startling the local gentry. However, the majestic sounds don’t require the cheeky wink of a Collins delivery. The listing of bird species could find a home on a Big Big Train album, but the music is more driving and satisfyingly heavy without tipping the balance too far.
The playing is top notch throughout, the trio’s recent history in instrumental fusion serving them well as they work together as an uncompromising unit, the undoubted technical prowess used in full service of the songs.
The pinnacle of the album for me is Lament. At 12-minutes, it’s the longest piece, but it successfully lives and breathes to make full use of space. From simple piano and subdued, swooping guitar, Kinsey’s voice is fragile and thoughtful. The sound builds gradually, the voice riding slow waves as the music undulates. It’s compelling stuff, confident that it doesn’t need to hurry. The ever-present piano holds the attention, and when Kinsey’s voice rises, it’s just at the right time and with the right degree of emotion, beautifully supported by guitar. Jones’ brace of quite different solos blow the piece wide open, the first dripping with passion (reminding me of Camel and Andy Latimer), the second looser and more languid, the drop with orchestrated support quite magnificent. Wherever they appear, the solos are placed with care, leading to impressive results. Lament is paced to perfection, falling back to the simplicity of bare piano but with a renewed sense of optimism as Kinsey sings “There is beauty in you… There is beauty in me”. Sadness falls away and the run for the tape is invigorated with a renewed energy; “It’s a beautiful morning” indeed.
There’s a sense of foreboding to Calm Before the Storm, the words lamenting urban expansion, with a warning that nature will undoubtedly fight back. The tempo rises into an excellent instrumental break, the emerging vocals powered along by the bass. A funky section of chopping guitar and bubbling bass moves with synths to a majestic opening out, Kinsey imperious as his voice rises to impressive heights. The way the band move through the extended songs is smooth and well thought out, making for an interesting and rewarding listen, the storm finally arriving on a synth front, busy guitar over a steady rhythm building intensity until Jones delivers the kind of solo we’ve by now come to expect.
Electric piano sets the scene for the elegiac Dawntreader, describing the sense of longing felt by those away from family and loved ones, labouring at the docksides or in the mines, waiting for the dawn so they can return home. The heartfelt words are highly effective, the instrumental interplay conveying a stoic emotional drive.
Accessible but with the technical firepower to take the songs to interesting places, there’s a maturity to everything about this album, making for a highly impressive debut release. The trio’s playing is sympathetic to the music, shifting the focus as necessary to allow it to soar. The use of synths is imntegral, placed so as not to overbalance the core trio, colouring without swamping and adding to the combined effect.
This album may have come about via a circuitous route, but serendipity has turned it into something rather special.
01. Invictus (9:55)
02. Fear is the Key (7:26)
03. The Downfall of the Birdwatcher (6:20)
04. Lament (12:04)
05. Calm Before the Storm (9:52)
06. Dawntreader (9:17)
Total Time – 54:54
Jon Kinsey – Vocals, Drums, Keyboards
Chris Jones – Guitar
Steve ‘Yip’ Hughes – Bass, Keyboards, Bass Pedals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 13th October 2023