A Masterclass in Musical Excellence - Falling Satellites, FROST*

June 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The selflessly modest, entirely affable, yet indescribably and ludicrously talented musician/songwriter/producer/keyboardist (too many to mention, I did say he was ludicrously talented didn't I?) Jem Godfrey, and the equally ridiculously talented gang of "What Oh's" who collectively constitute FROST* - have without a shadow of a doubt, put 'progressive' back into Progressive Rock.

OK, What is Progressive Rock

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Progressive Rock, hmmmm... with its freakishly awkward 17/8 time sigs and weird C#Maj7/sub9/14 chords, some might say it's overly complicated, outdated, others, especially those practicing on their 'real' instruments in the rehearsal rooms and concert halls of the classical génre, would say pretentious. Pretentious? What? Never! Personally, I believe those who are the true lovers of all things music, or those musicians suggesting progressive rock is thus, are being entirely pretentious themselves.  If you ever needed to identify an oxymoron, there's one, right there for you folks!

My musical tastes are totally eclectic, enjoying all manner of groups, bands and génres.  Being classically trained in brass myself commencing some 40 yrs ago, I love the gorgeous sounds of modern brass bands through to the soothing tones of James Last (RIP) and his orchestra, I adore the beautifully soulful choral works of Eric Whitacre through to the take-you-anywhere ambient and electronic chillout journeys of Brian Eno.  Who doesn't love Queen and the exuberant Freddy Mercury, or the equally outstanding productions brought to us by Roland and Curt of Tears for Fears.   FROST* Live, Reading, Sub89 However, there's one génre I was introduced to during my musically formative years, which to this very day still resonates with my inner musical soul more than any other - Progressive Rock.

The seeds of prog (as it became known) were sewn and began spreading their roots probably in the early 70's with the likes of Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd etc - the latter two straying at a tangent from the prog rock label thus creating another new wonderful category of music: symphonic rock, which was just as progressive, just as creative, but with perhaps a more orchestrated structure. Progressive Rock however, the creator of its own identity, wanted to keep hold of this identity and remained steadfast with its own génre, and with its unique approach to sonic exploration and sounds and technical complexity - has remained a pretty much recognisable constant to this day. Until recently that is.

You see ladies and gentlemen...  Then.  Came.  FROST* !

FROST*

12 years ago the remarkably talented musician/songwriter/producer I alluded to in my opening paragraph, who'd already produced and written a plethora of hit songs for many 'pop stars', knew, like me, his inner musical love was deeply rooted in Prog Rock. Writing pop songs pays the wage, whilst writing prog songs is done for no other reason than for the sheer love of the génre.  Calling on his experience Jem contacted a few fellow prog rock lover musicians to try to form a group, and to ultimately make and release an album.  I am so glad he did.

FROST*FROST*Nathan King, John Mitchell, Craog Blundell and Jem Godfrey

That brilliant man, the group he was to form, and that album they created, were soon to become iconic.  FROST* were born, and Milliontown fast became one of the most highly regarded progressive rock debut albums of all time.  In the years between then and now, there were more brilliant tracks, many outstanding live gigs, another album and inevitably doubt as to their future came and went.

We all know Jem and everyone at any time featuring in the FROST* line up are outstandingly musically talented, and we wanted more.  In mid 2015 we were all made to sit up alertly at our computer screens when Jem made a post on Social Media about recording a new album.  Progressive rock Social Media went into frenzy.  We all knew there'd be progress tweets and posts on social media, blogs from the cube, charismatically likeable videos from motorway service stations explaining how things were progressing (or weren't!), and we all had high expectations of what was to come.  But folks, something utterly magical happened.  Something arrived from Nathan, Craig, John and Jem in May 2016 that took our breath away. 

You see ladies and gentlemen... Then.  Came.  Falling Satellites!

Summary

What can I say. I think by now anyone who has read thus far and not fallen to sleep will know what my view is of this album.  

Falling SatellitesFalling Satellites Falling Satellites by FROST* is everything progressive, and is an utterly outstanding masterpiece of music.  It's so good that it's outrageously brilliant.  Quite simply it is a musical masterclass, an other-worldy experience, and for those who, like me, are lovers of the progressive génre, is a truly magnificent and remarkable musical journey, and is as close as one can get to sonic perfection.

Here are four outstanding world class musicians, who as I see, don't proactively head for the limelight, and who are happy to use their musical talents in producing what they love.  What they have done, is to have bravely produced an album firmly placing progressive back into progressive rock. An album of such varied musical expression that I am sure will undoubtedly head for Progressive Rock album of the decade, let alone album of the year! The production is indicative of absolute mastering perfection, the sounds every member creates are undeniably spot on, and the music is just sublime.  

This is an album exploring new relationships in musical génres, making perfect use of modern instrumentation, synthesis, layers and sounds, with each and every track providing something additional and of value for the whole, which as the saying goes is far greater than the sum of its parts.  Falling Satellites is headed for album glory and iconic status.

Well done Jem, John, Craig and Nathan! Well done indeed.

 


I include below my thoughts and narrative on each track, I am sure many will disagree, but that's the power of music! Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section below, or preferably make some comment on my twitter page which can be found here.

All feedback most welcome! Thanks for reading.


 

Falling Satellites - my take on some of the tracks

Spotify Link

My thoughts and interpretation of the tracks is presented here as more of a how-does-this-sound-musically and what-can-I-hear-techincally, than a whats'-this-track-all-about or what-political/emotional/physical-message-are FROST*-trying-say-here!

#JustSaying

First Day 1:37

From the very opening dischordant - but glorious - sound, one can tell this album promises to be an extraordinary musical journey. The audio production is nothing short of perfection. Huge, lush pads from Jem's KORG (other brands are available) synths, with sublime harmonies in the vocals, this is just the perfect opening introduction.  A classic prog short track that clearly illustrates that progressive means just that, progressive.  

Numbers 4:22

This is different. Very different. I wildly guess it's mainly in 6/4, and is a fast paced, foot-tapping item from start to finish.  Once again featuring superb vocals and harmonies from both Jem and John.  There's an interesting recurring decay guitar pluck type riff that features through the piece - which is what makes Numbers so captivating.  The accompanying video can be seen by clicking here.

Towerblock 6:14

If you thought Dubstep and Prog don't mix, think again! Lots of fantastic post production on this track with Jem (I guess again) working his magic in ProTools.  It's in this track one is introduced to the incredibly intricate keyboard work Jem is so proficient at, as well as the glorious guitar fingerwork of John Mitchell (also of It Bites fame). Mr Blundell (currently drummer for Stephen Wilson - of Porcupine Tree fame) does a pretty sterling job on drums here too, with strong percussion through the entirety of the track.  The last few mins are an incredible wash of dub/prog mix.

Signs 6:37

Here commences the much desired prog rhythms, this starts in 5/8, I think.  John Mitchell - by heck the man doesn't just play the guitar magically, the man can sing too! Great vocals.  The chorus does a grand job of getting one to quickly look up the lyrics so one can sing along accurately instead of making them up! The beauty of prog rock tracks are that many are not consistent in structure from start to finish, Signs is no exception.

5/4 takes over from 5/8 at approx 3:15, with a glorious bass guitar riff from Level42 guitarist Nathan King, with Craig hammering out some punchy kick beats. The piece then literally takes off when John M launches into a short guitar solo - just brilliant stuff.  At 4:43 it just gets better, and better, and better. A heavier track than its predecessors, and one that will have you reaching for the << button! 

Lights Out 3:52

Continuing to emphasise progressive, this is a beautiful and soulful piece, mixing Jems whispering vocals with the most gloriously smooth sounding female vocalist.  Currently the identity of this lady singer is a mystery, but her vocals are a superb match for FROST* and fit this track perfectly. I would guess by the clarity and sound of this lady's voice, there has been zero auto-tune used.  Her intonation is just perfect.

(It's not her, but do I hear a little bit of something akin to a Kylie vocal in there?)    

Heartstrings 6:21

This was the first track I heard from the album as it was released as a video some time prior to the album being released.  I would imagine Heartstrings will be what many will consider resembles the FROST* sound they were introduced to back in 2006 from the debut album, Milliontown.  Listen out for the lead synth solo which appears in the piece a few times as it is reprised brilliantly in two further tracks later on!

The middle section is superb, it is classic FROST*. Turn your volume up for this one, your eardrums deserve it! 

Closer to the Sun 7:21

Almost seven and a half minutes of light beats, ever changing scenery, and sounds galore.  Closer to the Sun is such a musically diverse track, with epic guitar solos, calming vocals, a constant - and regular - time signature, yet it holds so well together musically.  An escaping atmospheric interlude is provided at 5:20'ish, culminating with the inevitable pull-back to the core of the track. A fabulous 7:12 minutes of music. 

Maybe that's the effect of the Sun, eh!  

The Raging Against The Dying of the Light Blues in 7/8 7:50

This is busy and heavy. Very busy. The title is complex, which is clearly reflected in the track itself. I have no idea how these guys compose such outlandishly brilliant music - but once again you are treated to an eclectic mix of sounds from heavy demanding bass riffs, to much lighter and subtle piano breaks.  The quite fast 7/8 time signature can be clearly heard, especially towards the end section - which is full of, well... everything: synth leads, piano, deep and complex motion bass, incredible drumming and guitar playing of the most exquisite nature.

Outstanding music, really it is!

Nice Day for it... 6:38

Reminiscent of some of the sounds Genesis used on their 1980 album, Duke, this is one for the progressive rock purists.  It's a brilliantly constructed mega prog track, with all of the expected intricate synth and guitar solos, swirling textures and is essentially a full on progressive rock variation on the reprise of the lead from Heartstrings.

I absolutely love this track - it has everything one needs for that oft needed prog rock fix.  Grab some of this track, it's like a drug, dose up with it, smoke it, relish and cherish it, then relax, sit back and bathe in its wonderful effects.  Classic stuff.  

It doesn't get much better than this... oh, hang on... wait... yes wait... before Nice Day for it... ends, turn up your volume and be prepared for one of the most surreal and atmospherically rich sonic experiences you will ever hear.  Here goes...  

Hypoventilate 2:01

We all have our musical goose-bump moments.  You know, when one hears a piece for the first time, then a second, then a third, and each time one hears it it does something to ones insides that only music can do!  I don't just love music, I love the sounds that are utilised to create that music, together with the notes, chords and progressions that make up what one is hearing.  I also love synths, and have done since my childhood.  This short piece is exactly the reason I love synthesisers, and has to be one of the most sublime and powerful soundscapes I have ever heard.

It is massive in sonic depth, and please understand this, I don't mean loud, I mean MASSIVE!

Much kudos here Jem, you clearly demonstrate expertise not just in music composition, but also in Audio Production and Mastering.  What you have created with this track here Mr. Godfrey, is an impeccable masterpiece of epic sonic layering, superb use of synthesis, and the most perfect sound production employed resulting in a piece of music that covers the entire audio spectrum.  Please share with me your secret, because this is up there for me, as one of the most outstandingly brilliant experiments in soundscaping I have ever heard. You may have taken 2 mins to come up with it, you may have taken 2 hours or even 2 days to come up with it - either way, it is brilliant.

Musically, Hypoventilate is fundamentally based on the notes and chord progressions one first heard in Heartstrings, then reprised in 'Nice Day for it...', but slowed down 10x and presented with glorious layered ambient synth pads and the most sublime and slow deep bass boom-boom every few bars!

An outstanding short piece Jem, simply outstanding. My absolute pick of the album.

PS: As I stood still, arms folded, eyes closed and ears open wide at your recent live gig in Sub89, Reading, I am not ashamed to say it was so powerful I had small tears run down my cheek when you played it.  I love music you see, and this specific piece of music has this effect on me. For that sir, I thank you.

Last Day 3:02

Quiet and unreserved, Last Day is a piano and vocal piece which shows off Jems voice.  When us mortals try singing, we add copious amounts of reverb in an attempt to fill our voices out making them sound bigger, better, nicer!  Jem adds none, none that my ears perceive anyway.  Loving the birdsong as the piano fades out. 

Lantern 3:45

A swingy 6/8 introduction with an interesting vinyl effect, Lantern is yet another diversion from what many might perceive progressive rock to be.  Adventurous and brave, it is entirely catchy and forces one to listen more intently to the vocal harmonies and pluck/decay synth used throughout the piece.

British Wintertime 6:30

I use one word to describe this peach of a track.  And that word is 'beautiful'.  British Wintertime is beautiful.  

It oozes beauty from every bar, every staff, every instrument and every vocal. It is a soft and subtle creation, containing the most gorgeous underlying piano layer.  Jem has this innate talent of knowing and creating the perfect 'sound' for each and every FROST* track.  I would also add that it is on this track where Jems vocals soar Oh and our yet-to-be-identified female singer makes an appearance once again, and indeed, she says something she has got to say (have a listen to it and you'll know what I mean!) with the same clarity and pitch perfect intonation as in Lights Out.  I'd love to hear more from this lady, she sings beautifully.  A subtle accelerando in the mid section led by a gorgeous ambient piano, allows synth strings to enter - this is truly wonderful stuff, absolutely written from the heart.

Only FROST* can do what comes next - without ruining any of the tracks subtle beauty, the music expands into a huge, huge sound.  Craig hits some huge reverbed percussion, Nathan and John add their incredible guitar layers, and Jem adds beautiful pads and textures - making this an altogether exceptional piece of music.

The production mastering is absolutely spot on. It is a must listen-to track. Outstanding.


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