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Luminous Newts - 2015 - "Luminous Newts"

(50:46, ‘Amphibious Music’)


1. The Wolf Doesn't Howl So Loud 5:49
2. Up and Out 4:38
3. Before I Die 3:45
4. Cult of Two 4:12
5. St. Patrick and the Snakes 3:19
6. Flying Fish 3:33
7. Waiting 4:50
8. Feel Better Now 3:13
9. Envy 4:06
10. Kommie Kitty 4:13
11. I'm Just Saying 5:17
12. Waiting 3:51


Eric Kampman – keyboards; vocals
Thea Kelley – vocals 
Dean Kattari – guitars
Alan Novidor – basses 
Charles Waltmire – drums  
Paul Wells – guitars 

Prolusion. The US band LUMINOUS NEWTS was formed back in 2012, revolving around the talents of composers Thea Kelly and Eric Kampman. They describe their music as a blend of pop art, melodic rock and progressive rock. They released their self-titled debut album in 2015 through Amphibious Music, which is probably their own label.

Analysis. Easygoing and engaging melodies appear to be something of a key characteristic trait for this US band, at times deceptively easy on the ears, as the band more often than not focuses on certain key facets of the songs, while the more subtle details can retain a bit of a quirky character. One small fact may reveal quite a bit about where the band is coming from though. The final track on the CD is actually a cover version of a composition by the late Kevin Gilbert. The core base of just about all the compositions on this production is the piano. A wandering and often subtly placed piano motif is a mainstay throughout, rather frequently given a dominant placement in the arrangements, especially on the calmer songs and, in particular, on the ones with more of a ballad oriented expression. The lead vocals, mainly by Thea Kelly and occasionally by Eric Kampman, are also focal points throughout. Kelly is the stronger vocalist of them by far, although neither of them are the kind of singers that manage to elevate any song by their sheer presence. Kelly in particular impresses by having a strong and good control though, whereas Kampman occasionally struggles a bit more in that department. Beneath the piano and vocals, the remaining instruments create a nifty, effective landscape supplementing the key traits quite nicely. Some nice, bubbly organ makes occasional appearances, the guitar alternates between light and elegant deliveries, tight but toned down harder edged motifs and occasional darker toned riffs adding depth and contrast, additional keyboards sometimes appear for solo runs of a more distinct progressive rock oriented manner as well as for a more careful supporting role providing the building stones for a richer-sounding arrangement, while the bass and drums alternate between careful and gentle modes, steady going support and more expressive modes of delivery, much depending on what the compositions requires there and then – nicely flowing material with a compelling general nature, with infrequent excursions into landscapes of a whimsical as well as a quirkier nature. At times with an ever so slight psychedelic sheen added to the proceedings, at other times flavored with a slight touch of jazz to one or more instruments. The end result is a pleasant and inviting brand of progressive rock with pop music sensibilities but with quirkier details hiding underneath the surface, with occasional visits to the surface. Personally I think the band sounded most interesting on the one occasion where they had a stronger focus on darker moods and atmospheres: On the cover version of Kevin Gilbert's ‘Waiting’, the contrast between the elegant performance and darker ongoing undercurrents of that track a clear highlight for me personally.

Conclusion. What Luminous Newts brings to the table is an easygoing brand of progressive rock, often revolving around the lead vocals and an ongoing piano motif, with the remaining instruments often given more of a supportive role. From careful and inviting to whimsical and subtly quirky, this is a compelling production that most often is easy on the ears as well as the mind. Progressive rock mainly explored within a pop music framework if you like. As the band have chosen to cover one of his sings, I suspect that many who enjoy the material of the late Kevin Gilbert should find this album to be to their liking.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 4, 2017
The Rating Room

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Luminous Newts


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