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(52:05; Bad Elephant Music)
This is the first time I have come across London-based prog band The Far Meadow, who apparently are incredibly active on the gigging front, but somehow New Zealand has not been on their list so far, surely a minor omission. ‘Foreign Land’ is their third album, and the second for BEM, and even before putting it on the player I was intrigued as the opening song, “Travelogue”, is nearly 19 minutes long. That is a real statement of intent, so I put it on and waited to be impressed – it didn’t take long. A few layered gentle keyboards lulls in the listener as Elliot Minn warms up his finger. A drum break announces the change in tempo, and while guitar and bass keep it simple, Elliot starts to provide complex runs while Paul Bringloe provides jazz-style drum patterns. But when singer Marguerita Alexandrou joins the fray she then lifts it to a new level, and I found the production of her voice incredibly interesting as it has been kept relatively dry with little of the reverb which can often be found, and this combined with drums being more to the fore than one would expect (the snare is particularly prominent, at times possibly too much), gives the band a quite different sound even before getting into the style of music they are playing. The result is for the most part solid neo-prog, more in keeping with the likes of Galahad and Credo, with definite nods to IQ, rather than Magenta or The Reasoning. Denis Warren’s guitar interplay with the keyboards is incredibly deft, and it is actually possible to overlook all the work he is putting in, as he plays less chords than one might normally expect, but rather is weaving Chandler and Hackett style lines throughout, linking in strongly with the keyboards to provide additional layers while bassist Keith Buckman stays firmly in the background providing the balance. The keyboard sounds used within the album are interesting, as they are often fairly dated, but as well as the more “traditional” sounds a proghead is used to hearing there are also plenty from the Eighties, which again provides a different feel. When there are vocals the band tend to stay more in the background, yet when they are allowed to flex they are counterpunching in and off the beat, syncopated when the time is right, never prepared to stick within any particular style, always pushing forward. During the title cut the band move into pure lounge jazz, while at another Marguerita sings a capella. There is a real confidence within the band, something that only comes from many hours of playing and understanding each other. I can hear I’ve missed out by not coming across these guys before this, ensure you don’t do the same thing.
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