Sticking to my principle of not reading the Press Release until after I listen to the music, I looked at the CD cover image and thought that this one could go either of two ways. It could be some rather downbeat, introverted singer-songwriter stuff (which wouldn’t be good at all) or it could maybe be some kind of hippie, psychedelic tree-hugging stuff (which would have been interesting.)
As it happens, ‘Raising Stone‘ is neither – although certainly closer to the latter than the former. But really, it’s WAY better than either!
Had I read the PR document at the outset, I would have learnt that PATRICK DAWES is a percussionist and music producer in his own right and has been knocking around the scene in various guises since 1993. His track record isn’t too shoddy either – having spent many years touring and recording as an integral part of Groove Armada and playing along with The Herbaliser and Richie Havens.
This then would account for the split emphasis on drums and ‘experimentation.’ This truly is a diverse and engrossing album!
Opening and title track, ‘Raising Stone‘ like most others on the album, is a collaboration. In this instance, it’s the voice of free-jazz improviser Maggie Nicols who lends her unique style to a track that features a variety of hand-held African and South American drums. It’s a vibrant track although a little haunting. Some might say weird. All things considered though, let’s just settle for ‘inspired’ and brilliant!
‘Trees‘ has a REALLY quiet start! It’s about thirty seconds in before there’s any discernible sound, and then it develops into an acoustic track that would not have been out of place in an early ELP concept album of the early Seventies. It’s ‘prog rock’ in its gentlest and purest form; simply captivating if you sit back and actively listen.
‘Metal Dog,’ returns the focus to the hand-drums, hand-claps and yeah, distant dog barking noises! The rhythm is quite intoxicating (sounding at times like that ‘breakdown’ piece in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video, but set to some tribal beat) and is interspersed with a hypnotising synth hum.
Anyone remember Medicine Head from back in the early Seventies? OK – so no-one will argue with me then whan I say that the base on which ‘Funambule’ is built reminds me a bit of them. There is a brilliant horns section involved on this one.
‘Firestorm,’ is the first of a couple of ‘experimental’ tracks. It’s onl just over two and a half minutes in length and is in the early Tangerine Dream mould, comprising spacey synth sounds mixed with rippling hand-drum beats. This leads into ‘Fly,‘ which has the general buzz flitting over the sound of a church bell set with more of those synth drones and the haunting sound of some (sounds like) mad woman humming in the background.
‘Coming Up For Air,’ may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a bit of an epic at over seven and a half minutes and stands out from the rest of the album. Yeah – I guess it would fall into the general ‘experimental’ file, what with the electronics and discordant, free-jazz saxophone set over a mental and at times quite frantic percussion section with booming gongs and crashing cymbals ….. but it’s definitely my personal favourite track on the album. There’s just so much to it!
‘River Flow,’ carries on with the sax sounds (again blown by Acoustic Ladyland‘s Pete Wareham) and hand-drums beating out a zany rhythm. I don’t know if it is or t, but it actually sounds like it’s all part of some spontaneous, impromptu jam. Brilliant!
‘Earth Above, Heaven Below,‘ is another slow starter, with the first minute or so being ever so quiet. To be honest, the remainder of its four and a half minutes doesn’t exactly raise the roof either! It’s definitely an acquired taste this one and will perhaps test the patience of those who like their music upbeat. That said, if you close your eyes and imagine yourself drifting away into space, then you’ll appreciate where it’s coming from.
Final track ‘Rise Of The Lark,’ is like some kind of Medieval dance track, with crumhorns, flutes, recorders and rauschpfeifes all contributing!
‘Raising Stone,‘ dares to be different and as such is likely to split potential audiences. I for one though am firmly on the ‘for’ side! This is an album that perhaps has to be ‘listened’ to – but I can assure you, it’s time well spent!
(Released through Tummy Touch Records on 25th March 2013)