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(61:40, Heavy Right Foot)
TRACK LIST: 1. Cairo 2:42 2. Shadow's Return Prolog 2:10 3. Shadow's Return 2:33 4. Wiped Out 3:09 5. Say 3:40 6. Nothing to Prove 9:30 7. Nothing to Prove Reprise 3:01 8. Katrina 5:11 9. Searching 4:47 10. Random Acts of Kindness-1 4:31 11. Back From the Wilderness 4:50 12. Dancing the Gossamer Thread 6:25 13. Katrina Breathe Mix 9:01 LINEUP: Rob Cottingham vocals; keyboards, programming Rachel Hill vocals James Hards guitars Paul Stocker bass, guitars Graham Brown drums, percussion With: John Mitchell vocals Nick Yarris voice
Prolusion. The UK band CAIRO (not to be confused with the US band of the same name) was launched in 2016, and is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Rob Cottingham, formerly of Touchstone. Their debut album "Say" was released in the fall of 2016 through Cottingham's own label Heavy Right Foot Records.
Analysis. Cairo is a new band that explores what one might describe as a typical UK oriented brand of contemporary progressive rock. Not quite in line with what Cottingham and his former bandmates explored in his previous band Touchstone, but not too far removed from this type of music either, with quite a bit of variety thrown in for good measure. The CD opens with two atmospheric compositions that revolve around dark, mystic sounds, of the kind that many would describe as exotic and that has something of a Middle East and possibly Arabian flavor to them. The second is actually a short story being told with something of an ambient music backdrop. A highly intriguing opening to this production, but also one that explores landscapes subsequently left behind. As the rest of the CD unfolds, we're pretty much treated to three varieties of compositions. On one hand we have the short, firm cuts that nod back to the second wave of neo-progressive rock from the 90s, with floating atmospheric keyboard arrangements supporting harder edged, firm guitar riffs. On the other we have short, as well as some longer creations, where the band heads out to explore territories more closely aligned with Porcupine Tree, complete with electronic effects and rhythms combined with hard, dominant guitar riffs and steady but expressive drum patterns. At last we also have a fair few gentler escapades with floating keyboard layers and unobtrusive guitar work that have a stronger resemblance with what the bands that formed the neo-progressive movement in the 80s had a tendency to create. Occasionally details from all of these major variations combined into one track, but more often than not the compositions will be dominated by one or the other of those. This is compelling and easy to like music of the kind that should have a wide appeal. A superb mix and production elevates the experience as well, seeing to it that the gentler details are captured and present to the best possible effect, the delicate piano notes that open the song Searching a very good example of just that. The impact of the lead vocals is also elevated by the excellent quality of the mix and production: It's been quite some time since I have listened to an album that sounds as good as this one does.
Conclusion. Those who tend to enjoy bands described as neo-progressive rock just as much as artists placed in the same general context as Porcupine Tree should have a field day with Rob Cottingham's latest venture Cairo. Compelling and accessible progressive rock with a contemporary sheen, a strong focus on melodies and harmonies, with a superb mix and production ans the proverbial icing on the cake. A highly recommended album for those with a taste for the accessible side of modern progressive rock, in particular for those who find great pleasure in listening to a very well mixed and produced album in that context.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 1, 2017
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