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(37:12, Cargo Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sons of the Sleeping Giant 6:58 2. You're Wrong 3:30 3. Mistimed 3:54 4. Burn My Eyes 4:00 5. Sky's End 4:12 6. Songbird 3:19 7. Night Stalker 5:14 8. Aching 6:05 LINEUP: Ellie Blyth vocals keyboards Blake McQueen keyboards Jake Simmons guitars With: Steve Kightley bass David English drums
Prolusion. The UK band CORALSPIN has been around for a good few years by now, the earliest incarnation formed at least as far back as 2006 and possibly even earlier. "Honey and Lava" is their debut album, and was officially released in the fall of 2012 courtesy of UK label Cargo Records. As with many other artists these days this is a unit focusing on the present and future rather than the past.
Analysis. As was the case back in the 70's, the current growing popularity for progressive rock has seen a good few artists and labels alike trying to adjust to this being the case. Some by marketing any kind of mildly sophisticated music towards a prog interested audience, others by incorporating art rock elements to their otherwise mainstream oriented sound. But there's also a subset of progressive rock artists that takes the other route, employing mainstream oriented and classic rock elements to their particular brand of art rock. Coralspin is a band that most likely belongs in the latter of these categories, applying mainstream rock aesthetics to an arguably art rock framework. The compositional structure and utilization of instrumental motifs are the aspects of this production that have the strongest mainstream orientation to them. Fairly straight forward compositions that stick to an easygoing general nature, sporting a limited number of themes utilized in each piece and opting for a melodic arrangement without any major contrasts or challenging effects of note: harmonic, smoothly flowing creations easy on the ear and mind alike. The arrangement constructions as such have a much more refined nature to them however, with instrument motifs coming and going and a generally clever and effective use of growing levels of intensity as well as pairing off gentler sounding and harder edged sequences within the individual composition as well as from one track to the next, without employing any dramatic effects as such, but with enough variation to be noticed on a conscious as well as subconscious level songs easy to listen to and easy to like. In terms of associations bands like ELO and Ambrosia came frequently to mind, closer to the latter than the former in general sound but with tendencies towards the former in the most accessible of their creations. Opening cut Sons of the Sleeping Giant adds a slight psychedelic touch to the proceedings in a subtle Led Zeppelin kind of manner, and later on some of the most interesting creations close in on the style Canadian trio Rush explored in the early 80's, most profoundly so on Burn My Eyes and Sky's End. The former of these is my preferred cut on this CD due to employing a nifty dramatic effect to shift the intensity of the song, a rare occurrence on this production and an addition that works like a charm for this particular piece. The stylistic expression and possible influences of this act can probably be discussed and analyzed at length, but I suspect the above references should indicate an overall direction quite nicely. And rather than digging deeper into those water, there's one aspect of this disc that I suspect will be much more important for potential buyers to reflect upon, namely the lead vocals. Ellie Blyth caters for all the vocal duties, and does so in a rather unique manner. Partially light toned and semi-operatic and partially in a rich and somewhat husky darker toned timbre, but opting for a delivery that to my ears resides at just about the halfway point between Robin Gibb and Kate Bush. Voice, delivery and timbre all combine into a distinctly personal whole, and as with many other arguably unique vocalists Blyth is also a singer who won't have a universal appeal. It all adds up to a pleasant example of accessible progressive rock with strong mainstream appeal and orientation; tight rhythms and effective use of the bass guitar to provide basic motifs, with subdued, light-toned harder edged guitar and careful keyboard textures, occasionally with piano or organ motifs flavoring the arrangements further, with the distinct lead vocals as the main and dominating feature throughout.
Conclusion. If you tend to enjoy bands such as Ambrosia and Rush at their most friendly, then Coralspin is a band you should have good reason to check out, especially if you have a soft spot for vocalists with a distinct personal style that many would describe as unique to a lesser or greater extent in this case female lead vocals with a certain theatrical and operatic flair.
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