So I had this playing in the background, but when it started with a corner shop quartet from the Forties I thought I must have put on the wrong playlist. But, what it did do was make me stop whatever else I was doing and concentrate on this, and I am so very glad indeed that I did. What we have here, boys and girls is a progressive rock album in its very truest sense that is designed to drive despair into the heart of anyone brave or stupid enough to try to write a review of it. I’ll leave you to ascertain which camp I fall into, just don’t ask my wife. Progressive rock, by sheer definition, is music that is refusing to sit within any preconceived boundaries, and will not be pigeonholed. Why? Because IT’S NOT A PIGEON!
So let’s start by hanging some labels on this thing, shall we? People like labels. So, there’s some Zappa, yes definitely Zappa, jazz, psychedelia, funk, krautrock, oooh Cardiacs, mustn’t forget Cardiacs, folk, um, kitchen sink, cuddly toy. Must have missed something somewhere. But, the joy of this album is that when it is being played it all makes total sense, and all I want to do when it is finished is to put it on again! It may be incredibly diverse, but not in the way that these guys have pulled it together. Apparently, this is the second release from the band, who comprise just Nathan James (voice, keyboards, bass, horn) and Ian Beabout (flute, editing, sound design, and production) and some assorted guests, which includes Dave Newhouse from The Muffins among others. The use of brass instruments of different types work incredibly well, and there is a passion, lightness, and sense of fun throughout this album which makes it a real joy. This is music with no preconceived ideas or formula, just being taken where it needs to go. If I had my arm twisted behind my back and was asked for a simple subgenre then I would have to plump for crossover prog, but as it is meant to be defined, as there are a real musicality and melody that pervades the whole album.
Available in multiple formats, this is a delight, and the fractured beauty of “Photograph” is required listening for anyone who is fed up with created pop stars. In some alternate universe, it is #1 on the charts.
9/10 – Kev Rowland
Buy Unfamiliar Skies