By Kev Rowland
Peter Matuchniak has been around the progressive scene for nearly forty years now, firstly with Janysium, and then with Mach One when he and Simon Strevens were both asked to join. They became a popular band in the Eighties, with various releases and performances at The Marquee etc. Fast forward quite a few years and I came to know Peter, who was by now living in the States, both for his solo works and with Gekko Projekt. So when I heard that he had a new band I asked how they had come together, and where on earth the name came from: “After completing the second Gekko Projekt album, the keyboard player Vance and I were discussing plans for a new album. At the time I had just played my second live solo show and was discussing an album with my bassist, Steve Bonino. Of all the musicians I have met over my time, these are by far two of the very strongest composers and great to work with for ideas creatively. So I had the idea of doing a new project with just the three of us. Vance came up with the concept of Gyreland which Steve and I added our parts to and we would work in a studio on both story and songs together. We worked extremely fast and had the whole album written within a few months last year. Then we pulled in Jimmy Keegan on drums, and he nailed the whole album in one day — extraordinary! I had a temporary band name made up of the first two letters of our last name: Bo, Ma, Gl, and pronounced it phonetically as “Bomaggle”. It was never intended to be our real band name until I accidentally referred to us as “Bomber Goggles”. We all laughed, but the name stuck and everyone we knew told us to keep the name!”
But what about the album itself, it is a concept, but what is the story? “The album ‘Gyreland’ tells the story about a new continent that is constructed out of the plastic debris that is floating in our oceans. As the currents swirl, they bring the plastic closer together, something we are witnessing in our oceans today. The oceanic swirl is called the Gyre, and so in our story the new inhabitant’s name this new floating continent “Gyreland”. As more people are drawn to this new place, they experience a strange phenomenon, where they can almost anticipate each other’s thoughts and it allows them to build Gyreland at an unprecedented pace. Some people think that the gyre provides strange forces or power, whereas others believe it enhances our empathy or telepathy. Or perhaps it’s the earth’s way of rewarding those that choose to take care of her? We never truly find out the exact reason, but it attracts the interest of countries around the Pacific Rim who now want a piece of this power. Three powerful countries form an alliance to invade Gyreland. At home, their citizens protest, but the “Triangle of Power” proceeds with their invasion plans, as well as plans to break the alliance once they get what they want out of this new source of power. The new people of Gyreland have no armies or weapons, and so they wait uneasily for the invasion to occur. Some hope that the oceans that gave them this second chance will provide them with an answer. An answer in the wistful waves. But on the day of the invasion, something strange happens. As the invading soldiers set foot on Gyreland, they are overwhelmed by a sense of empathy that prevents them from wanting to fight. Perhaps this empathy is the same force that allowed Gyreland to be built in the first place? Whatever the reason, it makes it impossible for any hostile takeover to occur, because the new invaders simply abandon their army and join the people of Gyreland. A new turning point in the history of mankind.”
Given that the topic of plastic in the oceans is incredibly topical at present, in many ways it could be argued that this is the most relevant progressive album out there. I have been watching programmes on the Great Pacific garbage patch, which is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean discovered between 1985 and 1988. Estimates of its size vary between being equivalent to Texas or equivalent to Russia, but at the very least it is huge. And now we have a progressive rock band singing a story about a mythical continent that is built out of the plastic debris – seems more relevant than “Tales of Topographic Oceans” to me.
I can honestly say that I have been playing this album a great deal, as it was sent to me digitally but wanted to wait for the physical CD to arrive so kept playing this on rotation until that happened. But, events conspired against me and Peter and after more than a month it still hasn’t got here and I just can’t wait to write about it any longer! It took me ages to work out what musically the band was reminding me of, as in many ways it is so far removed from the normal regressive progressive rock I am sent, and then finally it hit me. Utopia! There is something about their melodic crossover poppy progressive rock with harmony vocals that I can imagine Todd and the boys coming up in their heyday. But, while it is indeed reminiscent of how Utopia would approach something, it is very much music for 2018 and not what was being produced some 40 plus years ago.
This is a debut album, but by a band whose members have been working in the scene for a great many years, and the guy who dropped in to provide drums completed the whole album in one day! (okay, so Jimmy is an incredibly well-known drummer, but that is some feat for anyone). I am not going to pick a particular track and point to the benefits of this or that, but will just say that this is an incredibly accessible and enjoyable album from the very first time it is played, and it only gets better the more it is listened to. Superb.