Shineback – Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed

Shineback – Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed

  • 07 Jul. 2013
  • Artist: Shineback
  • Released: 1st July 2013
  • Genre: Pop/Prog/Electronica
  • Posted by: LadyObscure


Hey guys!
Today I’m with you with Shineback, the solo project by the brilliant Simon Godfrey of Tinyfish.

First off, a gentle warning…

This one will be a long *cough* fangirly *cough* review, although I don’t plan to do my usual track-by-tracks. If you’re a busy bee and you find this scary-long so much so that you are considering not reading it, reconsider as I came up with a silly yet practical solution; I will italicise my own buggery so you can skip and go to the serious shit right away… Cool huh? We’re all happy!

Obviously, if you prefer to go for a compact review, that’s fine as well – this one is more of a ‘thank you letter’ to a musician for giving me one of my favourite albums… Speaking of which, I honestly think an art form of this kind should be called something else – a mere “album” is not doing justice to the mastery at display here with the intricate story, beautiful lyrics and perfectly flowing music.

You know those works; if you go through all the material on the website and the CD it becomes a completely different experience than listening to an album. I am overwhelmed by the amount of effort went into this phenomenal work.

No. I swear I don’t hide the cream of the crop from my authors…
Speaking of which… this is what my senior editor RJ Dunn (aka lonestar) said when he first heard the album.. “The depth and structure of the album is so damn intricate, it’s downright scary.” Damn you RJ, for the TL;DR version of my review which took me days… Days, I tell you!!

Now, onto the concept…

Now there is me, listening to the album over and over again, getting constant goose-bumps all throughout, without having the slightest connection to the concept except for the images I have seen in films and the scary stories I’ve heard… This one is indeed very scary since the story is told masterfully making it very vivid; throughout the whole thing the deep, intense pain emanating from the very core of Dora’s – the protagonist – soul is palpable and contagious. I don’t even dare to imagine what this album can do to someone who could relate to the story told to any extent… Scary!

Having said that, human mind is such an amazing fortress I am almost positive that there are a lot of people out there who actually can relate to the story in a more empathic way, who actually have gone through horrors similar to Dora’s and maybe even never have gotten in grips with them; but may feel a kinship towards Dora and find comfort in the fact that they are understood… I mean, I wholeheartedly agree with David Longdon‘s opinion (as quoted by Simon Godfrey on the website) that “artists should not be afraid to shine a light into dark places…”

The balance is perfect, though… What do I mean? Well, first of all, I don’t expect anyone to understand the details of the whole story just by listening to the songs and this works in everyone’s favour; if you have lived through horrendous traumas you are not ready to tackle, you are safe and can just enjoy the music and perhaps, without touching any actual issue, share Dora’s pain. If you want more, want to go deeper, understand what’s happened to Dora… well, the artists let you know what’s going on with a brilliantly penned storyThe lyrics are vague enough to have resonance with someone’s own personal experiences with long ago horrors, whatever they may unfortunately be, but also, when put into context of the album’s storyline, it becomes quite obvious what the song is about without having to describe in grotesque detail what happened to our protagonist. -Simon Godfrey

It’s not a secret that we love concept albums here on LO… They may or may not be based on a complete story. It may be just that, a theme, they focus. It may tell short stories about some place, some idea…

If there is a good, consistent story in the background, though, it is a nice bonus! Shineback did just that; Robert Ramsay‘s story intertwined with the lyrics and the music tells the story of Dora – and shadows, both light and dark, both forgotten, and horrors from her past.

Now that I think about it, Simon’s ability to express himself must be on a ridiculous level or it may be that Robert and Simon mind-melded at some point… How in the seven hecks one can put such vivid images into someone’s mind, get impossibly clear feelings in return to produce a series of very powerful lyrics tackling a very difficult theme in such an uncanny manner making everyone actually feel! Damn you Simon and damn you Robert for being so beautiful!

What we have here is not something straightforward folks. What this duo pulled off is emotional, poetic, creative and innovative in every sense of the word. The album is focused on emotions but does not resort to cheap tricks – or, I should say, those usual tricks that feel cheap now that I heard Simon’s work…

Oh, shall we move on and talk about the music a bit?

What you will hear is very different from what Simon Godfrey has done with Tinyfish; in fact, it is nothing like anyone has ever done with anything, to tell you the truth. It’s the most daring effort I came across in the past few years.

I feel so great about myself that I won’t have to say “I discovered this album a few years ago, and was floored by it” – I was so lucky to get my hands on it immediately and I should say, some pieces of art have to be consumed as they come or you just miss the train… From here onward, loads of new ones will share attributes with this album I reckon… Simon set a precedent now and more musicians will follow in his footsteps…

Seriously, think about this… If a musician saying that “I put my guitar away and started on the album” is not baffling I don’t know what is! What do you think he was trying to do? Reinvent music? Or maybe his career? He clearly knew what he was doing though… His quite a few tricks up his sleeve turned out to be a tremendous amount of talent in creating something new, something unusual, something that would make you go “what??”; disturbing, freaky, scary, even a bit amusing at the end, soul nourishing… We undoubtedly have a man with a vision here…

I love side projects… They let the musicians think outside the box… We, the die-hard fans, don’t really let the musicians innovate and experiment if we’re perfectly honest to ourselves… They always have to stay true to their sound or we start bitchin… OK… Maybe there is nothing strictly wrong about that but then how will the music evolve?

Seriously… The experimental aspect of the album is by far the most appealing bit… Again, nothing here is straightforward. The album is a ground-breaking, complex work of art. It teems with invention, easily standing out from the rest of the crowd with its unique brand of pop, prog and electronica in heavy, mellow, melodic and emotionally powerful vibes, with its success of covering zillions of different quanta from energetic, upbeat, fast and strong to very slow and mellow over the course of the album matching the story at every beat…

What’s very hard to grasp is it feels completely consistent, dammit! There is an underlying tone, a vibe that unites everything together.

It’s certainly restless and innovative, a recipe for hard-to-follow, but bloody hell! Rise Up Forgotten Return Destroyed never feels like hard work at any point.

What should a musician do to streamline his ideas and to make a coherent album incorporating so many genres irrelevant to each other?! To keep the album accessible while trying out something very unusual?

Due to its variety and the scale of genres on offer I am expecting this album to reach a wide range of audiences. The music is incredible – powerful and unusual, but never too much so as to put off more casual listeners. The flip-side is you can’t really pin down a genre for this piece of music…  

Oh, I’m not done yet… There is another aspect of the album that hit me hard; the way that the samples and effects get treated… Avid listeners might notice the wide range of sound samples from the get go, but not a casual listener… “Why?” you may ask…

Almost everyone likes the spoken bits as when you are listening to the piece for the first time, it gives you insight into what’s happening… Once you understand the story, though, you don’t need those bits anymore. I actually know a lot of people complaining about spoken bits and I know musicians who – cleverly – record the narratives on separate mini tracks so that you can skip them. The situation is completely different here…

Because of the way Simon puts everything together, the samples are an organic part of the music… They exist just below the surface of the music helping the audience create a mental picture while not getting in the way by any means…

This bloke knows what he’s doing and he is clearly equipped to bring his ideas to life…It’s important to stamp your own mark upon them otherwise you’re simply arranging noises rather than creating something original. As a result, I tried to employ some level of sonic manipulation as often as possible. -Simon Godfrey

If you are one of our loyal prog-head followers, don’t expect this album to belong to overly familiar territory. Well, I have to admit I love electronic music and I did some massive listening during my years at the uni; I hit those clubs, festivals and so on… So it was an exciting piece of news for me but if you are one of the haters or not that keen on the genre, I can see you saying “I would never have imagined myself enjoying them but actually electronic bits worked surprisingly well with properly done harmonies…”

Yeah, I am aware that I said I won’t do a track-by-track but hey, I will do some anyway…

The songs are incredibly well written…

All of them are clear proofs that Simon is at the peak of his song-writing abilities. Songs have everything from interesting percussions to samples and synths, to oriental flair to colourful, clear female vocals as well as Simon’s great voice…

They are served at a great pace and certainly take you away from wherever physically you might be listening to them…

Some songs are more depressing and darker than others… Bedlam Days and Faultiness, for instance, give your soul the old one-two, back to back… They easily paint the darkest bit of the whole picture. Weirdly enough, the former gets your blood boiling with its pace and energy despite the underlying darkness, building up the tension nicely… Once you start paying attention to the lyrics though, it becomes violent and very disturbing. While the lyrics are the main source of agony here, the latter doesn’t even need any lyrics to tear you apart; Faultiness does the trick with its vibe alone and you find yourself with a rising anger turning into gloom.

Here Comes the Envoys marks some of my favourite moments on the album with the incredible guitar work and catchy intro melody. It also introduces the very lovely creatures of the story…
Note to self: Watch Matt Stevens closely!!! That guy is one helluva sick guitar player… Damn.

Crush Culture is an instantly appealing piece and I thought that I hated upbeat songs? Proven wrong in such ways is priceless though…

When I start to review an album, I quickly jot down an outline with some headings and the name of the tracks to take notes when I am listening. Then I build on it with subsequent listens… Maybe the first thing I jotted down was “Fears Aren’t Toys – the highlight of the album” and guess what, when I went to the website, I saw Simon saying “to what I think is one of the highlight songs on the album…” Dammit, Simon! You ruined my line!!! I couldn’t even squeeze in a ‘Luke I’m your father joke’ ! Booooo

Fears Aren’t Toys!! Oh-My-God! What a stunning piece of music?! This is so huge, so strong and powerful while being so aloof and charismatic at the same time… And lo and behold! Dec Burke is working his magic here! Oh, do I love this musician? Seriously, the guitars are brilliant and so in synch with the feel of the song… I find it almost impossible to verbalise the beauty of this song… and you know what, I won’t even…
Dec Burke…  cruelly keeping us waiting for his new release with ‘Brave New Sky’.. Lady reached another level at practicing patience here!shineback_meme

Passengers is the very first track I heard off of the album – you could say this is where it started. I remember going “What da f” and aching to hear the whole thing. I guess you don’t need me to tell you that it works way better as a part of the whole.

XO VA YU is a very intense track; the ‘Vernon’ voiceover and the super-powerful and scary musical assault right after take it to another level…

Paul Worwood, you’re creeping me out… I cannot un-hear that now!

Another ambitious effort is the titular track, Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed. Has a sick a cappella section, great phrasing, fantastic harmonies and mind boggling solos in abundance delivered by Matt Stevens, Hywel Bennett and Andy Ditchfield. Henry Roger’s great performance on drums grabs my attention at every listen! Damn, it’s too much… too much I say!

One Last Perfect Day merges the West with the East masterfully. It is a brilliant piece with its rising and then falling rhythm and more than that, it leaves you with an Inglorious Basterds feel at the end…

Thank you Dora… Just… Thank you…

**spoiler**

Finally, Myowndreamland (Final Blog) comes and closes the album gracefully, letting us know that Dora’s long-gone brother is welcoming her after her silent death in the mental institution… and musically matching that peaceful scene with the haunting atmosphere created by strings, keys and beautiful vocals of Danny Claire and the man himself.. What an emotionally charged ending for a great story told in a masterful fashion.

 /spoiler

I believe that if ‘The Wall’ was recorded today, it would be something like this…

Oh, I know this is one controversial statement but bear with me… This is a game we music journalists love to play so let me enjoy myself a bit here.

I have no idea whether Pink Floyd were actually an influence on the album or not, but it’s a feeling I get from the manner the concept is handled and from bits and pieces of a few songs.

Ok here we go… Both concepts are disturbing, brutal, cynical, and both has an uplifting message in the end… Both show the world around us can be inhumane, unjust and cruel. Both protagonists end up in isolation – either in anger or in peace…

Both albums have flashbacks and touch upon traumas of a child lingering to their grown up selves. Of course, the story here is more of a focussed, maybe personal one… but the sentiments and the effects are similar.

Pink is so disturbed, he can’t think in a linear way, nor can Dora – hence ‘One Last Perfect Day’

Some musical aspects also make me think that the musician is nodding to Floyd as well; the piano and the atmosphere on the last track makes me think of The Division Bell… just for a fleeting moment though… And when I hear the phone ring on Xo Va Yu, I can’t help but see a vision of Bob Geldof sitting on an arm-chair…

Both have a different sound to a lot of their respective peers. Both are great, very accessible and yet experimental and unique.

/speculation

So yeah, that’s about it… There is nothing in this album that makes it anything short of a true masterpiece. With its generous offerings, from its fantastic production to its depth, it achieves a rare thing, a high degree of grandiosity. It is musically and lyrically very rich. Such a rewarding listen!
Fast forward twenty years, this album will represent the pinnacle of whatever genre this will be called.

Let me congratulate the co-producer Tim Lawrie for the stellar production here. The duo is offering a very full, a monstrous sound and a consistently high quality throughout. Kudos!

I don’t know whether to call David Elliott a wise investor, a great business-mind or a true art lover but he is definitely off to a great start as it is their first release on his new record label Bad Elephant Music – I see what he did there, one hell of a break-out strategy to invest in these guys!

As you can see, I could go on for days with stuff like this, but I’ll stop here. If you want something refreshing and inspiring at the same time, this is an album for you…  If you prefer to stick to your old guns, don’t even…

See what I did there? 😛

TL;DR version… I’ve been enthusing over this album. Buy it and get blown away with the way it works on so many levels.

Also, come on… We both know you read the whole thing…

Luv,
Lady Obscure

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About the author

LadyObscure
I find bands and albums like me; obscure... I see that which others do not and make them obscure no more; I hear that which others do not and let people hear what I hear; I am the conduit through which the light of a million stars unleash to make the poor, incomplete human soul whole again in perpetual ecstasy... I am the music freak extraordinaire... I am obscure... and that's Lady Obscure for you... Nem Nol

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