Seems a while since I last had a rant about my pet hate One Direction, well, to be fair, it is more what they represent than the band themselves ( except Harry Styles, say no more eh?). That bland, formulaic dross that passes as chart music nowadays and is lapped up by pre-pubescant teens everywhere. I could go on forever about this but I don’t want to bore you, the amount of money that is thrown at these Stepford Wife (google that if you don’t get what I mean) bands is ridiculous. They sell millions of records due to image rather than musical talent and the majority of them don’t even write their own music, scandalous! So, when an independent music label is willing to promote real bands and real music (you know the kind of music I mean, emotive and thought provoking), it brings a smile to my craggy features. Without a lot of these small and fiercely independent impresarios we would be starved of quality progressive and metal music. The latest one of these labels to come hoofing over my musical horizon is Freia Music and, having already reviewed the brilliant Sylvium from Peter Freia’s progressive heavy label, it was a no brainer for me to get my hands dirty with Freia stable mate TumbleTown and their debut release Done with the Coldness, another visit to prog land for this happy adventurer.
TumbleTown is a studio project by Han Uil and Aldo Adema, two skilled producers, guitarists and composers. Both played together in the progressive rock formation Seven Day Hunt, a continuation of Egdon Heath. Aldo left Seven Day Hunt in 2009 and the band disbanded soon after. Aldo wanted to concentrate more on studio recording and production work, meanwhile , Han recorded and produced his second solo album ‘Dark in Light’ (2010). Han and Aldo co-operated on one of the songs on the album ‘Memento’ and, because this successful cooperation, they both decided to start a new studio project. Hence TumbleTown was born.
Musically, TumbleTown is a brilliant mix of progressive and mainstream rock. They are influenced by a wide scale of artists like; Blackfield, Pat Metheny, The Beatles, Spock’s Beard, Neil Young, David Bowie, Nick Cave and Pink Floyd. The album features guest appearances by Erik Laan (Silhouette) on keyboards, Marcel Copini (Egdon Heath & Seven Day Hunt) on bass and Carola Magermans (Seven Day Hunt) on backing vocal.
Done with the coldness is a glorious mixture of many musical styles and directions, the opener The End of Hyde would not be out of place on a Pink Floyd album, all dystopian imagery and stylistic keyboards. The authoritative vocal and quirky guitar giving the track an almost space rock vibe with some superb mini solos, a Victorian tale set to music.
Won’t Look Back is a more straightforward rocker with a quality Hammond organ and crunching guitar painting the picture and the superb keyboard plying its way as the main rhythm mechanism. You can sense the Nick Cave influence in the pared back vocal on this darkly edged song. As the song continues the keyboard and drums take it in a prog metal direction along with a really well worked solo. The smorgasbord of music on offer is continued with the elegant and prog heavy One Goal. Slow paced and ethereal in places, the vocal seriously reminds me of David Sylvian and the whole song has a serious hint of his 80’s band, Japan, about it. It is a smooth piece of jazz influenced prog and the highly skilled guitar lifts this track well above the average fare, impressive so far indeed.
One Liners is a short and sweet track epitomised by the distorted guitar work and subdued vocal. The best way I can describe it is 80’s influenced synth punk and, whilst not a poor track, it is kept in the shadows by the more impressive fare on offer on this album. I really like the next track, I Can feel You, with its Spock’s Beard and Beatles heavy influence, psychedelic prog rock at its best, the only downside is that it is only 4 minutes long, the brilliant solo and generally outstanding guitar playing giving more proof of the musical excellence of these guys. The longest track on the album, Finding a Way Out, showcases the whole album in a nutshell, an expert blending of musical styles and structures with a sublime intro aided and abetted by some more of that explosive guitar work. An urgent vocal backed by some skilled drumming and great keyboards carries you into the meat of the song. The pace of the song waxes and wanes as you feel involved in proceedings. You are never far from the foundation of TumbleTown’s musical ethos though, so you know that, at some point, the peerless guitar sound of Han and Aldo will barge to the front to take centre stage and, on this track, it is stirring and emotive.
Well, who has transported me back to the 80’s? All in the Game has 80’s synth rock painted all over it with a superb feel that harks back to the halcyon days of Bowie and the rest. It is all showy and resplendent but, if I remember rightly, that’s what the 80’s was all about, the clever laid back guitar flashes area masterstroke and, along with the seriously catchy chorus, makes this song a delight to listen to. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Sailing Along with the Breeze which almost feels like a filler track with its disjointed and discordant sound, it’s not a bad track just not in the same league as the stand out songs on the album.
The intro to Free Men has a similar incoherent feel to it but, this time, it leads into something way better, blossoming into a cool progressive track with a first rate piano and a spiralling guitar solo that brings to mind early Pink Floyd. The vocal has an 80’s industrial style to it which blends in well with the wall of sound produced and the song has a breathtaking outro complete with some superb backing vocals and a fantastically mellow solo. Loyal Tears seems to take 80’s synth music and blend it adeptly with an industrial metal backdrop to turn it into something unique and extremely palatable. Great operatic backing vocals and a crashing riff add a dash of symphonic power metal to the mixing pot, another stand out highlight on this increasingly admirable album. The song bows out with an exquisite solo that would keep even David Gilmour happy. Well, our increasingly interesting journey through the mind of TumbleTown draws to a close with final track, and instrumental, Heduwig. Basically, it is two minutes of guitar brilliance, a monumental piece of guitar playing that soars high into the heavens above and one majestic way to close out what has been a splendid way to spend 52 minutes of my life.
My return to the joys of progressive rock is on a roll, the songs on Done with the Coldness, barring a couple of under par efforts, are well written and superbly played. TumbleTown have produced a debut album full of nooks and crannies where musical delights are hidden for the listener to find in their own time. This great album rewards those that take the time to fully immerse themselves in the musical experience and every new listen will turn up another aspect that was not apparent before. Lock yourself in a room with headphones on and leave it on repeat, I cannot think of many better ways to spend your time.