Tag Archives: sounds that can’t be made

The Release

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Okay, this post will be the culmination of my series of Marillion-related missives, following the progress of  the recording and pre-order campaign for their latest album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made this last few months.

(See also:  Gaza, Sounds that have been made, The ‘Power’ of Marillion, Sounds That Can’t Be Made)

To recap…

A new Marillion album is a bit special and here’s why: I – and over 13000 others – stumped up our hard-earned cash back in May of this year – £31.37 to be precise – for an as-yet-unwritten album. Not all of us have been entirely enamoured with Marillion‘s output over the years but like any pro(g)tagonist in a long-term relationship we’re prepared to take the rough of the creative process along with the smooth. Crucially, we agree that the latter tends to outweigh the former, even if no two of us can entirely concur on which songs/albums fall into which category. We like to be involved and appreciate the band and its organisation’s efforts to reach out and engage us in a dialogue.  Their customer service and marketing is second-to-none because they get us; they realise that the fans’ love affair with music is as crucial a component of the band’s lifeblood as the band’s love affair with music. We’re dubbed ‘Freaks’ for good reason 🙂

They’ve been working like this for years; long before it was recognised by industry commentators like Bob Lefsetz as the hot new business model; before Kickstarter. It’s why they’re not only still around but positively thriving whilst many acts of low-to-middling popularity have fallen by the wayside.

But, you may ask; is it any good? I’m gonna play devil’s advocate for a minute and say that the answer is that it’s not as simple as that. Do I like it? Yes. A lot. What does it sound like? It’s the sound of artists let off the corporate leash; answerable only to themselves and with a clear sense of their creative direction, with all the positives and negatives that entails. If you’ve been following the band over the course of their last few albums then it’s very much of a piece with their recent output. If you’ve liked that then I see no reason why this shouldn’t, in the main, appeal as much if not more: detractors on the other hand are unlikely to be converted.

In a recent interview, guitarist Steve Rothery posited the album title as ‘throwing down the gauntlet’, a statement of intent: and likewise opening a record with a 17 minute suite suite of music (Gaza) openly sympathising with the plight of Arabs in the Middle East surely counts as audacious; at least when a not inconsiderable portion of your worldwide fanbase resides in the broadly pro-Israel USA. Such audacity is echoed in the music, which on first hearing did present as a Pro Tools cut and paste job; its numerous movements seemingly heterogenous. Further listening reveals a clever – if occasionally unsubtle – marriage of mood to lyrical content and sentiment. This is what the long-form mode so beloved of ‘art’ rockers does well, and patience with this piece is well rewarded. Singer Steve Hogarth agonised over his lyrical contribution, communicating with both Israeli and Palestinian citizens, academics and NGO workers before committing his thoughts to paper; and whilst the finished story is nakedly imagined through Palestian eyes it reads – from my liberal, European, non-partisan viewpoint – as a tribute to human endurance rather than polemic.

Montreal is a love letter to a city that has long taken Marillion under its collective wing, with words lifted straight from Hogarth’s tour diary. The stream-of-consciousness lyrical style marries well with the shifting feel of this extended composition: like Gaza it’s a kind of medley/song cycle under one nominative umbrella, albeit much more smoothly-flowing than the former.

By contrast Pour My Love and Invisible Ink adopt a more metaphorical approach, lyrically; and at only 6 minutes apiece err on the concise side (in prog rock terms, anyway). The former has has echoes of Prince‘s Money Don’t Matter Tonight and Todd Rundgren‘s Hello It’s Me, and like Montreal it has a cool, laid back feel.

As the first trailer for the album, Power is the track I’m most familiar with now. It’s a brooding number featuring atmospheric keyboard embellishments from Mark Kelly and underpinned by Pete Trewavas‘ confident, propulsive four string figures; the payoff doesn’t quite match up to the build-up. The same could be said for The Sky Above The Rain which feels as if it has run its (musical) course after 7 minutes, yet rumbles on for a further 3 in order to accomodate a coda which, as much as it provides a sense of closure to the narrative feels extraneous.

Given that TSATR is the final track I have to resist my inclination to be forgiving: the concluding track on any album ought to offer the listener a sense of catharsis after the tension and release emotional adventure and in the past Marillion have managed this so much more deftly (The Last Straw, House and Neverland spring to mind). In this respect, Sounds That Can’t Be Made (as in the title track) would have been a more fitting closer, with its bouyant, pumping synth strings and Rothery’s triumphant, repeating solo motif, ending on a more confident, memorable note.

It’s a shame, but far from catastrophic: in the main this is an album that stands up well against both the band”s back catalog, and against the mass of contemporary rock releases. If you’re in the minority of listeners who still appreciate the virtues of the physical format replete with artwork and bonus gubbins then the ‘Campaign edition’ is sumptuously-presented and well worth the additional outlay. But in the end it’s all about the music and downloads are available in 320mbps and 44.1khz 16bit stereo FLAC download.

If you thought music like this couldn’t be made any more, give it a listen; you may be pleasantly surprised…

Gaza

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Yesterday saw the release of the final ‘teaser’ for ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’, Marillion’s soon to be released 17th studio album. It’s a BIG tease: 17’24” of  Leviathan, proglodyte complexitude in the vein of previous Marillion extended set-pieces such as ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Ocean Cloud’, ‘Interior Lulu’ and ‘This Strange Engine’.

As the title of this post suggests, the song – which opens STCBM and according to sources within The Racket Club will also kick off the tour set – is inspired by events in the Middle East. This is a kind of ‘social commentary’ songwriting that the band have rarely ventured into before: the only examples that spring to mind are ‘White Russian’ (words penned by previous frontman, Fish) and ‘Berlin’ (lyrics by sometime Marillion collaborator, John Helmer) both inspired by events in the old Eastern Bloc. By contrast singer/lyricist Steve (h) Hogarth prefers (for the most part) to plumb the depths of his own emotional and experiential well for inspiration. Ok, ‘Easter’ – which became something of a band and fan anthem ever since its 1989 debut – was inspired by ‘The Troubles’ but is, in Hogarth’s own words ‘my love song to Ireland’ rather than any kind of strictly political statement. If he tentatively began to channel his inner Bono for a couple tracks on 2007’s ‘Somewhere Else’ record, then this track takes that to a whole new level.

Here’s what Hogarth had to say about the inspiration for ‘Gaza’ in a recent interview with Prog magazine:

‘We were on the guest list [for] Massive Attack and when you picked up your tickets they wanted a donation for the Hoping Foundation [which] raises money to provide materials and arts education … for children who live in refugee camps. I started reading about the history of  that part of the world from before the last war through to the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel… Skyping quite a lot of people within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to try and get a sense and feeling of what life is like there. I didn’t want to write a piece of naive, romantic nonsense [or] a song just bashing Israel. You’ve got to keep coming back to … the perspective of a child growing up there’.

Marillion‘s online forum, YouTube and Facebook accounts are already buzzing with heated musical (and political) exchanges around the new song. With less than a week to go before the commencement of the UK leg of the tour this is a timely opportunity to digest a sizeable and complex chunk of fresh material. It’s also (re)opened the perennial ‘can of worms’ with regard to whether ‘pop artists’ ought to use their position to raise awareness of social/political situations from which they are arguably distanced by geography and – relative – financial security. Personally, it’s gonna take a while and a few more listens for me to make up my mind how successful they’ve been in either musical or lyrical terms. As a long-time fan of progressive rock I’ve come to enjoy unravelling the threads of Marillion’s (and others’) more sophisticated compositions; and to me it seems only apposite that such musical depth and complexity is echoed in provocative and dense lyricism. But have they bitten off more than they can chew this time? Will STCBM go down as a TDSotM or a 6DOIT? Let’s see…

You can follow developments in the album campaign as they unfolded in my previous blog posts by following these links  Sounds That Have Been Made , The Power of Marillion and Sounds That Can’t Be Made.

Sounds that have been made

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Further to Sounds That Can’t Be Made and The Power of Marillion

The EPK for ‘STCBM’ has now been posted on Youtube (link below) featuring further tantalizing insights into the writing/recording process, soundclips from all the new songs and a few images of the artwork adorning the special, pre-order ‘campaign’ edition available from Racket Records. As the proud owner of previous such editions – ‘Anoraknophobia’ (2001), ‘Marbles’ (2004) and ‘Happiness is the Road’ (2008) – I can testify that these are high quality presentations and guaranteed to appeal to ‘old-school’ rock fans like myself who still appreciate eye candy to go with our ear candy. Need convincing?

Witness the moment ‘Happiness hits the doormat’ for this excited recipent back in 2008:

As for the new record, the official band statement reads thus:

“The mixes are complete and the album will be mastered early next week.

We’d like to thank you all again for your faith during the making of this album and huge thanks to everyone has already pre-ordered the album from us. With over 72 minutes of music and 8 songs we hope it will be worth the wait!

We are gearing up now for the UK tour which starts 9th September (http://www.marillion.com/tour) and then onto what seems like permanent touring until the end of the year. We hope we can see many of you on the road.

It’s been quite a journey so far and we’d advise you to be part of it!”

Find the EPK here:

And if perchance you’re now persuaded to stump up 30 of your hard-earned quids (about 47 bucks) plus shipping then heed the good folk at Racket Records

“Although we will continue to sell the Special Edition of Sounds That Can’t Be Made, only orders received before MIDNIGHT GMT 20th August will be guaranteed to be shipped in the first batch which is expected early September, so please order now to avoid disappointment!
(http://www.marillion.com/shop)

If you only want to buy the CD in retail shops – the jewelcase edition will be released worldwide by Ear Music on September 17th. But do remember that we ship CD’s worldwide so feel free to visit us – nothing makes us happier than packing CD’s :) We hope many of you will receive it before the start of the UK Tour but that’s probably down to the Postal Service!

If you were undecided about ordering the special edition – then please know that the full length interviews and studio footage that you have seen on the Sounds That Can’t Be Made trailer, form an almost 2 hour long bonus DVD that comes with it! So don’t delay, order today!”

The ‘Power’ of Marillion

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Re https://musicbugsandgender.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/sounds-that-cant-be-made/

UK rock stalwarts and internet-marketing pioneers Marillion have an enviable relationship with their worldwide fanbase. More than a decade before Kickstarter, fans around the world stumped up $60,000 dollars to subsidise their, on the brink of cancellation ’97 US tour ; three years later 12,000 of them paid up front for their – as-yet-unrecorded – 12th album, freeing them from the shackles of record company tyranny.

12 years on we’re patiently waiting for Marillion’s 17th album. ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’, is their first since 2008 – okay, not quite the level of patience demanded by Guns’n’Roses, or The Stone Roses – and finally during their current stateside tour, the band whetted fans appetite by road-testing two brand new songs: ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘Power’. Feedback from American audiences has been broadly positive, and many fans in Europe, Asia and elsewhere have downloaded tour recordings from www.marillion.com just to hear the new material. Now the band have released the studio recording of the latter for our further delectation (link below) along with the full track listing of the new album plus details of the special edition pre-order which is still on sale:

“The sky above the rain
Pour my love
Montreal
Invisible Ink
Lucky man
Gaza
Power
Sounds that can’t be made

128 pages of artwork & Lyrics presented in a deluxe hard back book. This collector’s edition will also contain an extra dvd disc featuring interviews with the band and a selection of tracks performed live at the Racket Club, all filmed during various stages of making of the album. Artwork has been provided by simon ward, andy wright, carl glover, marc bessant, andre kuipers & antonio seijas.”

My intial impression is that it’s definitely an ‘album track’ rather than a ‘single’; I immediately wanted to listen to it again, despite the lack of an obvious ‘hook’. Steve ‘h’ Hogarth still has one of the most characteristic voices in rock, and his words merit repeat plays. If you’re a fan of the ‘Scottish heavy metal band’ era then this maybe isn’t gonna be your cup of musical tea – it’s more like a more sombre, more mature Keane with rock balls – though I do tend to concur with some commentators that Steve Rothery’s guitar solo could have been a little higher in the mix. He may not be as inclined to let rip a-la Gilmour as in days of yore but the guy can play, dammit. But what power my words versus their notes and chords… check it out yourselves:

http://youtu.be/1aZxKeANsIw

Really looking forward to the album now: roll on September…

 

Sounds That Can’t Be Made…

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…is the title of the new Marillion album, and as of today the pre-order campaign is live. And whilst this will be a matter of the utmost indifference to 99% of the music-consuming public, for fans like myself it’s a time of great anticipation. We’ve just stumped up £30 of our hard-eaned cash for an album of which we’ve yet to hear a note, confident that the band will deliver something at the very least, interesting and surprising.

In an era when many ‘fans’ seem reluctant to pay for their music at all, that represents a not inconsiderable show of faith, but the band have been demonstrating for some years now that faith on the fans’ part is generally well-rewarded. Since launching their website and attendant direct marketing approach on the back of their 1999 album, marillion.com, they’ve worked hard to cultivate an enviable relationship with their worldwide fanbase. That’s what it’s all about these days, particularly for the small to medium sized bands that record companies aren’t willing to invest in. Pre-selling limited special editions of each new album at £30 a pop generates enough of an advance to finance the recording with £££s to spare. Because the band have taken the trouble to get to know their fans, they know what little extras to include in the package to make them irrisistible to us: the packaging will be a real work of art; the names of preorderers will be listed in the booklet for posterity; there’ll be DVD clips of the work in progress; entry into a draw to win money can’t buy prizes (though to be honest I’d have shelled out my cash anyway, just for the music).

If by any chance you’re a fan and this is news to you, head here and check it out for yourself. If you’re not, then here’s a couple of clips of previous work to perhaps whet your appetite: