Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edison's Children ~ ... in the last waking moments ...


(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: prog-rock, experimental, psychedelic, British
Label: Random Disturbance Records
Year: 2011
Home: England/New York

Members: Eric Blackwood ~ vocals/guitars/synthesizer/bass
Pete Trewavas ~ vocals/guitars/synthesizers/bass/programming/VG sitar

Guest: Steve Rothery, Robin Boult ~ electric guitars
Mark Kelly ~ synthesizer
Ian Mosley ~ drums
Stever Hogarth, Mandy Delly ~ b. vocals

About 2 years ago I had the opportunity to interview on the air songwriter Anthony J. Foti of Closenuf & Blackwood & Foti. One time bandmate Eric Blackwood & I had spoken on the phone previously & I told him about the interview. Knowing how busy he was with a job in the movie/tv industry I was surprised to have him call in, while Foti was estatic as it was the first time the guys had spoken since the band closed its books a decade earlier. It was my first interview & I just sat back & listened to these two old friends & couldn't have asked for a better show. Blackwood mentioned that he had some new music in the works, but it was early & the project nameless. A year later he released the debut of EC with bassist Pete Trewavas. Trewavas is known for his work with prog-rockers Marillion, who helped keep prog-rock alive in the 80's. Blackwood had written some songs at the same time that Trewavas, who he'd met having been a part of Marillion's North American touring crew, wanted a chance to experiment & sing. It should be mentioned the boys of Marillion appear here as guests. A bit after I got the CD, with the intent to review it, Blackwood wrote me a bit anxious as no review had appeared. He didn't know my schedule is not based on street dates, but when I'm just able to get through my growing stack in whatever time I have. But, essentially, he was just old fashioned worried that folks wouldn't get it. He felt the album takes some time to sink in & was worried I didn't like it & should listen to it for awhile before judging. Sorry, Eric, I review so many albums & it takes me days if not weeks to listen & write just one review that I can't let everything sink in like you or others may want. If I spend my time listening to your CD than I won't have time to listen to others. This would thus be a very sparsely updated blog. I do try to give it my best focus when I finally listen to make up for lost contemplative time. But, hindsight as shown his anxiety unfounded. Out the door EC entered 2011 super well received & topping charts as the best new prog-rock album with a climb up internet radio charts. Within a couple months EC would even release an EP of some new tracks to meet the growing wave of international fans. So, having been there very early on, followed them through a name change, even had Blackwood bounce my name in an interview of which I appreciate, citing my knowledge of guitarist Al Pitrelli who did a Blackwood & Foti session & called it one of his best solos, & now having seen the buzz of their debut with numerous fan clubs across the globe ... I can delay my review no longer. Here's the catch-22. Though its been edited many times, everything you just read was initially written months ago. What follows is one of the most difficult reviews I've ever written ... eclipsing even my last review of Tired Wings, a band I used to play in & was severely criticized for not saying I loved them or considered them the best thing yet & accused of animosity & anger where none exists. Basically, upon first hearing EC it was nothing like I was expecting, considering the music of the Blackwood & Trewavas camps. I'll confess, yes, Eric, you were right, I didn't review it because I didn't like it, wasn't sure what to do & you echoing my thoughts kinda put me off more ... & us reviewers universally hate being asked if we've reviewed something, as it is. I mean, if you think people won't like it then what am I to think if I'm having the same initial feeling? Though, most musicians say they have the best music ever, so its great to hear fear & worry for once. I've heard musicians with the worst music ever shout how their band is the best. After a while reviewers turn off to what a musician says about themselves. Blackwood broke the rules! Surprise, he did it musically, too. In the past months I've put on the album periodically, not ready to give up. I even asked a friend whose a big prog-rock head & he was even a bit iffy on it too. Yet, two against an array of fans makes me wonder. I obviously was missing something. Then, last week, I had a realization. It's not that its a bad album. Not at all. But, it's not the type of prog I typically go to for enjoyment, nor what I want in my prog. In high school I first heard Yes & declared them my band, Howe being my first guitar hero right next to Robert Johnson, followed by ELP & later anything from any Yes alumni. Then, I heard the other side of the genre with Pink Floyd. I like Syd Barrett's stuff, but the rest I consider boring & depressing. Gilmour & Waters are not as interesting a singer as Anderson, who I used to emulate for hours. Howe, Banks, Rabin, Sherwood solo, yet underneath them is tons of weaving lines, like jazz, by the rest of the band. Tons of layers. Gilmour's solo weave over hypnotic lines far from any cacophony. Pink Floyd is introspective where Yes is bombastic. For me prog is bombastic & gluttonous. I like the excess, versus the hypnotism. Though, I can appreciate the other end. That's the end EC is in. It's keyboards droning, strummed guitars & fading notes that glimmer (i.e. "Dusk") & at times, whether deliberately or not, sounds like it comes right out of Pink Floyd catalog (for example, "Fracture", "Fallout Of The 2nd Kind", "Spiraling"). It wasn't what I expected. Blackwood & Foti is pop rock while the post-Fish Marillion that I like is radio friendly prog more akin to GTR or Asia. This doesn't draw on any of that. EC is all about soundscapes & not in the Wakeman or Emerson classical meaning of the word. Opener "Dusk" truly does sound like the evening dusk with its soft unassuming notes. I enjoy unassuming but its too unassuming for me, its too subtle for what I like to turn to for personal enjoyment. Of course, this review is becoming a show of my own bias, but if you know where I'm coming from you can formulate your own review. Obviously the problem is they've put themselves in a category & now I'm not letting them break the box. I'll take that criticism. But, there's another problem, not so reflective of my bias, that doesn't help. The album is just about an hour long & on top of that includes the fifteen minute "The Awakening". It's a near double album in disguise.Some of the songs sound like firm pieces of the story, & this is definetly a story album, while others are transitional songs setting a stage but being feeling at times incomplete. So, basically, I'm listening to a story that has chapters ending too soon, while others go on to long. I want tighter & less expansive. The best comparison I can think of is Judas Priest's Nostradamus where the songs floated in & out of each other with musical bridges. The focus is the whole not the individual pieces necessarily. Yet, most people I know skip much of the album for the strong tracks. I get that feeling here. This is an album meant for full consumption in one sitting, not random downloads put on shuffle with a thousand other songs on your ipod. But, is anyone under 30 doing that anymore? I've never owned an ipod, surprise, but have yet to find a friend who wasn't constantly shuffling tracks. I will say, that I greatly enjoy "Fracture" as its soft yet rocks, even if it is one of the Pink Floyd moments. The rock songs (i.e. "Lifeline") I prefer over the ambiant. "The Other Dimension" is primarily an instrumental track that moves through an array of citing other songs with wierd instrumentation, flashes of instruments & talk overs. It's almost like a wierd remix of the entire album, but of all the story songs might be the most interesting in terms of arrangement. Further, Trewavas's bass playing is super delightful & its nice to hear the bass taking a prominent role driving the feeling of the songs instead of just accentuating it as the instrument often does. The sparse music opens the door to his playing like Marillion certainly doesn't offer all the time. He's also responsible for all the programming that accentuates the often heavy acoustic with electric leads atmosphere. The atmosphere is that of a journey of love & a bleeding heart & soul. "Dusk" sets out the story upfront "twisted/don't know-where the hell I am/blinded/will I ever see you again ... winter/when will this November ever end ... all that's left inside/bleeds into the falling rain". The next line reads "haunted" & that's exactly what this journey is - haunting. It's a sad album. While it may not strike my fancy the way I hoped, or wished, I can't but commend EC for crafting something different, moody & for many prog fans refreshing. It still is a bit bombastic & gluttonous, but in a different way - Pink Floyd & Gabriel era Genesis. I just happen to not be a big fan of either, though I enjoy moments & appreciate the goal to create something different. I imagine this to be the prog soundtrack of a yogi that meditates not the prog of a yogi that dances in exstacy. For trivia fans ... one may know Blackwood's brother who starred on the first season of the Sopranos, Vincent Pastore, aka the murdered Big Pussy who would go on to haunt Tony Soprano. Blackwood actually came out of musical retirement to write for his brother's film Growing Down in Brooklyn. He's also the author of 500 Ballparks which features photographs of 650 stadiums across America & his website www.digitalballparks.com was named one of the top 20 websites in the entire world by Yahoo! in their 2002 Year In Review. So, now, Eric, here's that review I said I'd do on the show. It may not be what you wanted. But, it's honest & lays everything out, good & bad, as I see it. I'm also sure I've listened to it more than any other reviewer before publishing, what you wanted. It reacts to the music, yes, but that's really what anyone who doesn't know you is going to do as they pour through itunes looking for that next track to add to their ipod. Hopefully the reader here will want to find out more, whether to agree or disagree with me or at least see what bee got under my bonnet, & then make up their own mind. I've been criticized for not making a firm judgment on albums telling readers what to think. But, music isn't that clear cut & I'm not a musical guru. Music is about discovery & that's what this review is & that's what ...in the last waking moments is essentially about. I hope I'm not the only negative sounding critic, just so I don't feel alone, but I'll take the noose if I am. I'm not being arrogant or critical for the sake of it, though, or to look cool. But, I'm probably the only reviewer whose spent months listening to it long after I found I didn't get into it on a first listen to give you more. Most of the time I pass on an album if I don't like it. & yes, I consider myself more knowledgeable of Indian music than most rock fans & can listen to a sitar for hours, all the alap-jor-gat parts, so I do get the hypnotic musical journey part but this just didn't get it for me. When you play a raga you find a mood, or rasa, & don't change it for the entire raga. Here there's too many rasas for me to be hypnotized.

(Eric Blackwood guest on the Roman Midnight Music CD Reviews & Interviews podcast: episode 5 "Interview: Anthony J. Foti & Eric Blackwood", October 2010, click here to listen)


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