Kampman, Eric - The Well

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Big Balloon Music
Catalog Number: BBM601
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:09:00

The intro to Eric Kampman's The Well, "Intro," might at first make you think you've discovered another Tangerine Dream/Steve Roach influenced electronic musician. I know, just based on the album's artwork, that's what I was expecting, as it's a mix of (one edition of) TD's Green Desert and of Roach's Quiet Music - daylight desert landscape. There is even a track here called "The Desert." But, any comparisons to TD or Roach end there... and could be misleading if you read no further than this paragraph.

This is because once past this intro, you are taken to a world that is a highly synthesized keyboard soft-rock sound that is more akin to mellower Saga (and Mannheim Steamroller) and the rockier end of contemporary instrumental music. Only, this isn't instrumental, as Kampman sings as well. It is very much a synthesized sound. The title track will make prog fans think of early Saga material, but Kampman has a higher, sweeter voice than Michael Sadler. Hmm, not so much in the Jon Anderson range, but he does have a familiar tone. Ah yes, after a little more thought, I realize is of the Alan Parson's Project that I'm thinking -- Eric Woolfson, for example. Maybe not quite as "hazy," but it does have that breathy, ethereal affect and is set against the pastel colours of the music -- muted grays, beiges, pinks, etc. There are vague hints at what gets called "neo-prog" as bands such as Galahad come to mind... and a bit of Marillion as well, especially in Kampman's delivery of "Smaug." Interestingly, you'd expect a song with lyrics like "In this isle of desolation I will reign / Smoke and fire, true servants of my domain," to be delivered by the likes of...well, take your pick of your dark or black metal bands. But no, this is not delivered with fire and bile, and the gravelly voice of hell, but in soft, easy going focus. Maybe a little more sinister for all that - I mean, you expect the school bully to beat the crap out of you, not the timid, geek, right? There's a parpiness to the keys toward the end that made me think of Marillion's "Garden Party," again with soft and hazy focus applied. "The Desert" is a piece that works - except for the occasionally baby-voice that drops in. The piece itself has a lot of movement in the arrangement... with "real-world" instruments, and extended high pitched keyboard part would have been delivered by a flute, which wouldn't have sounded as shrill. This and the title track and the ending track are probably the strongest pieces overall, though this tangy keyboard passage in "The Desert" keeps me from listing it as a favourite. In "The Desert," too, keyboard sounds also appear at random intervals that seem extraneous add-ons... however the interjections of what sound like "real" instruments (that is, versus samples), add warmth and texture to composition.

The album is a mix of vocal and instrumental pieces, though vocal tracks predominate. It's a nice suite of music and done well, if a little overly synthesized. The few instrumentals actually work better for me. Kampman invests to the instrumentation here the texture that his vocals give the other tracks. For example, there are very nice textures at play in "Ostinato." "Scaffolding" begins with a bright piano intro, a colouring to the music that is rich. But when the synthesized drums come in, it deadens the whole piece. However, this piece has elements of both Chicago and The Eagles rattling around in my head -- a mix of "Wishing You Were Here" (Chicago) and "In The City" (Eagles). Actually, more so the first, as this doesn't have the laid-back driving rhythm of the latter, but does have the swirling, hazy feel of the former.

Basically, if you keep Alan Parson's Project in mind then you will have and idea of what Kampman's music sounds like. It's a good release, as I especially like the piano bits, but when he switches to synths, well, it's a little too synthetic for my tastes -- pleasant and nice while it's playing, but very little sticks in the mind. I'd say, just that "do, do, ditty-do" keyboard phrase in "The Well" does, and that because it's like a similar phrase in a Saga piece. Of course, I also find the same thing about that particular phrase in the Saga song that I can't name at the moment, but it's from either Images At Twilight or Silent Knight, I think. A little more heft and meat in the follow up is required.

By the way, in exploring the Big Balloon Music website for info about this release and Kampman (Big Balloon distribute Kampman's CD), I discovered that Kampman is one member of the now-defunct American band Now, who released four albums, including the one I'm aware of (and own), Everything Is Different Now (1986 and reissued as Syn-phonic's fourth release in 1991). They are not to be confused with the Belgian group Now who released (at least) two CDs via Musea.

Intro (1:15) / The Well (9:40) / 1 to 0 (5:48) / Green At Dusk (3:13) / Smaug (6:28) / Somewhere Between 7 & 8 Part II (4:26) / Ostinato (4:02) / Scaffolding (5:55) / The Desert (12:42)

Eric Kampman - piano, synths, keyboards

Now - Reactions/Heaven On Earth (33/45) (1985)
Now - Everything is Different Now (1986/1991)
Now - Now What (1989)
Now - Now Reason (1991)
Nick Peck - Under The Big Tree (1998)
The Well (1999)
The Gate (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 3rd 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.gneuron.com
Hits: 590
Language: english


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