Pilgrym - Pilgrimmage

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Record Heaven/Transsubstans
Catalog Number: Transubs 02
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:59:00

What would you get if you mixed a bit of early Asia with a bit of Mike and The Mechanics? I think you'd get Pilgrym. At least that's my feeling upon listening to this band's debut CD Pilgrimage. It's got an easy-going mid-tempo thing about it, with mid-range vocals. It has a 70s feel about it as well, both in proggy and rock sense, which isn't really as true about the other two. It's MOR-prog, if you will -- middle of the road prog. Now, I'm not criticizing Pilgrim for this, because I like Asia and Mike and the Mechanics. But this comparison should give you an idea of how they sound. And for those who've heard neither reference, it's a very soft-focus kind of sounds that glides gently into your ears and slithers it's way into your brain, taking up residence. Such that right now, at this very moment, "Ghosts Of Years" is playing in my head. There is a romantic swell to this piece - a mix of piano, mellotron, organ, harpsichord, Moog and ARP synths (Andy Wells), with a backing of sparse drums and percussion (Kev Mulvhill) and fretless bass (Oliver Drake) and accompanied by Tony Drake on lead guitar. If this were the mid-70s, this piece could easily have been heard on the radio. I'd say that "Ghosts Of Years" is Pilgrim's "Living Years," somewhat in sound, but more so in sentiment, concept. And there is even a bit of lyric, in "In living years we don't see eye to eye..."

"Circus Of The Absurd," which opens the album, is when and where I though of Asia and ELP. There's not much absurdity mentioned in the song... I mean, it's not their take on "Karn Evil 9" or anything, at least musically. It's very benign in comparison, being a nice and catchy song. However, we might call the keys here somewhat Emersonian - and so yes, ELP is evoked slightly - certainly during the instrumental passage. And one might suggest a reference to the ELP classic in the lyric "welcome to the show." Andy Wells plays a variety of keyboards throughout the album; on this track it is mellotron, Roland Super JX10, mini-Moog, Yamaha CP70 E Grand. Guitarist Tony Drake plays a brief, slightly tart guitar solo, but pretty much this piece is all keyboards. Drums and percussion (Kev Mulvhill) are present to give this song it's pulse. As bonus track, an edited version of this song appears.

It is drums and percussion that begin "Building A Perfect Universe Pt 1" - crisp, sharp attacks that are joined by the throb of bass (Wells this time). Here we get a longer guitar solo from Drake, hi-toned and tight, sharp. All set against the layer of keys - organ, mellotron, Roland Super JX10, Sy22 and others. Though the Pink Floyd aspects don't crop up until later, it is here that the first Floydian reference is made, as the few lyrics read "All that you touch, All that you see, All you can feel..." and so on, referencing "Eclipse." There are also some musical references to the "Circus...," which helps to tie this album together, though it is not a concept album, at least not in a narrative sense.

This piece is divided into two parts which are further subdivided into threes. In the first part, mentioned above, those subparts are "Endless Space," "The Spark," and "Creating God." For "Building A Perfect Universe Part II," we get a spacey, Pink Floyd like feel, circa Dark Side Of The Moon for those first few atmospheric seconds, even down to some of the sound effects. But instead of bursts of sound or chiming clocks, what emerges instead is a lush bed of keyboards that billow up to carry you along, soon serenaded by plaintive guitar solo. The piece is something between prog rock and an electronic music that greets your ears. Haunting ghost-like voices (from the keys) show you that not everything on this sonic journey is lovely (a foreshadowing of the later "Black Sun"?), and yet these tones also suggest awe. Well, we are taking about the building of the universe, are we not. And the universe is pretty big, awesomely big... infinitely big.

These voices lead into the sound of bells (tubular, in fact, as played by Mulvhill) ... so this awe has become a religious experience. The two segments here are called "Understanding The Machine" and "All That You See."

"Believe Me Now" - the mere mention of which has the song cue up on the "brain-stereo" - has an upbeat urgency about it; sort of a pop arrangement, owing to its catchiness (cf. "All I Need Is A Miracle"). "Song of The Albatross" is a lyrical, sweeping piece putting piano right at the center. Funnily enough, it reminded me a lot of Christopher Cross' hit "Arthur," from the Dudley Moore film of the same name. "Black Sun" is a darker, heavier piece, as the title would imply with Mike Syslo's bass very much present in the mix, over layers of keyboards of varying hues, some dark and ominous, some breaking free to scream, but only for a second. I haven't mentioned the other bonus, "Reborn" which is included live, so I'll say just a few words - not to give it short shrift, mind. Tony Drake sings lead on this piece, which has an early Marillion/ELP kind of feel. A "neo-prog" take on "Stone Of Years" musically, though the soft-focus vocal delivery style is still present. Drake has a higher toned voice than Wells... sort of like Jon Anderson, but not entirely. Actually, he sounds like Jesús Filardi of Galadriel to me... Interesting comparison since Filardi is a Spaniard and, that I know, Drake is a Brit. It is here that Drake gets to let loose with a really long guitar solo, this is where he really "sings."

Production-wise, there's a bit of distortion around the edges. At first, I thought it was my portable stereo, but I've played this on various playback devices (e.g. car audio, home audio as well as another portable) and I still hear a bit of a buzz. I could be an effect or artifact of the keyboards, since that is the instrument around which the buzz seems to alight. But otherwise, production's pretty good. The instruments are mixed well, giving the right balance at the right time.

I should mention at this point that, while I read Joshua's review when I published it last August, I did not look at it again until well after this review was fully formed, but not yet edited (yes, I edit; really). That we make some of the same references is interesting, though not unexpected. I don't hear the Spock's Beard that he does, however.

So, what do I think of it? I love it! Yes, this is very good album. It's not great, but it hints that something great might be forthcoming from this UK group. Those who like "difficult" or "complex" prog will find it a little "soft," a little too "pretty." And the catchiness might persuade some other "prog-snobs" that it isn't prog... But I love it. I don't care, I love it.

Released in conjunction with Hollyground Records (HDYCD04)

Circus Of The Absurd (7:57) / Ghosts Of Years (6:01) / Believe Me Now (4:52) / Building A Perfect Universe Pt 1 (4:45): i) Endless Space - ii) The Spark - iii) Creating God / Building A Perfect Universe Pt 2 (5:02): i) Understanding The Machine - ii) All That You See / Song Of The Albatross (7:02) / Black Sun (7:14) / Reborn [Live] (6:20) / Circus Of The Absurd [Edit] (5:44)

Andy Wells - vocals, guitar, bass, fretless bass, piano, organ, mellotron, Roland Super JX 10, Roland JX3P, Yamaha CP70 E Grand, Yamaha SY22, ARP, Moog, Mini-Moog, harpsichord, emulator, Fender Rhodes, Solina String Ensemble
Tony Drake - electric and acoustic guitars, vocals; lead vocals (8)
Kev Mulvihill - drums and percussion; tubular bells and timpani (4,5)
Oliver Drake - additional guitar (1), fretless bass (2)
Mike Syslo - bass (7, 8)
Emma Pearson - organ, mellotron, ARP synthesizer (8)

Pilgrammage (2004)
EP (ep) (2007)
The Great Divide (tba)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin UK

Added: February 27th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.pilgrym.co.uk
Hits: 629
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]