Progressive Rock, “Prog”. What is Prog? This is a very difficult question to answer. Initially I would say it’s songs that are more than just; verse – chorus – verse – chorus – verse. Songs and pieces of music with tricky beats and time signatures; songs and pieces of music that are structured differently to mainstream Rock and Pop. That’s not to say that Prog music can’t be verse – chorus – verse, indeed, some of it is. Sometimes you hear a piece of music and you just think; “That’s Prog.” Musical taste is of course hugely subjective and something that I like is not necessarily going to appeal to you but let’s plough on anyway shall we?
Drifting Sun, is a studio based project comprising five guys from differing backgrounds.
Their first album “Drifting Sun” was released in 1997 and has a fresh and quirky feel to it, not what I would call full-on Prog but it has hints of Prog. As an example; track 2, “Jamie Was A Vampire” starts with an almost “power-pop” feel to it but this soon fades into something else only to re-emerge later, meanwhile we’ve had a quiet a guitar passage and some organ backed vocals interspersed with perky keyboards leading to a catchy vocal tag then spoken word over a sombre background that merges into Latin chanting before returning to the catchy vocal tag. Not your average song and not your average album.
On The Rebound
Their second album, “On The Rebound” released in 1999 saw a slight change of direction with a more polished, mature and dare I say “Proggy” sound. For me, Prog has always meant keyboards; piano, electric organ, pipe organ, synthesiser, Mellotron be it what it may but keyboards along with the rest of the ensemble. On The Rebound does not fail to deliver in the keyboard department. It’s not overly stacked with keyboards like a Rick Wakeman – Keith Emerson dual but what keyboard playing there is, fits in perfectly. Check box 1 ticked.
Track 1, The Charade starts in true Prog style with sound effects of footsteps and creaking doors and then launches into a recurring piano driven theme with a catchy if deceptive time signature, well, that’s grist to my (Prog) mill and I was hooked. Clocking-in at a shade over 13 minutes The Charade fulfils another, maybe unwritten, qualification for Prog, it’s a long song. Check box 2 ticked.
Track 2, Swan Song, also has a dose of keyboard playing, electric organ and piano this time along with some notable electric guitar licks.
Track 3, Drifting Sun, is notable (in my opinion) for the vocals, not to say that the other tracks on this album aren’t but the vocals on Drifting Sun have an almost ballad feel about them, not in itself a bad thing, in fact in this case, a good thing. The main “chorus” or vocal hook if you will, points made above about subjectivity notwithstanding, just invites you to sing along, well, it invites me to sing along.
Track 4, Long Nights, is another long song, just over 10 minutes; this song has a more relaxed feel to it and again some good guitar moments.
Track 5, Heaven’s Eyes, balladesque acoustic guitar and piano and no, I’m not being dismissive here, the piano playing in itself is enough the carry the track, the vocals on top being an added bonus.
Track 6, Minstrel, back to a more Prog mode here going through a range of styles and tempos.
Track 7, Mon Masque, is firmly back in Prog territory, more up-beat musically than the previous track and providing a fitting end to the album.
Last year, 2016, On The Rebound was remastered and re-released. I’ll be quite truthful here; I’m not a fan of this trend to re-release things willy-nilly. I’ve listened to both versions and I’d be hard pressed to say what the differences are between them save to say that the remastered version has a slightly wider stereo spread than the original. Sorry guys, the original sounded good to me first time around.
Drifting Sun have released two other full-length albums, Trip the Life Fantastic in 2015 and Safe Asylum in 2016. The band has undergone line-up changes which is perhaps not surprising given the lengthy hiatus between albums 2 and 3.
The personnel on On The Rebound were:
Chris Martini – Vocals
John Spearman – Guitars
Pat Saunders – Keyboards
Manu Michael – Bass
Tobin Bryant – Drums
The current line-up is:
Peter Falconer – Vocals
Mathieu Spaeter – Guitars
Pat Sanders – Keyboards
Manu Michael – Bass
Will Jones – Drums
It wasn’t until I came to write this that I realised that I’m rubbish at reviewing albums. I like writing, I can usually waffle on for pages about all sorts of inconsequential things but when it comes to reviewing music I hit some sort of writer’s block. I know what I like in music but I’m hard pressed to say exactly what it is.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing music to other music, trying to find a common ground, a point of reference. I’ve always thought that that is a bit demeaning towards the band you are reviewing. Inevitably, maybe intentionally there are going to be similarities but I have steered clear of saying that this bit sounds like band “X” and these vocals are reminiscent of vocalist “Y”. The music of Drifting Sun stands on its own merit.
Do I like this album? Yes.
Why? I don’t really know but after listening to it I come away with the opening bars to The Charade and the vocal hook from Drifting Sun in my head. That doesn’t mean that there are only two good tracks here, they’re all good but those two just happen to resonate with me.
Did I buy the album? Yes.
Should you buy the album? Tricky…
You can of course listen to it on Bandcamp, as you can all the Drifting Sun albums and EPs. So should you buy it? Well, if you listen and you enjoy it then yes, you should buy it because that goes some way to ensuring that more good music will come into being and further albums will be recorded.
If you listen and you don’t enjoy it then I’m sorry to have taken your time but thanks for at least reading this far…