Band: Random Earth Project
Carleton Van Selman – Keys and Accordion
Kym Blackman – Vocals
Larry Homer – Guitar and Drum Programming
Trev Turley – Bass
Amanda Lehmann – Vocals (Guitar on ‘Windows’)
Review By: Beastie
First of all let me start by saying what a lot of my friends already know.
I know absolutely nothing about music. I am not musically talented or technically talented in any way. In fact, I freely admit I have zero talent.
The only thing I can tell you when reviewing albums is what I think, honestly, and how it makes me feel, honestly. If you disagree with anything, that’s fine. If I’ve made a mistake and you know that, that’s also fine, I make a lot of mistakes.
I keep saying this to anyone that will listen, to anyone that loves music from back in the day but loves to say “music today isn’t as good as it was in my day”…IT IS THOUGH, IT IS!
We are in the midst of some of the best music there’s been, especially if you love any of the branches of rock…in fact I’d argue that both Prog and Blues are in the richest of form, the best it’s been in decades.
I get a lot of albums either sent or bought and trying to give them all the time they actually deserve isn’t easy at all but when I do, when I actually stop everything to listen and take on board all that an album has, it becomes a very special moment and already, even though we aren’t a quarter of the way through the year yet, I’ve heard some of my favourite albums of this millennium.
The new album from the newly formed Random Earth Project is one of those albums.
It followed a path that I love when listening to new music, the way I used to really get into it in the past. The same way it used to get under my skin when I was a younger Beast…a MUCH younger beast.
When you bought an album back in the day you listened to it all and because you couldn’t be arsed to get up and skip a track you were forced to listen to tracks that didn’t bite instantly, that ya couldn’t warm to straight away, but after a while, those songs became your favourite. The same with an entire album for that matter. If you didn’t like it instantly, you still played it and eventually it worked its way into your heart.
There’s a lot of that with this album from Random Earth Project. I’ve spent a lot of time with it since the wonderfully packaged CD arrived and that in itself is a thing of great beauty. The cover, the accompanying booklet, all of it, beautiful and I say that even though I’m not a fan of CD’s. If this had been on vinyl chuff me, the love for it would have been off the chart…as it stands, it’s still not far off, maybe clinging to the margins of that chart.
I heard a couple of the tracks on pre album release, and the first I was sent was ‘Holy Blues’ which actually had quite a profound effect on me, in fact when I played it live on one of my radio shows I was moved to tears, it was such an emotional connection I had with it, it was ridiculous. I know, I know…I’m a big soft twat aren’t I? Can’t help it, it did for me totally and to be honest with you, it still does, though I’ve managed to temper the emotions just a little now…
As a sampler of what the album would bring to me, I couldn’t wait but it just didn’t happen and I have to be honest, I felt disappointed. That I’d been drawn in so completely by that one track, where everything on it was perfect to feeling either indifferent or cold to the other pieces of music it felt strange. Sure the musicians were good, I knew that anyway but I was struggling to really connect with it.
However, I stuck with it and as in the ‘olden days’ I kept playing the album and before you know it, again just like in times of yore I started to think… “ooh what’s this track” or “how did I miss that guitar/keyboard/vocal before” and eventually as I got to know the album, as it grew with me I started to say “Oh I love this bit…oh and this” and “oh this is the best track on the whole album….oh no, I tell a lie, THIS is the best track”
It may have taken time to connect but now it has, this is an album I keep going back to. I want more and every time I do revisit, there IS always more. There IS always something new and it always, always feels like time well spent. That emotional track ‘Holy Blues’ is no longer alone when it comes to emotions, there are other moments that make me smile out loud and make me shudder…not least the beautiful crystal vocal from guest Amanda Lehmann alongside the foil of Kym Blackman, it really is heart melting. Two tracks we get from this pairing and it really does work well, almost a kind of Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush vibe, certainly to the track ‘Gospel’.
The keyboards throughout this entire album are stunning, absolutely stunning and they don’t do that thing that puts some folk off ‘Prog’ big over the top, some would say overbearing. Every single track they are perfect, understated even at times, allowing others to shine, before reasserting themselves, grandiose only when they need to be. This showcases Carleton Van Selman at his best.
I’ve said this about a few albums recently and it’s something that means a lot to me, when every member of a band has their own moment in the sun, when they each take time to shine. I think it always shows a good understanding and lack of ego. It’s about making great music and not about look at me, it takes some reigning in and some bands can’t do it…or sometimes they don’t feel the need to do it, outdo each other, it results in great work.
I’ve jumped back and forth between 3 tracks now vying for favouritism and every time I move on to the next that’s always my favourite, it lasts the length of the song, no more, no less but when it comes to lyrics I find myself drawn to the track ‘England’ which makes me ponder every listen about what the lyrics mean. Something different to each listener I guess but there’s disillusion in there.
There’s a feeling of being disenfranchised. Kym’s delivery is perfect and the keyboards once again make this track soar. there are little or not so little things along the way that make it pop…the ending with picture postcard English sounds, church bells, birdsong, all of that, conjures up wonderful images but the stunning rhythm section really does beef the track up.
I love both drums and bass on this album, all the way through and I know it’s ‘programmed drums’ but it doesn’t detract from anything, and I apologise to my drummer friends but this is a job well done. I also think this is some of Trev Turley’s best work and I’ve listened to a lot of his music. Some of Trev’s bass work on pretty much every track is so chuffin’ sexy and makes me chuffin’ melt at times. While we are on about this, the mixing and production is done by guitarist Larry Homer and he has nailed this album, absolutely nailed it.
I listen to this through decent equipment, great headphones especially and you can pick out everything, every little moment, every note, every vibe, and the balance is perfect, there’s no muddiness, nothing overpowering anything else, perfect balance. It’s this that makes everyone shine as much as everything. You can pick them out whilst realising they aren’t dominating, I love it.
More bands and artists should seek out Larry to do the magic on their music, this really is quality work…as is his guitar on this album, hanging there in the background until it’s needed to burst forward and when it does, just like everyone else, it’s that beautiful moment to shine. Those other 2 tracks that toy with my affections for top spot with ‘England’? ‘Gambler’ and ‘Fame and Misfortune’ and I could genuinely listen to those 3 tracks on rinse and repeat for a week and never get bored of them. If I’m honest I’ve pretty much done that anyway.
I don’t know how they are going to entice Prog or any music fans to buy this album though if I’m honest. It’s only available by buying the CD direct, a worthwhile thing if this is your music, but for those on the fringes unsure if they’ll like it, they need more tasters and it’s not going to be available on streaming platforms, understandably so.
They need to make what they can whilst they can and once it’s on there that’s the end of any revenue, or pretty much the end…sorry, I need a moment, as I’m currently typing this whilst listening to the drums followed by keys on ‘Fame and Misfortune’ always stops me in my tracks…very early Genesis-ish, I love when Kym comes back in with his vocal…where was I? Oh yeah. You can listen to the two tracks released, both on Youtube: Title track ‘Airwaves’ and that favourite of mine ‘Holy Blues’ but I don’t think they’re representative of the album as a whole. I think you need to sit down in a darkened room with no interruptions and allow this album into your life, into your heart and if you DO give it time, I think it rewards you well.
I love this album, if you hadn’t noticed and when I started with it, I really didn’t think I would but it’s well and truly under my skin, in my heart, part of me and that’s the sign of a very good album indeed. Take a chance. Buy the album.