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Thieves' Kitchen - The Clockwork Universe CD (album) cover

THE CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE

Thieves' Kitchen

 

Eclectic Prog

3.92 | 136 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

BrufordFreak
5 stars Thieves' Kitchen, a trio of Phil Mercy, Amy Darby, and Thomas Johanson (ex-Anglagard), with adjunct members Anna Holmgren (Anglagard), Johan Brand (Anglagard) and Paul Mallyon (ex-Sanguine Hum), have created a collection of meticulously crafted and expertly performed songs in the vein of the most complex Canterbury scene and symphonic Yes demanding the highest degrees of difficulty from its musicians. Vocalist Amy Darby's stylings are similar to the palette-clearing effects of a superlative red wine--the backbone upon which each song rests, despite the fact that it is a "lead" instrument. She could be singing about chainsaw massacres but it would feel like walks on the soft floor of a pine forest to me.

1. "The Library Song" (6:47) is a jazzy exploration held strong and fast by Amy's solid vocal--which is oddly mirrored by the lead guitar. Great keyboard play from Thomas Johanson throughout but Paul Mallyon's drumming and Johan Brand's bass play are stellar! (9/10)

2. "Railway Time" (7:38) begins with quite a "smokey lounge" bluesy keyboard and guitar duet before evolving into a bass-anchored expose for Amy's most diverse and adventurous vocal of the album (less sustained notes, more scatting around the scales). Nice shift away from the blues foundation after the mid-song flute solo. The most accessible song I've ever heard from TK and my favorite melody of theirs. (10/10)

3. "Astrolabe" (3:17) is a slow duet that puts the wonderful sympathy of guitarist and founding band member Phil Mercy and pianist Thomas Johnson on full display. (9/10)

4. "Prodigy" (9:07) is full-scale prog song construction on display (a la 1970s YES) with the absolute highest caliber musicianship possible. Classic! (10/10)

5. "The Scientist's Wife" (19:58) An obvious attempt at the more sophisticated Canterbury sound, this is my least favorite song on the album--and it's still an 8 out of 10! The five-minute opening instrumental section is quite impressive for the excellent play of its interwoven parts--not unlike a KING CRIMSON "Discipline" display--but it then mysteriously disappears in order to give way to a soft acoustic guitar foundation behind Amy's storytelling. A pleasant enough section blessed with Amy's crystalline vocal warmth, but then, though the song builds layers around and with Amy's story line, the song never seems to take off and fly--and feels much the homogenous single movement of what is promised to be a Yes symphony. Impeccable performances on what feels like an under-developed song. A lot of unrealized potential. (8/10)

6. "Orrery" (4:41) is another slowed down, scaled down song of mostly gentle piano play, though Thomas's work is beautifully embellished by ethereal flutes, intermittent guitar and bass flourishes and Mellotron, no drums. On a par with Francesco Zago's EMPTY DAYS work of 2013. (9/10)

Stellar musicianship, remarkable sound engineering (instrumental clarity), and quite beautifully sophisticated compositions that impress and engage. Like Anglagard albums, this one has taken several listens for the songs to start to weave their way into my psyche, into my heart. So, I recommend that you give this one some time. If you do, you'll be very, very thankful. An incredibly well-polished masterpiece from a dedicated and deserving group of musicians. Definitely a Top 20 Album of 2015!

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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