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Charles Hayward - Charles Hayward & Nick Doyne-Ditmas: My Secret Alphabet CD (album) cover

CHARLES HAYWARD & NICK DOYNE-DITMAS: MY SECRET ALPHABET

Charles Hayward

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.00 | 1 ratings

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Lewian
4 stars "My Secret Alphabet" is a remarkable and unique album. One thing that is special about it is the overall structure, which develops from fairly straightforward songs with conventional drum rhythms over a very calm middle part with no drums at all to two longer and very experimental, probably improvised or improvisation-based tracks.

The first song, "Hilly Fields", is the most conventional song. It is a rather optimistic sounding song featuring Hayward as a drummer and colourful guitar and keyboards. Unfortunately the mix is not optimal and Doyne-Ditmas's bass is weaker than it should be (same in the next song). "Unearthing fossil fuels" is slower and somewhat less conventional with quite interesting keyboard sounds that flow around the melody, partly sound experiment and partly harmonic support, although it has a very memorable chorus. The bass part is good but again a bit too far in the background. The song ends in chaos mode but this finishes quickly for now. "November Building" has the best drums on the album, combined with a strong trombone, more crazy keyboard nuggets, more good but too muted bass and another memorable motif. All these are mainly sung by Hayward's unique deep calm pastoral voice, always a tiny bit slower than you'd expect.

With "Slow Air" the album enters a new phase. The drums are now over and things become slow. The track has vocals and a melody but relies on long spacey keyboard spheres and sound experiments. "Seventy Two, Trade White" goes on in a similar vein with slow keyboards, but the vocals are now gone. Hayward contributes some bell-like percussion, and overall it's still kind of harmonic despite the sound experiments. "Rumour is Mobile" is an instrumental based on a calm chord sequence of the acoustic guitar, over which we again have layers of sound exploration by keyboard and percussion. We're still mostly in harmonic territory. "Slim Pickens" is a short piece that stirs things up a bit. It has some rhythmic vocals, but these are hardly connected with the sprawling breathing background of sounds. "My Secret Alphabet" uses the same guitar sequence from "Rumour is Mobile", now with contemplative and sensitive singing; in the background there's again a jungle of sounds and some electronic rhythm. The last "song".

Finally the album goes into full avantgarde mode with two long mostly free pieces. "Thick Skin Paper Thin" has again some not exactly soothing vocals somewhere in between but by and large it is made of long slowly changing atmospheric sounds, something like a miniature (and somewhat less predictable) version of Tangerine Dream's "Zeit". "Outcomelt" has a monotonous timpani rhythm behind which there is a pulsating jungle from electronics, percussions, trombone and samples (I'd think there are some animal voices there), ending in a very last peaceful chord (sorry for the spoiler).

For somebody like me who likes this kind of atmospheric sound alchemy this is big fun. I also love Hayward's drums and voice, and I admire the fact that such an experimental avantgarde album can at the same time offer some harmony and the odd catchy tune. The way how the album lets the conventional beginning degenerate totally toward the end is very fascinating. Despite all the craziness the album is mostly tonal and not the very toughest of listening experiences. The whole thing is full of ideas and surprises. I think that the title "My Secret Alphabet" points to the fact that this is something of a systematic exploration of the range of things Hayward has in his pocket. I give it 4 stars but it scratches at the 5.

Lewian | 4/5 |

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