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Thieves' Kitchen - The Water Road CD (album) cover


Thieves' Kitchen


Eclectic Prog

3.63 | 89 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With its 75- minute time span, "The Water Road" is Thieves' Kitchen's most remarkable achievement so far, reinvigorating the standard of retro-prog that has been prevailing in the most nostalgic areas of the prog revival that had started in the early 90s. Actually, one of the main men from than momentum is now a member of TK: I'm referring to Swedish keyboardist Thomas Johnson, Anglagard alumnus, who replaces German Wolfgang Kindl. The thing with these two keyboardists is that they successively helped very much in the elaboration of the band's maturity during their transition toward a classic prog sound filled with eclectic elements coming from jazz-rock, folk and Canterbury. This advancement (which had already started in their sophomore album and met an excellent manifestation in their third one "Shibboleth") now has become a major statement in the current prog rock scene with "The Water Road", and in no small degree has Johnson's input been crucial for this specific evolutionary trend. A specific mention has to go to the various autumnal moods provided by his piano, mellotron or synth in many passages of the album's repertoire: autumnal in a Scandinavian fashion, so to speak. Another noticeable factor is that vocalist Amy Darby (who had debuted in the aforementioned "Shibboleth" album) has also become a very active asset in the band's creative process and performative scheme: she has managed to instill a vitalizing dose of folkish nuances in some tracks, and she plays some woodwind, Theremin, percussion and Celtic harp. The compositional deliveries are really ambitious: 4 out of 8 tracks surpass the 9 minute mark, and 2 of the remaining 4 surpass the 7 minute mark. With the proper occasional assistance from guest musicians on flute (by Anna Holgrem, another Anglagard alumna), oboe or cello, the repertoire's sonic pallet has a reassured colorfulness. Let's not forget one third Anglagard man, Mattias Olsson, who provides some drum loop somewhere. For this album, everything is quite flashy for Mercy, Robotham & co. The opener starts with soft, melancholic piano phrases, with the whole ensemble joining in through a well-ordained alternation of symphonic and jazzy motifs. It is at the 7 minute mark that we get to listen to Darby's voice for the first time. This sounds to me like a mixture of 92-95 Echolyn and pre-"Flower Power" FK. The climax expanding through the track's last 2 minutes is somewhat related to the gloomy lyricism of old White Willow. Things get equally autumnal in the starting section of 'Returglass', but soon we get to a more festive motif a-la Anglagard-meets-Wobbler. The inclusion of sophisticated variations along the road allows the installment of a slightly weird twist to the song's development. 'Chameleon' kind of reminds me of Emila-era Quidam, with the proper addition of effective jazzy undertones and magical, pastoral-like nuances on mellotron and soprano sax. 'Om Tare' is the album's first frontally energetic song, including hard riffing guitar and psychedelic synth environment, with a vigorous rhythm section that states a jazzy-symphonic dynamics (40% RTF, 40% Kenso, 20% "Heretik"-era Nathan Mahl). 'Tacenda for You' brings back the intimate vibe and pastoral moods that had been present earlier during its 2 minute prologue, only to reinstate the symphonic-meets-jazz prog scheme that had been so successful in the previous piece and is also successful here. The agile instrumental section delivered between 7'40" and 8'50" is particularly awesome. Having said all this, it would be adequate to pint out that this song's overall mood is more related to that of 'Chameleon'. 'When the Moon is in the River of Heaven' bears a languid atmosphere, similar to Robert Wyatt's ballads, with the guitar interventions providing an eerie density: the piano and mellotron deliveries are pertinently dreamy. For the interlude, the band increases the stamina and in this way, the sense of mystery becomes more imperative. The brief pastoral ballad 'Plaint' reiterates the preceding track's candor, featuring the Celtic harp. The album is closed down by the namesake track, a track that very much reminds me of "Sacrament"-era White Willow. Through the melancholic moods and majestic ornaments, we are given 11 minutes of spiritual warmth and optimistic serenity. This song is really endearing, serving as a proper closure for this magnificent album. "The Water Road" is, IMHO, the best retro-prog album of 2008 and one of the best classic sounding prog albums in the whole world for the last 10 years.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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