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Nine Stones Close - Traces CD (album) cover

TRACES

Nine Stones Close

Neo-Prog


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AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars A reflective melancholy journey tinged with the darkness of loss and the light of hope. 'Traces' has been an enjoyable experience on each listen, and ironically I have somehow had it playing during some unusual circumstances; a lonely long car trip and a long walk up a mountain side. I believe music can have a soothing effect on the nerves, especially when one is experiencing trials or extreme circumstances. Music is the key to unlocking certain feelings that are imprisoned within. It can be a very moving experience, uplifting at times and then in other places a void in which we can soak our broken spirits and reflect on what was. The beauty of the opening track on 'Reality Check' (4:59) was a perfect start as I climbed up the mountain. It was a very steep climb and my legs were already shaking, but that wonderful soft guitar was edging me forward. The way that the acoustics were playing with such passion and feeling was emotionally stirring. It is a beautiful instrumental to start the album and I was immediately drawn in by the tranquillity. The album artwork is beautifully realised by Ed Unitsky with ghostly images of an Edwardian staircase and statues, and the key image of a man with his head in his hands, the image of despair, seated by a railroad track; you can fill in the pieces, open to interpretation depending on your experiences.

The track that follows is 'Threads' (10:43) that is tinged with a sorrowful vocal, softly sung by Marc Atkinson, who reflects a broken spirit. There is a darkness to the atmosphere with the crashing of waves in the intro, a feeling of isolation is evoked. There are echoing guitar phrases of sheer beauty in the desolation of the fractured words, embellished by a mournful chorus; 'here on the edge it's hard pulling threads of my soul, picking at my coat I take back my thought forever wrought, but never meant the music in my soul.' The electric guitar solo by Adrian Jones soars and wails as if the cold environment has found a voice to pour out it's pain. The chilling words in the verses reflect a shattered life, a man at the brink who questions 'what's it like to be dead?' and this 'shell on the shore washed by the sea' finally comes to the realisation that 'the sea is me'. The haunting poetic words cease and we hear waves on a beach and seagulls, the isolation of walking on a lonely beach immediately emerge in the mind's eye. In a word this song is soul-stirring.

Jones' soft acoustics begin 'Falling To Pieces' (6:15) and echoes the same sentiments as previous; Atkinson's melancholy voice sings tenderly echoed by a wonderful lead guitar break. The music ebbs and flows with some subtle bass by Neil Quarrell and the steady drums, like footsteps moving onward to unknown destinations. I love the lyrics on this piece. A soft start with very gentle vocals by Atkinson begins the track, but it builds on the chorus and an odd time signature, with some unusual patterns that reflect the mood perfectly. The keyboards of Brendan Eyre are present to embellish the soundscape. It remains a sombre reflective mood with Atkinson's lyrics about a man in a 'fragile state' who feels the angst of losing someone dear to them, asking the question 'if you're here today then gone away where would all our moments go? Would they disappear inside the tears? Or live forever inside a slide show'. Lyrics like this can only come from a dark trial and most of us can relate to losing a loved one, or even a broken relationship, so the music speaks to our spirits. It may have the effect of bringing back painful memories, or more likely to feed our subconscious need to reflect on how fragile life is and that we should never take for granted the ones around us who fulfil our lives. When they are gone we fall to pieces, the jigsaw comes apart and the pieces are only memories or traces of what we once had. The music on this track is gentle and moving, with solid slices of lead guitar and keyboard nuances to enhance the mood. The lead sounds like Andy Latimer in places, but there are definite Pink Floydian influences in the moody keyboards.

'Traces' (7:21) is a highlight on the album; a truly wonderful track that has a sweet melody and powerful vocals. Jones' lyrics are powerful about the traces we leave on others during our lives like ghosts upon their consciousness 'immortal thoughts and mortal fears'.. hope lies in beauty, faith lies in you,' and one of the more powerful thoughts is evoked in this track, 'when this body wears me out I won't feel a thing, threads of thought unravel to reveal a fabric of deceit, more nothing than something.' Once again these sentiments are enhanced by strong ambient passage of keys and guitars. The tracks almost merge as one long piece, and are linked by the themes, lyrics and melancholy vocal style.

So as I finally get to the top of this mountain I am climbing, the next song chimes in as if on cue and the words are more stirring; 'and in these quiet hours I reflect am I richer now? Or do I regret what the world has changed in me? The cost of time and empathy.' 'Thicker Than Water' (14:57) is a progressive epic in three parts, beginning with 'Innersense' that reflects on summer dreams almost gone, growing old, and asks the question of what brought us here to this place. The sadness in the vocals are perfectly juxtaposed by soft guitars and a contemplative bass rhythm. The next section is 'Firelight Shadows' which brings us deeper into the melancholic atmosphere with a nice lead guitar and spoken vocals 'dreams in flames, no one to blame, only me'. The protagonist comes to term with his grief and asks the unanswerable question over and over 'what happened to us?' The music builds to a crescendo with some delightful distorted metal guitar stabs, followed by a scorching lead break and some double kick drums. The music turns suddenly into a faster metal riff merging into part 3: 'Secrets Revealed'.

The faster more aggressive feel is a welcome change after all the quieter passages of music. The lyrics by Jones are replete with questions about the regret and frustration felt from the protagonist, 'have you learned or have you lived? Made the same mistakes and never burned a bridge? And all those times you lash at me, is there something you really don't want to see?' There are some powerful guitar motifs as the vocals progress with more force speaking about 'the ghosts of loss' that return to haunt us when it is too late to change, 'self- righteous thoughts' that regretfully hurt the ones we love, and the most painful question of all, 'what happened to us?' for after all is said is done these feelings wear us out when we have no answers for the loss we experience and there is no turning back once a person is gone. The piece merges onto the final section 'Aquiescence', a legal term that generally has come to mean permission that is given by silence or passiveness with an acceptance or agreement by keeping quiet or not making objections. In this case the album ends with the final thought of the one experiencing the loss, and that is, 'never moving on, it wears me out'. In other words, the person has succumbed to the painful circumstances, and they have virtually become passive in denial, therefore remain trapped, cabined, confined to the regrets, the bitterness and the terrible pain of memories that are never purged from the soul.

We may all experience this loss or grief in some form in our lives at some point, but how we deal with it will determine the person we become. The song reflects these powerful feelings and the essence of the album is that sometimes life does not always come to a happy conclusion. It seems that the protagonist is trapped by their own regrets and it is a cycle of frustration that they will never escape until they come to terms with loss. While the grieved continues to ask questions that have no answers they cannot move on from the imprisonment of caged regrets. The album is strong with the concept of what can occur when we bottle up powerful human emotions. It can be a cathartic experience to experience these emotions from a distance, or a warning to prepare us for how these circumstances may affect us. We never know how we will react until it happens to us.

I enjoyed listening to this album because it made me reflect on these things at a safe distance, and I believe soon I may be experiencing exactly what the lyrics reflect on this album; that is loss of a loved one. Perhaps I can turn to this album in this time and it will speak to me in a different way. In any case I can recommend this album as a peaceful melancholy experience; replete with beautiful passages of guitar and heartfelt vocals. The influence of Marillion and Porcupine Tree are strong, with touches of Pink Floyd's ambience. There has been a great deal of passion poured out into this album, and it can have an impact on the listener. Although the music and lyrics are sombre, the opposite effect may be generated, as it lifts up the spirit by forcing us to reflect on how precious our lives are and how we should never take for granted the ones around us who make life worth living.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#388032)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Melancholic scarcely begins to describe this somber affair, this very polished release from Nine Stones Close. Without a doubt, the most exciting aspect of this album is the varied guitar textures throughout- Adrian Jones knows how to build a sonic landscape with six strings. Despite this, there is very little variation among the tracks themselves; the five pieces offer almost nothing new from one another. That isn't a big problem though, as the album is less than forty-five minutes long, and so it makes for an even listening experience. Traces is highly recommended to fans of Porcupine Tree.

"Reality Check" A moody clean guitar riff, accented by other guitars, crafts a grave, weary feeling. A wall of sound enters, led by a thin synthesizer lead. The first of several very well constructed guitar solos guides the instrumental toward its conclusion. To compare it to something else, I would say it is like a heavier "Welcome to the Machine" by Pink Floyd (though far more enjoyable to me).

"Threads" In keeping with the Pink Floyd vibe, the first song (and easily the best) uses simplistic organ chords, drums, and bass to support a dark but dignified guitar solo. The vocals are appropriately hushed and fragile- certainly not the most powerful vocal performance anyone will hear, but appropriateness is far better than technical skill. The melody of the chorus is incredibly captivating. The dismal refrains seem to serve as a theme for the album: "What's it like being dead?" "I will answer, I know."

"Falling to Pieces" The next song is more of a low-spirited, acoustic rock track (in the vein of Alice in Chain's Jar of Flies).

"Traces" Again relying on various guitar tones, the title track features semi-a cappella vocals, and swirling musical interjections. One may expect a whistling synthesizer that divides the song cleanly in two places: Whereas the first half is quiet and reserved, the second half is pure rock with a blistering guitar solo.

"Thicker Than Water" The final piece is a lengthy song that maintains the remorseful tone of the album. Pads, electric pianos, and other keyboards are more prominent here than on any other tune. Midway through, a bout of heavy guitar and organ breaks through. The final part involves diverse guitars, ambient keyboard, a thudding of toms, and a concluding, depressing thought: "Moving on...it wears me out."

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#414071)
Posted Thursday, March 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars i bought the traces album for about 2 months ago, and its still in my cd player. i was surprised to hear all the good stuff these guys are doing, gor i just resently heard of them. but as they sai good things take time, so nows the yime you rockers out there to give the nine stones close a chance, you wont regret it. there is a quality member in every place under the guidense of adrian jones, so dont hesitate. im really looking forward to the next album which might come out later this year if everything goes well, so best of luckto you gues and thank you for the music

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Send comments to pallithor (BETA) | Report this review (#414365)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am always reluctant to believe reviews that date albums as the best of the year. I listen to lots of music of varied genres and can rarely agree on the best albums of any year with myself!

However, this was easily in my top 3 albums of 2010 and has climbed up those charts since then. From the first time I heard it, I was gob-smacked. It is clever music played by accomplished musicians who deliver thought provoking lyrics to a solid backing of layered music. I am not sure what I expected when I ordered it, but it was in another stratesphere. The guitar playing of Ade Jones is almost David Gilmour-esque in places, without being a cheap copy. The singing of Marc Atkinson makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and the keyboards, bass and drums are perfectly played. The production is lush and the whole packaging is beautiful with great artwork throughout. It is an album of the old vinyl days in many ways - about 50 minutes in length and meant to be played in one sitting in the order in which it is presented to you.

Some albums are great when you first hear them, but then quickly fade as you stop to hear anything new from them. Other albums do not hit the spot immediately, but grow with subsequent plays. Traces is something rare - the first time I heard it, I loved it and knew it was a special album. However, it has just improved with each subsequent play. In case anyone wonders, I am not related to any of the band or on their payroll!

This is just such a perfect, multiple-layered, awe-inspiring album. I would recommend anyone who likes independent, prog (with a small "p"), towards the melancholic end of the spectre to take a chance and buy this work of art. the lyrics are thought provoking and dark in places, dealing with death and loss, but ultimately they are positive.

I was lucky enough to buy it with the bonus Retraced CD. If you can get it with that, then you are truly in for a treat. It is not a disc of throwaway outtakes, but completely new workings of songs or parts of them and as good as the original album itself.

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Send comments to amcy (BETA) | Report this review (#416085)
Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yes :Marillion,Porcupine Tree,Pink Floyd influences are notorious.

And you may add Gazpacho too(since Night).

Marillion because of the vocals,Pink Floyd because of the guitars.

Gazpacho because of the atmospheric melodies.

Excellent vocals ...but melodies are quite monotonous.

It seems to be listening a new album from Gazpacho or a Marillion album in the line of Marbles....

It is a pleasant atmospheric prog rock but not more than that.

I feel a lack of display of more melodic keyboards and guitars.

So the sound is good,the vocals very good and melodies pleasant...but nothing very new here.

I think that Porcupine Tree ,Marillion and Gazpacho will always be steps ahead.

3 stars for me

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Send comments to robbob (BETA) | Report this review (#417901)
Posted Friday, March 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars After nearly 45 years of exploring the wonderful world of progressive rock, you get to hone your likes and dislikes into a highly sharp edge and sort of develop a gut feeling simply by perusing the artwork, deciphering the titles, the instrumentation and players or even the production credits. One foggy morning, I went hunting for some new prog thrill and I absent mindedly flicked through the PA top 2010 albums and my mouse "eeked" to a halt in front of what I first thought was a sliver of odorifous cheese but was actually this unknown entity called "Traces" by Nine Stones Close, a band I had never heard of previously. Hmmmm! What is this all about, recognizing nothing but Ed Unitsky's flamboyant artwork (a pretty good sensor)? Reading my colleagues glowing reviews (AtomicCrimsonRush brilliant essay sealed my interest) , hearing the samples and the biography on their website created quite a stir as my proggy senses started tingling big time, as if a Geiger counter had gone haywire in my psyche. I got to get a copy, I bellow with glee! But it turns out that the usual suppliers do not have this yet, so I revert to going straight to the band and Adrian Jones replies kindly, graciously and immediately to my request for a Traces + Retraced bonus version as per our reviewer amcy's suggestion. Et voila, time for UPS to get their pigeons loaded up and fueled for the transatlantic (no, not the band, silly) flight and arrive on my Calgary doorstep, garlanded by a gracious personal note from Mr. Jones himself.

I always liked melancholia, as it's a crucial vehicle for the human experience which provides a binary dosage of sadness and hope. From Italian opera, Chicago blues, Portuguese fado, Celtic folk, Hungarian gypsy music and countless others, themes of despair can fuel the pen and the artistic fingers. Now melancholic does not mean depressed (that is an extreme) as it's not a pejorative term, it's simply an introspective journey into the realm of human emotion and how one deals with pain, tragedy and suffering. Sometimes, the results can be awe inspiring like the manner in which the Japanese people have been dealing with the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear leak. Grace under pressure, elegant respect for the departed, massive humility emanating from the survivors, are all held together by tears, sweat and blood. So how fitting that the first track is called "Reality Check"? A gentle acoustic guitar splashes gently across the airwaves, weaving its delicate web and waving the heavy rhythm guitars to crash on the breakers in thunderous succession. Then, as suddenly as the squalls began, the calm returns. "Threads" is simply put; a pure aural delight and the influences are obvious, deep felt personal pain obscured by clouds as vocalist Marc Atkinson cries out in anguish, a sorrowful tour de force as Adrian unleashes a shivering series of electric guitar solos, gliding among waves of choir mellotron and urgent organ courtesy of Brendan Eyre , a fret display that rekindles Andy Latimer's exalted solo on "Ice" as well as Gilmour's finest moments but it's the repeated and fragile vocal chorus that would make Steve Hogarth blush with utter jealousy that takes it all to such a lofty level. Phenomenal piece of music. "Falling to Pieces" is another stellar piece (no pun intended!) that features the quivering voice of Marc Atkinson (Mandalaband and Riversea) and the setting of a serene mood, flush with regret and despondency. The title track is more of the same, man this guy can sing! When Adrian slices through with another blistering axe ride , you kind of realize all the goose bumps are there for a reason. This is definitely atmospheric, comfortably numbing in a spiritual way, as one learns painfully how to deal with tragedy. "Thicker Than Water" is the extended epic, a nearly quarter of an hour of sonic bliss, the empathy theme recurring and reassuring amid a vast coalition of keyboard torrents such as e-pianos, organs, synthesizers and synth-strings, graced by the almost funky mid-section where whispered vocals, bluesy guitar noodlings and percussive boils conspire nicely. The aggrieved and repetitive "What happened to us" chorus introduces a raging guitar revelation, an explosive fury of dejection that soars, glides, screams and howls unrelenting. The melody veers into a little welcome weightiness as the rage is ratcheted up quite a notch, the drums pounding mercilessly. Tremendous stuff!

The "Retraced" bonus CD kindly found for me provides a reweaving of "Threads", a reconstructed "Traces" and an instrumental version of "Thicker Than water" as well as an acoustic piece. Tender mercies.

The story is best expressed on the band's website and I quote " Themes of loss are universal; loss of innocence and youth; loved ones and things. Money, hair and sleep once you have your own children. Things left unsaid and undone, or that should have been. Fleeting moments you try to hold onto when times are not quite so good, special memories that surface to comfort you when you least expect them. None of us are immune". This album is a sublime winner in all aspects and easily one of my prized possessions, a desert island addition. Thank you Adrian, Atomiccrimsonrush and amcy 5 merciful suggestions

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#422295)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Tszirmay suggested that this album would be right up my alley and as usual he was right. There was a little blurb either from the label or the band telling us what this album is about : "A journey through loss, growing up and getting older. Letting things go and learning how to move on." It's a dark melancholic work to be sure, bringing to mind latter day MARILLION and TALK TALK as well as PINK FLOYD and PORCUPINE TREE.The singer reminds me a lot of Mark Hollis. Lots of atmosphere and melancholy on this one.

"Reality Check" has this laid back guitar to start as the sound slowly builds. It kicks in before 2 minutes then we get some passionate guitar a minute after that in this opening instrumental. "Threads" has this soaring guitar with a beat to open then these reserved but emotional vocals come in when it calms down. A guitar solo before 5 minutes with deep bass lines and drums as the organ floats in the background. Nice.Vocals are back before 7 minutes. More guitar late lights things up in the dark atmosphere.The sound of waves and seagulls ends it.

"Falling To Pieces" has strummed guitar and atmosphere before the vocals arrive just before a minute.The guitar cries out after 3 1/2 minutes with vocals doing the same then it settles back. "Traces" opens with reserved vocals and laid back guitar. Strings help out too then we get drums and a fuller sound 1 1/2 minutes in. It settles a minute later as contrasts continue. We get a guitar solo before 5 1/2 minutes until almost 7 minutes. Atmosphere and vocals end it. "Thicker Than Water" opens with guitar and vocals as drums join in. Great sound 2 minutes in. A calm before 5 minutes then it builds. It turns heavy before 8 1/2 minutes and we get some organ too. Ripping guitar follows.They sound like a Metal band 10 1/2 minutes in. It then starts to settle back after 13 minutes.

If your a fan of this style this is certainly worth checking out because they do it very well and with sincerity.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#537745)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'Traces' - Nine Stones Close (6/10)

'Mellow' is the word I would use to describe this band's material. Nine Stones Close is a more recent progressive rock band that leans towards a chilled mixture of Rush and Pink Floyd, creating a sort of music that has a very clear direction of where it wants to go. 'Traces' is the first material I have yet heard from this band, an album that came out last year to some not-inconsiderable acclaim from listeners and reviewers. Is the band talented and deserving of praise? Sure; over the course of this album, Nine Stones Close manages to draw us in with equal parts calm and melancholy. However, is this the masterpiece of modern progressive music I was hoping to hear? I would say not; while there is a clear sense of direction here, the band suffers from a fairly narrow range in their sound, and for all of its atmosphere, it rarely felt to me that there was more to digest here than what was one the surface.

The two integral aspects of the music here are flange-rife guitar strums, and some very brooding vocals. Backing it up are somewhat subtle symphonic nuances, but for the most part, this is a fairly straightforward effort. The songwriting is clever, although never unexpected; each of these songs flows in much the same way as the one before or after it. The one possible exemption may be the acoustic number 'Falling To Pieces', but for the most part, this is a somewhat spacey dive into slow to mid-tempo mellowness and soft melodies. The tones of the guitars seem pasted out of Rush's 'Hemispheres' album, although this is not necessarily a bad thing; Nine Stones Close use the sound in a fairly different way, focusing less on energy and more on what I would consider to be fairly simple parts. The instrumentation here is meant to provide a fairly calming atmosphere, although it is usually the vocal work that dominates a listener's attention, and for good reason. Atkinson's voice is quite heartfelt, and has a much wider range of feeling than many vocalists in prog.

Overall, the instrumentation here is fairly mundane, pleasant to the ear, but prone to falling into the background. The valid exception to this are during the guitar solos, which one again pull out the Floydian influence. Adrian Jones' guitar solo on the title track is really excellent. As a whole though, the album feels just a little too wrapped up in its own mellowness to stay interesting throughout the entire thing. There are real gems to hear- most notably being the vocals- and 'Traces' does well to work one's heartstrings, but as a whole, a little dose of caffeine may have made this album a much more memorable experience.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#538092)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars UK act NINE STONES CLOSE was formed in 2008, initially as the creative vehicle of one Adrian Jones, who recorded and released the debut album "St-Lo" himself the same year. Soon after this project developed into a band, late in 2010 this now four-man-strong unit released "Traces". In 2011 they were signed by the US label Progrock Records, which subsequently reissued their sophomore effort.

The first three bands mentioned as influences on Nine Stones Close Facebook page are Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd and Marillion. Those who like and enjoy this threesome will most likely find Nine Stones Close to be an interesting acquaintance. Other than that, I'd imagine that those who tend to like progressive rock of a melodic and lyrical nature might want to investigate this act.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#548991)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was so surprised by this release! How did this slip under my radar? Why is an album this good not on more peoples cd players?

If you like the kind of thing that Steve Wilson does with P Tree (before he discovered his distortion pedal in the late 90's) then you will like this.

If you liken Melancholic ... then you will like this......

If you like well crafted albums with excellent production then ...... yep, you guessed it, you'll like this.

Adrian, for it is he who is the main man.... has taken the gentle melancholic sound that P-tree, lunatic soul, nosound etc have been striving to perfect ... and ... well..... perfected it!

I don't mean to suggest that this music is derivative - it's not - it has a sound all its own - but If you do like the above mentioned bands - then I urge you to try this.

It deserves attention.

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Send comments to Matt-T (BETA) | Report this review (#570471)
Posted Friday, November 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Nine Stones Close started out as a solo project resulting in the 2008 release, "St. Lo" in with Adrian Jones playing all the instruments, providing the vocals, and composing all the songs. The post St. Lo events that ultimately resulted in the CD "Traces" were a story of coincidence and possibly Synchronicity, the details of which are documented on the band's website. It's a pretty amazing story. But the result was Adrian surrounding himself with some very talented musicians who helped him evolve Nine Stones Close to a whole new level and different sound.

Marc Atkinson (Riversea, Mandalaband) clear vocals are a perfect fit as is the keyboard of Brendan Eyre (Riversea) and relative new-comer Neil Quarrell, a very talented bass player. Nine Stones Close fans are so grateful that Neil stopped by Adrian's to repair one of his guitars and decided to jam with him for a little while. When he and Adrian take center stage two thirds of the way through the cut "Threads" my neighbors can hear the band playing ? "11" on the volume control. Musically, the mix is perfect. The vocals don't get in the way of the instrumentation nor does the instrumentation seem to be trying to drown out the lyrics.

I'm not one to analyze music based on time signatures and key changes. I was taught long ago that good music will get your attention, hold your attention, then proceed to paint pictures in your mind. Traces certainly does that. Any images that are conjured by the melancholy tone of this album may not be fields of flowers and puppies, but ultimately they are positive. If I hadn't discovered Traces too late, it would have had my vote for Album of the Year.

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Send comments to bruskey93 (BETA) | Report this review (#590168)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Some albums, rarely, make a huge impression on the very first listen. Much rarer is the album that not only grabs you after one listen, but becomes such a part of your musical world that you find yourself thinking of it nearly all the time, humming little fragments at odd times, different themes and rhythms from it running through your mind unbidden. Traces is one such album. Outstanding performances from ALL of the members, truly something that will enrich you the more you listen to it. It has been said in other places that it is a melancholic album, but I don't get that sense from it at all, rather there is an overriding sense of beauty, particularly from Marc Atkinson's vocals and Adrian Jones' guitar, although, as has already been said, EVERY member of the band brings their own very special contribution to the album. Bearing in mind that all the band members have full time day jobs as well, this makes the achievement all the more remarkable. Highly Recommended

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Send comments to cyberfloat (BETA) | Report this review (#591019)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't write that many reviews. I find it hard to concentrate at all that music out there, whether beautiful or outright horrible. But occasionally a gem passes that sucks you in, pulls you toward itself and doesn't let you go for the duration of the ride. 9SC's 'Traces' is testimony to this. With this album, I feel that the words I am committing to my screen should echo inside you, resound wholly and make you understand why this music. Just. Simply. Rocks.

The subject of the album is not of a happy kind, as the songs deal with loss, regret and sadness. The lyrics are crystal clear and written down not unlike a devoted monk scribbles his lines into tomes of old. They bring a gloomy feeling into play, tying in perfectly with the music.

The album opens with Reality Check, an instrumental track clocking in at nearly five minutes. Clean guitars playing in a Pink Floyd style, without the use of heavy delay. And this is where the song thrives and creates this sense of dread, a feeling of unease that guts you. The music shifts from clean guitar tones to heavy riffs with some pounding drums and well used keyboards. The sounds mesh incredibly well and make one of the many strengths this band has.

Threads follows up on Reality Check, the second longest track on the album. A rain storm bringing the end to the latter is faded away by moody keyboards and wailing guitars. Whereas the beginning of the track reminds me of Pink Floyd again, when Adrian Jones begins to use heavy chorus guitars, I'm getting a distinct Ayreon feeling as well. The song is the first where Marc Atkinson begins to shine and brings his immaculate voice to the canvas that is Nine Stones Close, singing with conviction as his vibrato rings out in a way I rarely hear vocalists nowadays. The song moves into a bluesy guitar solo by Jones halfway through, bringing Gilmour to mind, before the track bounces back to the original beginning, with Atkinson giving it his best at the end.

Falling to Pieces begins with very careful but lovely keyboard sounds from Brendan Eyre, who along with Neil Quarrell, who provides the necessary bass guitar on the album, provides the adhesive between Jones' guitars and Atkinson's vocals. The guitar work on this track is very much in favor of the melody of this song, never going off on a power tantrum. The star of this song is clearly Atkinson, who uses his emotional voice to great ability.

The title track is the most memorable song. Traces begins with Jones' crystal clear guitars, quickly following Quarrell's lovely bass tones and Eyre's keyboards that he manages to thread through each and every song he plays on. If before Atkinson was already leaving a powerful impression, put this track on maximum volume, close your eyes and drift away with the evocative lyrics brought in such a way, it brings tears to my eyes every time. A lovely keyboard solo midway allows the guitars to pick up pace and the song transforms into an even more emotional and powerful rollercoaster that doesn't stop until Atkinson and Eyre close the song.

The closer to this album is Thicker Than Water, clocking in at a firm fourteen minutes, first showcasing its mellow and quirky nature the way Jones picks the strings. The song undergoes several mood changes, especially at the moment when Atkinson begins to repeat the sentence 'What happened to us', when he uses his voice to great dramatic effect, forshadowing even more powerful passages that Eyre, Jones and Quarrell bring to us. The power rock section comes with a soaring guitar solo before slowly reverting back to the intro of the song, ending sublimely before fading out entirely.

For a home production album, this was a welcome surprise when I found such albums could be made with a clarity that fits studio productions more. The album is clearly a showcase of superb songwriting, where four gentlemen got together and crafted what I consider one of the best albums of 2011.

I've been very quiet as to Neil Quarrell's contributions to this album and I should not be. If you listen carefully, you'll spot him. He is a master of subtlety, playing when you need him to be there. His sound is warm and lively and his playing fluid.

Brendan Eyre also deserves more than what I have written about him. Like Quarrell, he's a subtle force but one to be reckoned with. His playing on Reality Check, Falling to Pieces and Traces especially stands out for me, as he lifts the songs up to a level way beyond the already beautiful tunes that can be found here.

Marc Atkinson is a superb vocalist whose voice fits this music so well, it's almost like a scary revelation of sorts. Everything he does is spot on, the lyrics he wrote for 'Falling to Pieces', his powerful singing in 'Traces' and 'Thicker Than Water'. He carries the album convincingly.

Adrian Jones showcases he is an extraordinary musician, but also a talented songwriter. His lyrics are evocative and go straight for the heart, his melodies are powerful one second, then graceful the next.

The one and only downside I have with this album is that there is no real drummer, but a programmed track for each song. Although the drums sound reasonable and fit each song, I wonder what a real drummer would've done to these drums. But one must not complain when listening to such beautiful music. One should simply shut up, turn up the volume and close their eyes.

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Send comments to Ghost (BETA) | Report this review (#594453)
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
apps79
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Neo Prog Team
3 stars Nine Stones Close started in 2008 as a personal project of British multi-instrumentalist and singer Adrian Jones in order to wite music around a near death experience he had back in 2002.Adrian played all instruments, recorded and sung all lyrics for the first Nine Stones Close album ''St Lo'' (the place he had the accident) and the album was released indepedently in 2008.In 2009 this solo project developed into a solid quartet with Marc Atkinson of Mandalaband fame on vocals, Brendan Eyre on keys and Neil Quarrell on bass.The new line-up recorded a second album entitled ''Traces'', released in November 2010.

This is a fine example of modern atmospheric Prog with big time lyrical moments and a slight Psychedelic Rock atmosphere at moments.No keyboards fanfares, no virtuosic guitar workouts.''Traces'' is an effort for all those admiring deep atmospheres and tight musicianship and reference points could be PORCUPINE TREE, later-era MARILLION and PINK FLOYD with Jones having a certain GILMOUR-ish vibe on his solo offerings.The majority of the album has a calm and soft approach, not unlike PINK FLOYD's ''Division bell'', where all guitar solos, organ sounds, acoustic guitars and vocals are carefully measured.Smooth vocals, district guitar effects and background synths create moments of relaxing but also highly ethereal soundscapes.The 15-min. ''Thicker Than Water'' seems to be a bit of an exception.The dreamy approach of Nine Stones Close is still present halfway through the middle of the track, where an emotional Heavy Rock breakout is waiting, characterized by Atkinson's passionate singing, Jones' brutal guitars and Eyre's deep organ, definitely a needed amount of energy in an album of complete softness and of course the highlight of the album.

The album has been re-released in a limited edition with a bonus CD, featuring reworked arrangements of the main album's songs and another reissue came out in 2011 by ProgRock Records.Nevertheless, this is a good proposal of decent Neo/Heavy/Psychedelic Progressive Rock of the new millenium.If you love low-tempo music with a deep emotional content ''Traces'' is definitely your choice.Recommended.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#756156)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
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Crossover Team
4 stars When first looking at this CD, even before it makes it to the player, it is obvious that the music is going to have a lot to live up to as the artwork from Ed Unitsky (The Flower Kings, The Tangent, Unitopia etc)is stunning. This album deserved to be released in the good old days of vinyl so that listeners could have studied the sleeve in depth while playing the music (just as I used to when I was younger..). This is the second album from the band, but the first was actually a solo project by Adrian Jones (guitar, bass, keyboards) and it was only a series of coincidences that led to a full band being formed who then worked together on building the songs for this CD, which was released in 2010.

This has to be one of the most layered albums I have had the opportunity to listen to for quite a while. It brings together a feeling of melancholy with the textures of early Porcupine Tree, the restraint of Pink Floyd, Hogarth-era Marillion and even Japan. This certainly isn't music to play when you are feeling a little down, and really isn't music to be played on a bright sunny day, but rather this is for reflecting in the dark of the evening when the world is at peace and the required time to be taken to immerse into the world.

I rarely quote from the press release, but I couldn't put this better myself as it states that it "is a journey through loss, growing up and getting older. Letting things go and learning how to move on. Asking questions that don't have immutable answers, telling stories that don't necessarily have happy endings. Coming to terms with things you can't change or control. Mood music not for elevators. Understanding that being alive sometimes means hurting, but somehow uplifting rather than morose." This is not fly by night manufactured music that will only last for 30 seconds; there is a depth and majesty that progheads will truly love. www.progrockrecords.com

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Send comments to kev rowland (BETA) | Report this review (#760246)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This melancholic, atmosperic & mostly low-tempo album desserves an acclaim.

Neo-prog is a sub-genre that lost some momentum the last years. Still, there are a few projects that keep it on track with the quality we can expect.

As such, the album sounds rather modern and mix neo-prog with some symphonic & psychedelic influence. The atmosphere it delivers reminds me sometimes Blackfield. To a lesse extend we can find influences of Pink Floyd and late Marillion.

After a (long) instrumental introduction track that starts quicking with guitars after 2min. The next 3 tracks are mainly athmospheric with guidar and organ support and a soft but mastered singing. Threads (2nd track of the album) is arguably the best. The last track (Thicker than water) is over 14 min long. After a first half keeping the spirit of the previous tracks, the second half of the track delivers more heavy song with prominent guitar and mid-tempo (a bit like Knight Area).

Overall, an excellent ablum that I recommend.

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Send comments to Subterranean (BETA) | Report this review (#904910)
Posted Saturday, February 02, 2013 | Review Permalink

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