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THE MAN LEFT IN SPACE

Cosmograf

Neo-Prog


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4 stars Just 17 months after the release of Cosmograf's last album "When Age Has Done Its Duty" the band returns with its latest album "The Man Left In Space" in February 2013. I say band ? loosely as the project is mainly the solo venture of British multi instrumentalist Robin Armstrong accompanied by several high profile guests from the progressive rock community (mainly from the south of England). Armstrong continues his penchant for concept albums as the music on TMLIS tells the story of a doomed space flight to save the World set in 2053. The music is quite excellent with plenty of first-rate guitar work, the first track "How Did I Get Here" comprises of just chat between the astronaut and mission control, but then we are off and running with track two, the excellent 10 minute "Aspire, Achieve" which starts off with quiet acoustic guitar before more heavy electric riffs barge in after two minutes. This is followed by three instrumental tracks, "Good Earth Behind Me" has the poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee recited quietly in the background of track which features memorable guitar and keyboard work. "The Vacuum That I Fly Through" is highlighted by Matt Steven's spacey sounding guitar. "We Disconnect" is my favourite of the shorter track as we return to vocals in the music in track six. The final two tracks are absolute beauties clocking in at just under ten minutes each. "Just spare a thought for the man they left in space" sings Armstrong in what is an elegant ballad interspersed with classy guitar and underlying keyboards which break through at times. The finale "When The Air Runs Out" has elements of space rock between the vocals as the astronaut ponders his impending doom. In conclusion a very good album which shows off all that is good about British progressive rock.
Report this review (#912170)
Posted Sunday, February 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is my first introduction to multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong's musical vehicle Cosmograf, as I almost took the plunge with the previous 2011 album due to various interesting reviews of 'When Age Has Done Its Duty'. Finally, this just-released work simply winked at me lewdly with its expressive artwork and, well, I fell for its alluring charm, sucker that I am! It was one of those slow burners, needing quite a few spins before making any kind of justified opinion, not that its anything overtly complex but just trying to find the balance between quaint British pastoral musings and some drop-heavy anchor riffs that pound and bludgeon, strange space communications and instrumental forays. The theme espoused is sort of Apollo 13-ish, with winks at 2001 A Space Odyssey and a dash of Bowie's Major Tom, The Man Left in Space takes a rather typical prog concept of some poor astronaut who was inconveniently forgotten in the depths of void. In the end, I enjoyed this piece of space prog a fair amount, stunned by the incredible talent of Mr. Armstrong (talk about a portentous name for a spacewalk!) on display, though he is quite ably assisted by some of British Neo-prog's finest guns , led by two Big Big Train members (They are the prog sweethearts 'du jour' as of 2013), guitarist Greg Spawton and drummer extraordinaire Nick D'Virgilio, ably aided by bassist Steve Dunn as well as respected axemen Matt Stevens, Lee Abraham and Simon Rogers, among others. Armstrong seems to handle all the spacy keys with remarkable flair and atmosphere.

After some brief and obligatory NASA talk introductions, the lift-off mood is kicked brutally forward with the opener 'Aspire, Achieve' that combines power and serenity throughout its brooding 10 minutes +. While a very good song, it's not really indicative of the mood to follow. The core of the album start with a couple of instrumental tracks that are particularly intense and brilliantly executed, the drums crisp and the keyboards evocative. The guitarists provide some harder-edged Gilmourisms that again are the hallmarks of this style, seductively up-front and center. The whimsical 'The Good Earth behind Me' is a lush highlight, a crafty space poem all dollied up with some dense synthesized frills and a scouring guitar wail that soars beyond the universes. When the beefy beat kicks in, we are in celestial heaven! 'The Vacuum I Fly Through' simply continues the echoing spatial theme, somewhere between classic Floyd and its German cousin RPWL, travelling nicely into dreamland with Matt Stevens giving his instrument a jolly workout. 'This Naked Endeavour' is keyboard-oriented, with assorted voice samplings, electric piano and massed synths, before the pleasant Robin Armstrong vocals kick in. He is not a genius 'lungist' but he gets the job done. 'We Disconnect' has a little opening 'HAL' feel, a musical Kubrick emanation that instills some ominous feelings of doom, expertly highlighted by the rollicking bass/guitar klang. A nifty little guitar solo shows off some slippery tendencies, comatose lyrics that wink and nod at Steve Wilson's fascination for pharmaceutical medication, nice rocket stuff indeed. 'Beautiful Treadmill' continues the cottony mood but amps up the power chords quite a bit, preventing any possibility of fading into unconsciousness. The tortuous voices are leading the fray, deeply troubling. This is where the listener gets a sense of enjoyment in delving into the 'trip'. The final 2 tracks are both 9 minute+ epics that establish the overall credentials of quality for this intriguing release. The title track is without question the icing on the cake, a stellar piece of cosmic consequence, complete with the Bowie-esque tone of Robin's voice. The main theme is unreservedly marvellous, featuring rippling organ, bruising bass rumbling, some seductive acoustic guitar phrasings and a shockingly attractive axe solo. The electric guitar workout is extensive, emotive, tremulous and desperate. The shimmer of electric sounds and the siren's pleading voice has a deep sense of finality. It has 'classic' stamped all over it! How can this be possibly topped? Well, the finale 'When the Air Runs Out' has all the promises of a choking moment of a final gasp, when the brain is deprived of vital oxygen and the mind starts hallucinating, deep into the farthest reaches of the cosmos. French-accented command control space talk, sounding like Truffaut in 'Close Encounters', introduces the freak-out blaring alarms as well as the desperation of a mission gone horribly wrong! Lyrically, the mood gets exciting, evoking all the lunatics and madmen, heroes and artists, footballers and actors whose minds were blown away by a bullet or a bottle. Sam doesn't respond, 'Please respond Sam' intones the voice. A bizarre psychiatric voice ends this presentation as if some laboratory autopsy.

4.5 Keir Dulleas

Report this review (#965369)
Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Prog Team
4 stars 'The Man Left In Space' is the fourth album from Comsograf, which is actually a solo project by multi- instrumentalist Robin Armstrong who provides guitars, keyboards bass and vocals and utilises additional guests to fill in the sound. So for this album, the guests are Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard/Big Big Train), Dave Meros (Spock's Beard), Matt Stevens, Greg Spawton (Big Big Train), Simon Rogers, Steve Dunn (Also Eden), Lee Abraham (The Lee Abraham Band), Luke Machin ( Ex- The Tangent) and Dave Ware. It is a concept album that explores the themes of aspirations, achievement and travails that the quest for success sometimes brings by depicting these within the constructs of a failed space mission.

It is an ambitious project in many ways, and one that took me a long time to warm to. There are times when the music is just too polished, too sanitised, that I found myself drifting away and it took some effort to keep coming back. But the more I played it, the more I discovered the underlying layers and the complexity that is intriguing and not nearly as clinical as I first imagined. At times it is very Floydian, at others Muse and at yet others RPWL, yet there is a deftness in some of the lead guitar and keyboard lines that definitely lift this out of the ordinary. If I had written about this having only played it once or twice it would have received just 2/5, but although I do have some issues with having a song called "Beautiful Treadmill" this album has moved up to be 4/5. There is a clarity and crispness in the production that belies the fact that it was recorded at a home studio, with the guitar and bass on "The Vacuum That I Fly" being a case in point.

If you enjoy strong neo-prog with powerful guitar lines then this is definitely worth further investigation at www.cosmograf.com.

Report this review (#965371)
Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A nice sounding, well-produced album of songs in a PINK FLOYD-like vein of sounds and stylings--conceptually as well as in the extensive integration of samples/spoken threads in between and in the background. Sometimes the similarities are a bit TOO close to classic PF stuff, IMHO. The performances are rather good if often quite strikingly similar to Waters (voice), Gilmour (guitar leads), Wright (particularly organ) and even Mason (not in volume or clarity, though), and the production is pristine if somewhat lacking in the desirable but all-too-elusive weave of harmony and nuance. What is lacking for me is anything new and memorable: Repeated listens of the album and its songs in their individuality leave me underwhelmed, even absent from reaction; I am not drawn back to the music or album and when I hear the songs again I feel neither excitement or familiarity. Not that I feel as though I've wasted my time. It's a pleasant listen. No more, no less.

Another 3.5 star album that I have trouble rating. I'd rate it up for the recommendation for others to give it a listen and decide for themselves, but I'm not sure. It's better than a Richard Wright solo album, but, IMHO, that's not saying much.

Report this review (#972842)
Posted Friday, June 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I discovered this album on progstreaming.com. I have to say that at first I was not particularly impressed with the music , as it tended too easily to become pleasant "background music" as my mind drifted away and I quickly lost interest in what was going on. But then I realized that the delicate, mellow melodies stuck with me long after I had stopped the player. So I went back to it and made an effort to keep focused throughout the 55+ minutes of " The Man Left In Space", and I ended up buying a copy of the album.

After a good number of spins on my CD player, my current opinion of the album is a more elaborate version of my first, visceral impression. The album is very nice, very competently played, rich in mellow melodies, and contains some great Floydian guitar moments. I am a fan of voice samplings in songs, so this is a bonus too. It surely makes for a pleasant listening experience, especially if you are a fan of Floyds, neo-prog outfits such as RPWL and Sylvan, or even the mellower, metal-less moments of prog-metal bands such as Ayreon. But this is not an album for all seasons. It is an album I would put on when I am in the mood for something reflective, not too demanding or challenging, that allows me to effortlessly drift in and out without losing too much. But it would not be my first choice if I was in the mood for a proper "prog-on" experience, if you know what I mean. I guess the crux of the matter lies in the eventual lack of depth and breadth of this nevertheless very enjoyable musical project. The very clean but at the same time very much "bedroom project" production also contributes to this impression.

Overall, I regard " The Man Left In Space" as a good (sometimes very good) easy-listening prog album, which surely deserves 3 stars.

Report this review (#975810)
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Cosmograf's 2013 release "The Man Left In Space" is an intriguing and atmospheric journey filled with some amazing lead guitar and a feast of interesting themes that are worth contemplating well after the music has died away.

Ostensibly this concept album revolves around Sam, an astronaut who, as the title suggests, is cut adrift, alone, in the depths of space. In reality it is an allegorical tale revolving around themes that affect many of us in modern life such as ambition and our perceptions of success. The idea works well and we're drawn into Sam's lonely encapsulated world with the dispassionate voices of computers his only companions.

Many of the greatest aspects of this album are showcased on the second track, "Aspire, Achieve". There's gorgeous acoustic guitar and a great vocal melody interspersed with some blazing hard rock riffing reminiscent of Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree. The lead guitar in the latter half of the song is some of the best I've heard in years. Performed by Robin Armstrong, the architect behind all things Cosmograf, it really is worth the price of admission alone. There are many guest guitarists on this album, which adds a distinct flavour to many of the tracks, but it's evident from this performance that Robin could have carried these duties admirably all on his own.

I'll also single out the title track as a prog masterpiece. The interplay of acoustic and lead guitar in the intro is phenomenal. There's a number of phases and emotions as the song runs its course and the musicianship is top notch. It's also the point on the album at which most of the themes come to a head, so in that regard it serves as the centrepiece. As it fades a woman's voice implores "Think of me always", which is one of the more touching moments as there's an injection of humanity into Sam's world.

The use of sound effects, voice actors and samples is expertly carried out on this album and really creates a unique atmosphere. The only facet that left me wanting was that I struggled to form an emotional connection with the protagonist, but in any case this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the music or the performances on this album.

If you're looking for a well conceived concept album with some stellar performances then you can't go wrong with this one.

8.5/10

Report this review (#976387)
Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I'm such a sucker for sci-fi concepts. There have been great ones this year thus far; such as Hibernal, Cynthesis, and Sound of Contact. All three of those artists have produced masterpieces, in my opinion. I think I can add Cosmograf to that list, too. This multi- instrumentalist from the UK has quite an affinity for concept albums, and his new album might be the most in-depth concept yet.

Robin Armstrong, the name behind Cosmograf, plays every instrument on "The Man Left in Space", though he does have some special guests help out, too. He also produces and mixes his work. If that weren't impressive enough, he has also written quite an incredible story here. "The Man Left in Space" is about the aspiration, success, and achievement that men pursue at all costs. It is also about the failures and the ultimate futility of all of this. Interestingly, we've seen this concept a few times in the last couple years, and that's okay. I think it is a sign of our times as financial, environmental, and physical ruin seem to be larger then we can handle. Now, the album centers on these themes, but it discusses them through an analogy: A doomed space mission that is meant to save mankind. The man character, Sam, experiences a range of emotions and stages; such as isolation, failure, fear, unhappiness, and eventually nothingness. His conversations with the ship's A.I. are heartbreaking and profound; and honestly remind me slightly of Master Chief and Cortana. I was really impressed by all of this.

As for the music, Cosmograf is somewhat hard to peg. This band is usually labeled as neo- prog, but I hear Deep Purple, King Crimson, and maybe even some more contemporary bands in here, too. The mix is slightly eclectic, and so this album takes a few listens to appreciate fully. It's a real grower. Particularly, there is some great drumming and guitar work, both of them being powerfully presented. The synth is incredible as well, and this entire album seems to hum similarly to Pink Floyd's Welcome to the Machine. It feels alive, and this adds to the effect of the storyline.

Cosmograf is a band that hadn't been on my radar. After this incredible album, I will be following the band indefinitely. If Armstrong can continue to create incredible concepts along with spirited and atmospheric music, he has got a fan for life in me.

Report this review (#985224)
Posted Monday, June 24, 2013 | Review Permalink

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