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The Mute Gods - Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me CD (album) cover


The Mute Gods

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having seen Nick Beggs live with Steve Wilson on the 2015 tour, and being totally seduced by both his instrumental command as well as his obvious enthusiasm, it was hard to resist jumping on the Mute Gods bandwagon, especially with such luminaries as keyboardist Roger King and drummer Marco Minnemann as co-stars. Beggs has always impressed me with Iona but his recent work with Lifesigns, Fish on Friday, Steve Hackett and Steve Wilson really sealed the deal. The majority of the material was assembled during tours, in hotel rooms, on restaurant paper napkins (I wonder about that image, though) and presumably, while travelling in some long-haul airliner to the next gig.

Before getting into the details of this debut album, let it be said for the record that it is an absolute grower that will not necessarily grab you immediately by the throat except for the final and fabulously personal "Father Daughter" ballad, which is the sincerest song one is likely to hear in a lifetime. More about that jewel later. The album is a diverse set list of songs that span a wide spectrum of styles, including dark symphonics, quirky yet intelligent prog- pop, brooding modern progressive rock which are obviously imbued by the various influences of working with professionals like Steve Hackett and Steve Wilson. After numerous spins, I can really appreciate the flawless quality of the playing, the courageous tackling of various touchy subjects (religion, political conspiracy, dystopia, apathy, human issues and parenting) which surely resemble the more contemporary interests of modern prog bands as well as Beggs' penchant for not wanting to overplay his talent. Minnemann and King actually contribute greatly to the sound and substance, all three doing the guitar parts by committee. All of this was really quite transparent upon first glance, so I urge deeper investigation before criticizing with too much facility.

The opening title track is the longest track here, clocking in at nearly 8 minutes, and really setting the tone with some moody atmospherics and tight bright chops. Lyrically, "Do Nothing till You Hear from Me" was inspired by president and former General Eisenhower's famous televised about the rise of the military?industrial complex, a highly interesting historical anomaly BTW, as well as the geologist Phil Schneider who said some rather interesting things regarding UFOs, before dying suspiciously, presumably silenced. I could not help feeling a slight kinship with fellow Brit storyteller Guy Manning, who also enjoys controversial subject matter in his song writing.

"Praying to a Mute God" also contrasts light musical style with rather somber lyrical material. Beggs states" We seem to be living in a time of heightened religious fundamentalism in which people deliver the wrath of God or speak out on his behalf". There is a load of detail in the recording, jumbled dissonance which comes across as social dissatisfaction verging on anger and fear, of living in a new age fraught with deceit, despair and maybe even futility. Hence, the apathy that Wilson constantly harps on, and rightly so.

The most controversial track here is the subtle "Nightschool for Idiots" which some critics have panned for being too simplistic and commercial. Yes, there is a strong 80s feel, a vocal closer to the Korgis (or maybe even Kajagoogoo?) but the sweet playfulness is very British and wholly eccentric that harkens back to No-Man's Wild Opera album (and a masterpiece in my opinion, with lusciously clever tracks like "Housewives Hooked on Heroin" and "My Rival Trevor"). To prove the point, Beggs segues with the disconsolate and blunt "Feed the Troll", perhaps the most contrasting follow up you could hope for, a surly and nasty keyboard-driven sonic snow plow straight out of the Porcupine Tree style. 'Little room without a view' he pleads as he sits at the computer, blogging bull[&*!#] and judging everyone and everything, not by expertise but by Internet access.

In case you feel the material is still a tad too saccharine after 'Idiots', the heavy mood remains revolting with the sombre "Your Dark Ideas", anchored by its careening synth loops (Roger King does masterful work all through this release) and Minneman's concussive percussives. The surly and snarky laugh that precedes the churning organ flurry says it all, augmented by the brooding and uncomfortable pace, with creeping Crimsoid seething. The bodyguard track is "In the Crosshairs", which just carries on the sweeping drama, Arabic-styled guitar storms and mellotron ablaze, certainly influenced by many a Hackett instrumental (check out the guitar phrasings, pfff). Clever and delicious.

Two more longer tracks really flesh out the work with some seriously Steve Wilson inspired stylistics, Beggs sweet voice urging melancholia ('the language of despair' he sings) on "Strange Relationships", combining joy and doom and mounds of painful atmosphere bathed in gorgeous melodies, expertly detailed (Gary O'Toole's cymbal work), the forlorn piano outro by Frank van Bogaert is brief but ravishing. "Swimming Horses" is perhaps the most progressive styled piece here, Rob Reed adding massive dollops of ringing keyboards, and a rumbling bass undertow allied with a Tony Banks-like organ splurge from Belgian van Bogaert. Nick D'Virgilio provides some exemplary drum work as well but the true highlight is Nick Beggs's effective vocal work.

Speaking of vocal wonders, I promised to talk more about "Father Daughter", a rather blatant sounding electro- ballad that would make the Pet Shop Boys or Naked Eyes jealous and proud, except for a rather innocuous detail: the duet here is highly charged and personal, a sung discussion between daughter Lula Beggs and her father that would make a mountain range weep in silence. The chorus, the delivery and the lyrics are exemplary and frankly, outright beautiful. The gulping throat will need time to recover, you just need to be sensitive to being a parent in the 21st century, I guess.

This project needs to continue, Mr.Beggs

4 Quiet idols

Report this review (#1536248)
Posted Sunday, March 6, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here we have basically a solo album of one of the most demanded bassists on present prog scene. I have followed Nick Beggs since his recent works with some of my favorite artists - Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, and also John Michtell's Lonely Robot. So when I got known about this, I couldn't miss it. I also saw him live several times, and besides his exceptional musicality, he seems like an intelligent and humorous guy. And my expectations have been really fulfilled - Mr. Beggs is also a talented composer showing here that he also apparently learned a lot from his music "employers".

Music really often recalls aforementioned artists, in terms of sounds, stylistics and overall quality, although it doesn't sound as duplicate or imitation of neither of them. Right from the beginning, we have a smash prog-hit - beautiful melodies, thundering precise rhythms, catchy riffs, amazing chord shifts. This fashion continues over the whole album, with a lot of variety but still enough of consistence.

Roger King is obviously a key member for Beggs to elevate potential of his music, adding keyboard wizardry and atmosphere with his keyboard palette and soundscapes' engineering, as he had done with Hackett's albums. Marco Minnemann, as well as other drummers add proficiency to rhythm section which is breathtaking throughout. Beggs's melodic/pop sensibility make sure that songs catch the ear from first time, but they still are growers due to details and musicianship hidden in them - particularly sound textures, odd time signatures and melodic shifts thrown here and there. Some may complain about high-piched, rather melancholic lead vocal of Beggs which he uses in other projects usually for layering harmonies. I find his voice enjoyable and emotional, fitting well to the music.

Mr. Beggs and his band prove that music can still be very refreshing and intelligent in 21st century, in defiance of circumstances of contemporary musically rather degenerated world. Album is varied lyrically too - cleverly critical and thought provoking, sometimes very personal. Actually I may like this even more than Wilson's and Hackett's recent outputs. Although I don't have any negatives to say about this album, I am still rather shy to call it a masterpiece. Nevertheless this is an excellent album that deserves more attention here on PA than it has so far.
Report this review (#1561258)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2016 | Review Permalink

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