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Spoke of Shadows

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Spoke of Shadows Spoke of Shadows album cover
3.99 | 11 ratings | 5 reviews | 0% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Dominion (5:16)
2. Images (3:10)
3. One Day (2:20)
4. Harbinger (3:37)
5. Lost One (3:25)
6. Pain Map (7:25)
7. Persona (3:17)
8. Splendid Sisters (3:17)
9. Tilting at Windmills (6:11)
10. Accord (2:32)
11. Dichotomy (3:33)
12. Drama of Display (3:58)

Total time: 48:00

Line-up / Musicians

- Mark Cook / Warr guitar, ADG fretless bass, guitar, keyboards
- Bill Bachman / drums

- Joe Blair / guitar (10)
- Gayle Ellett / mellotron, Fender Rhodes (8)
- Bob Fisher / flute (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)
- Michael Harris / guitar (4)
- Jeff Plant / fretless bass (12)
- Tony Rohrbough / guitar (2, 4, 6, 9, 11)
- Dave Streett / Warr guitar (8)
- Shannon Wickline / piano (3)

Releases information

Firepool Records FR005

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SPOKE OF SHADOWS Spoke of Shadows ratings distribution

(11 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(0%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(80%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

SPOKE OF SHADOWS Spoke of Shadows reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As the project named Spoke of Shadows comprises one-half of Texas band Herd of Instinct, who released two critically acclaimed albums between 2011 and 2013, first-time listeners might be forgiven for expecting more of the same. However, Warr guitarist Mark Cook has stated on several occasions that his collaboration with session drummer Bill Bachman has provided him with the opportunity to add new elements to his sonic palette - also thanks to the contribution of artists coming from a wide range of musical backgrounds. Indeed, while the connection to Cook's work with Herd of Instinct is clearly on display, quite a few surprises await the listener throughout the 12 relatively short, completely instrumental tracks featured on the duo's eponymous debut.

Unlike some musicians who seem to be in a hurry to distance themselves from the "prog" tag, Cook and Bachman (who, among other things, share a love of Gabriel-era Genesis) embrace the definition, as highlighted by the prominent role given to the genre's iconic instrument, the mellotron. Coupled with Cook's masterful handling of the hauntingly versatile Warr guitar (an instrument that, in many ways, symbolizes modern prog, even if it has never become truly widespread), it builds lush yet deeply mesmerizing atmospheres that surge and shimmer, conveying a wide range of moods in a subtle yet clearly recognizable way.

The skillful blend of atmospherics and aggression of opener "Dominion", with its polyphonic guitar chords offset by Bachmann's nuanced drumming, immediately brings Herd of Instinct's distinctive style to mind. "Images", however, heralds a keen change in approach - more straightforward in compositional terms, and therefore more reliant on contrasts of light and shade, Bob Fisher's expressive flute adding an almost free-form touch towards the end. The short, jazzy mood piece of "One Day" - embellished by Charlie Daniels Band's keyboardist Shannon Wickline's lovely flowing piano - introduces the razor-sharp Crimsonian workout of "Harbinger", where the haunting wail of the Warr guitar and the pastoral tone of flute and mellotron rub elbows with a "shredder" solo by Thought Chamber guitarist Michael Harris, as well as a funkier one by Tony Rohrbough (formerly of West Virginia metal band Byzantine). "Lost One" brings back a gentle pastoral mood fleshed out by lush mellotron, while the 7-minute "Pain Map" (the album's longest track) closes the album's first half on a striking modern classical note - mellotron and evocative field recordings vying with riff-heavy passages and eerily echoing guitar.

The second half's more low-key direction is ushered by "Splendid Sisters", co-written and -performed by Dave Streett, another Warr guitar enthusiast and long-time collaborator of Cook's. The wistful, elegiac piece is a tribute to talented Italian stickist Virginia Splendore (who passed away in 2011), suitably adorned by its soothing guitar and flute, understated drumming, and solemn mellotron and electric piano (courtesy of Djam Karet's Gayle Ellett). The restrained, atmospheric "Persona" and "Accord" are conceived along similar lines, while the dramatic sweep and doom-laden riffing of "Tilting at Windmills" once again suggest Herd of Instinct's cinematic vision. "Dichotomy" starts out in deceptively subdued fashion before developing into another Crimson-hued number propelled by Bachman's imperious drumming. The album is wrapped up by the heady stylistic mix of "Drama of Display", where assertive riffs coexist with ethnic-tinged drumming and a panoply of intriguing sound effects.

With its understated elegance and focused eclecticism, "Spoke of Shadows" offers an ideal complement to Herd of Instinct's two albums. As usual, the visual aspect of the cover art - a dark grey background interrupted by a row of bright orange windows (courtesy of photographer Garth Hill) - has been carefully thought out, providing a fine foil to the music within. While the album is a must-listen for devotees of the King Crimson school of instrumental progressive rock (which includes the work of Trey Gunn and Tony Levin), it also has the potential to appeal to a broader section of the prog audience - especially those who are looking for fresh approaches to the old Symphonic Prog chestnut.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars It was Raff and Sagi's appreciation of this album that moved me to pick this up. SPOKE OF SHADOWS is the American duo of multi-instrumentalist Mark Cook(HERD OF INSTINCT) and session drummer Bill Bachman, although they are joined by eight guests in this all- instrumental album. Mark's main focus appears to be the Warr guitar which is very prominant on this album. They are on DJAM KARET's "Firepool Records" label, in fact Gayle Ellett from that amazing band adds mellotron to this record along with Fender Rhodes on the song "Splendid Sisters". Bands that SPOKE OF SHADOWS reminded me of were AZIOLA CRY(love those guys), GORDIAN KNOT and anything Trey Gunn is involved with.

"Dominion" has a heavy almost sinister flavour to it to start then it settles right down with an intricate Warr guitar solo before the drums and bass join in. This is so good. Those contrasts will continue. It's even heavier after 2 minutes and check out the angular guitar after 4 minutes. Some killer drum work to end it. Great track! "Images" has some excellent atmosphere to it with those background synths as the drums, guitar and bass play in this fairly relaxed tune. It does turn more passionate at times. Flute after 2 1/2 minutes to the end. "One Day" is a short moving piece with plenty of piano along with bass and intricate drum work standing out. "Harbinger" contrasts the heavy and punchy passages with different laid back sections. Some impressive guitar in this one.

"Lost One" is a top four track for me. Love the sound just before a minute. It turns intricate and mellow with flute before the guitar returns making some beautiful noise. Lots of flute late. "Pain Map" is another top four song. This is the longest one at 7 1/2 minutes. Such a cool sound with the upfront bass and the background synths with intricate sounds coming and going. The guitar comes to the fore but it's a relaxed sound until after 1 1/2 minutes when it ll turns heavier. We get a surprising psychedelic vibe a minute later then themes are repeated. Some killer guitar 3 1/2 minutes in and check out the drum work before 5 minutes. A pastoral and innovative section arrives before 6 minutes to the end.

"Persona" is a gorgeous piece as sounds beat, ping and pulse while the guitar soars. Some nice flute here as well. "Splendid Sisters" is laid back with flute, bass and mellotron to start. It does pick up slightly with Warr guitar helping out. Another feel- good tune. "Tilting On Windmills" has a heavy guitar intro before it settles right down with flute and intricate sounds. These contrasts will continue. They kick some butt on this one at times. A beautiful section arrives before 5 minutes to the end. "Accord" has lots of atmosphere and depth in this relaxed number. The guitar is gorgeous late. "Dichotomy" is my favourite track on here. We get a nice heavy sound a minute in and check out the drum work. Love the mellotron and then the guitar after 2 minutes. "Drama Of Display" is the final top four for me. Again the drumming is so impressive along with the interplay between the drums and the Warr guitar. Such a cool sound after 2 1/2 minutes.

A solid 4 star album that I hope gets a lot more attention from Prog fans in the future.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars A modern progressive band and album instantly in need of more attention, exposure and praise is U.S band Spoke of Shadows and their superb self-titled album from 2014. A collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Herd of Instinct member Mark Cook and session drummer Bill Bachman (who's also worked with Neal Morse), along with numerous collaborators from bands such as Djam Karet, Thought Chamber and others, their debut work is simply one of the finest instrumental works that appeared last year. While it may initially take some influences from the heavier `Thrak'-era King Crimson period onwards, there's also dark jazz flavours, slinking electronics and even little traces of chamber prog worked in as well. Cook's bass is the absolute standout of this disc, gliding and weaving throughout every second of it, his performance truly the equal of Bill Noland on the second Eccentric Orbit album `Creation of the Humanoids' from last year as well (look into that one, progressive listeners!), and you won't find more varied and spontaneous drum execution than what Bachman delivers here.

The Crimson influences permeate much of opener `Dominion', a brooding concoction of eerie Mellotron choirs, thick distorted bass murmurs, imposing drum rattles and slimy mud-thick metallic grinding over angular guitar unease. The melancholic yet impossibly beautiful `Images' is carried by near-orchestral Mellotron veils, creeping Tool-like guitar tension and spiralling flute in the finale. Gentle late-night jazz ambience tiptoes through the reflective and heart-breaking piano and singing bass of `One Day', then `Harbringer' brings back the attack with snapping drums, relentless bass chases and unravelling guitar trails racing with devilish glee. Traces of the melody of `Lost One' could have almost been lifted from a Seventies Italian horror movie, wistful flute dancing around heavier monolithic guitar intimidation.

No surprise to find one of the longest tracks here, the seven-plus minute `Pain Map', is one of the most ambitious pieces, including everything from droning hums, strolling bass grooves, skittering jazzy drumming and reaching electric guitars. Although probably one of the heaviest pieces here, the reigned-in hard riffing never becomes too obnoxious or dominant, and listen out for the spacey electronics bubbling around an orchestral chamber prog outro. `Persona' is initially a more sedate romantic guitar piece with flute trills and very low-key electronic grooves that gently transitions into perfectly controlled electric guitar fire and drum eruptions by the final minute.

More lonely Mellotron sighs and weeping flute throughout `Splendid Sisters', then powerful metal drumming, plodding dinosaur guitar grunt and Goblin-like Mellotron slices leave `Tilting at Windmills' sounding not far removed from the heavier later Porcupine Tree moments. `Accord' is a thoughtful bass rumination over serene synths and wavering draw-out guitar chimes with just a hint of classical prettiness breaking through, and both `Dichotomy' and album closer `Drama of Display' reprise those chiming elongated drawn-out Crimson guitar notes with infernal Mellotron, rolling drums, and even psychedelic backwards effects.

Spoke of Shadows are truly Progressive as opposed to lazily recreating the vintage Prog sounds of old in fawning and slavish devotion. Nineties-era King Crimson may be starting point for them, and fans of that band should easily enjoy what they discover here, but Spoke of Shadows take it much further - tasteful and evocative instrumentals full of constantly shifting light and dark moods, dynamic playing and always remaining melodic with a very modern sound. The duo and their musical guests have already set the bar for future works incredibly high here, so hopefully they're not going to be a mere one-off project.

Four stars for the perfect soundtrack to early A.M hours!

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ghostly cyclists or a storyteller relating shade, who really knows what Spoke of Shadows really means other than another sizzling experimental-prog trinket that I felt compelled to purchase in lieu of raving critiques from my three friends (yeah, Michael, John and Raffaella!) and an already strong affinity for 'sister' band Herd of Instinct. Hey, I love the bass guitar in all its forms, 4, 5, 6, 8 or Stick or Warr, fretless or not, I just adore the lower end basso profundo! Mark Cook, as his name might imply, is a master bass chef and a terrific multi- instrumentalist, also crafting intense chords from his mellotron, guitar and assorted keyboards, and he joins polyrhythmic monster drummer Bill Bachman on an inspirational musical voyage that defies pigeon-holing and easy listening tendencies. Nice mixture of silk and steel, luminosity and obscurity, cadence and cascade, if one was to ever wink at Poseidon! Yes, fans, there is a clear and present King Crimson vibe, that dark, portentous rumble many prog fans adore.

Tracks like the howling opener 'Dominion' waver between gale force riffs, Frippoid bicycle picking, daubs of mellotronic angst and complex percussive calisthenics. There is also a calculated agenda of constant change, from mood alterations and vector corrections to sudden silence and almost jazz piano musings, firmly upheld by the combination fluid bass and shimmering mellotron played here by Gayle Ellett of Djam Karet fame. Other highlights include a flickering flute from guest Bob Fisher and a delicious piano solo from a totally unexpected source (Shannon Wickline of the'gulp' Charlie Daniels Band). By the fourth track 'Harbinger', the sonic gymnastics become overpowering, defining musicians who are from another level altogether, hopping from wild to pastoral on a flick of the wrist.

The spirit of the regretted bass visionary Mick Karn is evident on the sinuous 'Pain Map', an oily roller coaster reverberation that hyperventilates the fawning fan into submission. There is a turbulent dialog between the various bass machinations and the raw guitar exhortations from guest Tony Rohrbough (Byzantine) which then bloom sideways into something the eccentric Penguin Caf' Orchestra would dream up. This is a demanding listen that will provide countless hours of repeated delight, just follow the bass man! This segues very nicely into the pastoral revelry of 'Persona', a tight little ditty that weaves complexly amid flute serenades and a 'Ya see what I mean?' bass, crowned by a Frippoid outburst, all sustain and flicker. The idea is to venture from the velvet and arrive at the sizzle. The same formula is repeated on the delectable 'Splendid Sisters', a filigreed bass repetitiously interweaving with placid mellotron carpet. Just gloriously beautiful.

Things shudder back into the 'Red' zone, with the longer 'Tilting at Windmills', a definitely more PTree like atmosphere, bouncing between lenient and inflexible without any forewarning. Bachman in particular showing percussive skills that are way beyond the norm, very close to the Bruford/Harrison/Minnerman mode. Shadowy, ominous and frightening like some distant twister, the imagery is kaleidoscopic.

A trio of shorter 3 minute pieces complete this intense offering, the solemn 'Accord' first off the blocks is heavily strapped by a humble mellotron that suggests more reflective dedication, while the more physical 'Dichotomy', machine-gun drum aiming at twisted synth loopings and a guitar assault that enjoys to forage amid the foliage . I have listened to this in the morning, mid-afternoon and late at night, each scenario fitting well into the mood generated by the rambunctious sonic onslaught.

This is silly good, at times frighteningly so, not for the faint of heart or the pop fluff aficionado. The next one is on auto-buy, another instrumental masterpiece with heavy concentration on the fetish bass, as tasty if not more so than that Herd of Instinct duo of albums. Wow!

4.5 rib of shades

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US duo SPOKE OF SHADOWS was formed in 2013, consisting of world renowned drummer Bill Bachman and instrumentalist Mark Cook, the latter arguably best known for being a member of progressive rock band Herd Of Instinct. Spoke Of Shadow's self-titled debut album was released in 2014 through Djam Karet's label Firepool Records.

Complex, sophisticated progressive rock is the name of the game here, and as always from a product issued by Firepool Records, the mix and production are impeccable. Audiophiles can take note of this one straight away, those who prefer to buy high-quality items in terms of sound, mix and production should get this one playing on their high-end audio systems. Otherwise I'd suggest that fans of '80s King Crimson, Trey Gunn's various side projects and Djam Karet should take note of this album, as I'd hazard a guess that the greater majority of them will find this disc to be a rewarding and interesting experience.

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