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MARC CARLTON

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Marc Carlton biography
Marc CARLTON is a UK-based musician/composer, focusing on a unique brand of experimental instrumental music, mixing progressive rock, electronic and symphonic sounds to create highly involving and emotional experiences. Heavily influenced by the 70's progressive era, he cites primary inspiration from the work of KING CRIMSON, GENESIS, Mike OLDFIELD and YES, tempered by a love of ambient music by the likes of TANGERINE DREAM and Jean-Michel JARRE, and also modern Japanese game music by Nobuo UEMATSU and Yasunori MITSUDA. However, CARLTON's mournful instrumentals, often minimalist soundscapes, and truly unmistakable guitar sound make his work very much a new chapter in progressive music, attempting to capture the breadth and spirit of the 70s golden age in a modern, essential form.

His first work - 1998's "Passing Within Realtime" - mainly featured complex, extended acoustic guitar movements, piano, and synth in a gentle style comparable to the early work of Anthony PHILLIPS, "reflections on awakening, waiting, indecision, determination, corruption, and freedom". Slowly, CARLTON's singlehanded album production has evolved into more lush arrangements and a more electric sound, ultimately typified by 2004's mesmerising "Still", and "Reflex Arc" in 2005 - a sixteen-part continuous suite aiming to depict various states of direct experience.

An artist who, in the words written by Steve HACKETT that got him into GENESIS, seeks to "strive beyond existing stagnant music forms", Marc CARLTON's work will prove interesting for anyone who takes the time for music to speak to them, challenge them, and immerse them in a sonic journey through the mind.

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MARC CARLTON discography


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MARC CARLTON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Passing Within Realtime
1998
5.00 | 1 ratings
Voices Through Endless Walls
1999
3.92 | 3 ratings
An Ageless Sense
2002
3.20 | 3 ratings
Still
2004
3.97 | 10 ratings
Reflex Arc
2005
3.91 | 3 ratings
Bridge (with Kate Toft)
2006
3.50 | 2 ratings
Ovriah
2007
4.63 | 6 ratings
For Truth
2009
4.33 | 2 ratings
For Imagination
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
Degrees Of Freedom
2015
4.00 | 1 ratings
Winter Diary
2020

MARC CARLTON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MARC CARLTON Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MARC CARLTON Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Memories of The Far Tide
2010

MARC CARLTON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Retracing II
2020

MARC CARLTON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Winter Diary by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Winter Diary
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by The Rain Man
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars "Winter Diary" is the 10th album by multi-instrumentalist Marc Carlton. I say 10th album, but interestingly on his website this album comes under special projects rather than albums. The other special projects listed appear to be soundtracks but this album as he describes on the website as a mixture of old, re-recorded pieces and fresh new music. I personally would class it as an album which is why I've called it his 10th album because he has created something new here and with the new pieces it does bring about a different jigsaw.

Marc also describes this as his simplest works since "Voices through endless walls" which was his second album. Although I have the first 3 albums, I haven't given them a proper listen yet. Unlike his albums between, his 4th album "Still" right up until this album "Winter Diary" which came out last year where I have now reviewed all the albums from "Still" onwards. But anyway onto "Winter Diary". Why does Carlton describe this as simple? Well, if you have listened to Carlton's work over the years, he generally mixes between different instruments including guitars (acoustic and electric), mellotrons, piano, keyboards and even bongos. But in "Winter Diary" the star of the show and what the album is centred around is the acoustic guitar. You will find on most tracks he uses 2 acoustic guitars giving the pieces depth as they act as layers. That's not to say other instruments don't appear on the album as piano, mellotron and synthesiser do appear in places.

It might be synths that start off the album but I'm not 100% but I do know it's a wind type effect which flows through the first track really adding to the concept of the album which I imagine to be a cold winter's day with a cold breeze flowing through the air. It sets the tone and the imagery for the album well. This is also how the album finishes giving the album closure. One thing which amazes me about Carlton is his ability to change moods and feelings of a track using just an acoustic guitar. This can be within tracks and tracks 8, "Ask me" and particularly track 10 "The eyes of all ways" are prime examples of this. These tracks are good on face value, but I feel sometimes you can appreciate them even more if you just let your imagination run wild and really allow the music in and to make up your own story about the music.

Marc almost nudges you in the direction for this album of thinking about being out for a walk on a cold winters day and the elements being unpredictable and ever changing. For most of the album it is quite a pleasant walk and Marc does this by playing the acoustic guitar in a gentle plucking way giving you a warm feeling of the sun being out but going through the snow. But through the darker passages Marc uses more aggressive strumming which to me reflects the storms you are going through on the walk. I would say my favourite piece on the album is "Clay trees" really as you might have guessed it for the guitar work is particularly to my tastes. But I feel over the 11 tracks, having not listened to the original tracks were re- recorded for this album everything seems to fit together nicely.

I saw an interview recently with prog legend Steven Wilson who said he looks at his guitar now and thinks he has completed it and does not really know where else to go with it. Well Steven you should listen to "Winter Diary" and be well and truly amazed because this is a master class of what can be done with an acoustic guitar. Once again Carlton has shown just how talented he is, there is a few storms to navigate but what is the fun in everything being plain sailing. It keeps it interesting and is such a nice listen.

 Degrees Of Freedom by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2015
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Degrees Of Freedom
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by The Rain Man
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
5 stars "Degrees of Freedom" is the ninth studio album by Scottish based artist Marc Carlton. Released in 2015, "Degrees of Freedom" is the follow up to 2012s "For Imagination". That album I felt Marc was really pushing his own boundaries both in terms of length and complexity of the songs. While it is purely instrumental music Marc produces, it is difficult to pigeon whole Marc in a category or genre due to the range of instruments he uses on albums and the clear range of influences which can be found throughout his music.

I think "Degrees of Freedom" is a great name for this album and I love what Marc said on his website when describing the album - "this album is my attempt to have the best musical adventure possible on rails. Free to explore rhythm, melody and instrumentation, part of the approach was to break rules - particularly my own - and resist simplification." For me, this really sums up the album so well. For someone who had 8 albums out up to this point; many artists often go down the route of replicating formulas which have worked for them and proved successful. But Marc is not like that. He keeps pushing his own boundaries.

What I notice about this album compared to some of his previous works is that to me the tracks on the album feel more self-contained, rather than one longer piece broken into sections. There are still longer tracks on here with a couple sitting at around 11 minutes and one 10 minutes, but this is mixed in with shorter tracks too. Carlton continues to bounce between guitars and synths and often the tracks are multi-layered while others one instrument is more prominent. I think this where solo artists and particularly Marc has an advantage in terms of creativity over bands. In bands everyone wants a role in each song which I think can often limit creative output. I am not saying this is the case for all bands but for a lot. Whereas having a multi- instrumentalist like Marc there can be different focuses from different instruments on different tracks and there are no arguments with someone saying "I don't appear on half the album because my instrument is not involved"

I do like this album a lot. The journeys Marc takes you on, on each of his albums, is not only different each time but it is different to really what is out there now. When you think of bands doing instrumental albums out there now, there is the likes of Mogwai and Explosions in the sky. These bands, while great bands, they always seem to go for the quite/loud approach and try to create that wall of noise as I like to call it each time. It is like hikers wanting to climb the highest peak in their country each time. But the thing is you do not always need to climb that hill to find adventure and beauty. It can be a walk round a lake or through a forest. And for me that analogy reflects Marc's music the best, especially with this album. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way. In fact, when I listen to this, I often turn to my CD player and think to myself - this is amazing. Then I would listen further, and it would happen again. For example, the fantastic piano playing during track 6 "Neutral karma due to admin error" or the electric guitar parts in track 3 "Degrees of freedom". The album is littered with magical moments.

But there is one track on this album where I think Marc really has excelled himself and that really is saying a lot as I rate his music extremely highly and that is track 10 "Persmerga Finds Yurba". The rhythmic drumming combined with the electric guitar to start off with is bliss. The type of drumming Carlton is doing here is like nothing I have ever heard on an album by him before, I'm not sure exactly what type of drum it is, maybe bongos of some form. But you can see this is what he is talking about when he is giving himself that freedom to experiment and this is an explementary example of this. One in which he has pulled off with effortless ease. And that is just the start of the track. This is a 11-minute rollercoaster which after 5 minutes breakdown into a more electronic synth-based vibe, which then moves on to a section which has a dramatic organ like effect before returning to the milder synths to finish.

Overall, this really is an excellent album. In so many ways Marc has pushed himself and the results are there for your ears to hear. This is one of my favourites by him because I think there is just so much to it, it is always off going in different directions which keeps it interesting. He is continually experimenting with new sounds and instruments while his talent for using the instruments he has used previously still shines through.

 For Imagination by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.33 | 2 ratings

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For Imagination
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by The Rain Man
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "For Imagination" is the 8th album by prog, experimental, purely instrumental artist, Marc Carlton. This album was released back in 2012 and sees Carlton explore more musical avenues as he pushes the boundaries further in this compisition. Like his other records Carlton plays all instruments on this album as well as producing it.

The structure of this album is quite intriguing. It is essentially 3 long tracks. And when I say long, I mean long with track 1 "Cityscape" - 25 minutes, track 2 "Someniare Aude, Sapere Aude" - 20 minutes and track 3 "Outward" - 28 minutes. But within these tracks there are a lot of ideas going on and you can see why Carlton split them into different parts. As often within these tracks they go off in all sorts of directions. This stops repetition and keeps drawing the listener in. But at the same time the parts are connected within each track giving flow. Track 1 is 8 parts, track 2, 6 parts and track 3, 4 parts. So it could have been a 17 track album but that would ignore the fact that the different parts within each track flow into each other. Just talking about this makes me realise that for a lot of albums this isn't a talking point because it doesn't happen on the majority of albums I listen to. This is a testament to the amount of thought and time Carlton spends connecting all of the pieces of this amazing jigsaw together in such a long piece of music.

The heaviest point of the album comes in track 1 - "Cityscape" between part 5 - "Heavy metal poisoning (including Antidote)". This is appropriatley titled as it is the hard rock section of the album and sounds amazing. A real highlight for me. I wish it would last longer this part but perhaps the shortness of it makes it more special. Its quite an interesting transition between this part and the next bit of the track which is part 6 - "Trivia-blinded". As it goes from a heavy hard rock part to quite a tranquil melodic part. I almost see it like mountain biking on a ridge high up in the mountains and the transition representing the downhill to the more tranquil easy biking. The transition is like a steep downhill and you have to pump the brakes from making you go too fast and fall off. It does feel slightly out of control but you just about stay on the bike and are now into the relaxing easy cycling.

The 3rd track "Outward" sits at 28 minutes long and I think is the most adventurous track I have heard of Carlton's. At points you feel there is not a lot going on and it takes a while between ideas. There is no explosions of sound of anything that really leaps out I would say. The ideas and the flow of the track I would say are quite subtle. If you are the kind of person that gets frustrated when a bus is 10 minutes late I don't think you would like this as you need to be patient and have an attentive ear to appreciate it. While being long I wouldn't say you need to really take 20 listens to get it. I think even on first listen you can get to grips with it but as I say you do need to be patient. The first two tracks, "Cityscape" and "Someniare Aude, Sapere Aude" are quite contrasting to "Outward". There is a lot more going on in these tracks at all times as Carlton mixes between guitar and synths. The changes of direction happen quicker while still letting the ideas of each part flourish. "Outward" on the other hand is more synth based and is like one long, dreamy, atmospheric outro.

Overall this is not an album you will be blasting full volume in your car or even generally if you are out and about. I think it really requires you to be somewhere with no other interferring sounds when playing this. That way you can fully discover the complexity and it will allow you to be taken on a journey that you can full appreciate this way.

There is a blurb in the inside sleave of the CD of this album with the last sentence saying "While the process of truth is the authority I live by, it is imagination that I live for". This really does sum up what Carlton is about. The way he keeps stretching himself and comes up with new ideas. Everyone has an imagination but few use it and implement the ideas in a way that Carlton does. And that is what makes "For Imagination" so special.

 Voices Through Endless Walls by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 1999
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Voices Through Endless Walls
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by simbelmyne

— First review of this album —
5 stars In the 20 years since Voices Through Endless Walls, Marc Carlton's work has grown more technologically accomplished, and listeners to more recent offerings will be familiar with a very different sound, and a more lush and varied instrumentation. This is far more stripped back, you will hear more extended acoustic guitar parts, you WILL hear tape hiss.

However, going back two decades is far from a disappointment - the comparison actually makes the raw ambition of this early work all the more clear.

The album has an unforgiving but rewarding format of four twenty-plus minute pieces, each of which is a longform reflection, offering space to explore something intensely personal, idiosyncratic and yet powerfully relatable. Each piece is allowed to breathe and develop and the result is something both varied in scope and richly detailed.

'Our Cries Made Clear' is by far the most accessible track on the album, and right from my first listen the best part of two decades ago it was a key that helped me to see the thinking behind Carlton's music. More than that, it opened my eyes to just how much instrumental music can actually say. Opening with an organ sound that builds and layers until it is replaced by introspective piano and guitar, each new part builds on the ideas of the last and the pacing feels gentle and natural, clearly telling a story. The main guitar theme starting from eight minutes in sets out its initially tentative thesis, an idea that is then nurtured, growing in enthusiasm and joy until something seems to go awry. This is responded to by a slightly manic, increasingly frantic distorted guitar, leaving a real gut punch when it eventually breaks down. It is a journey through inspiration, hope, attempted understanding and grief. Through this Carlton explores what it is to be a mind in contact with an external world that can't always understand you, with all the risks, joys and disappointments this entails. The hairs still stand up on the back of my neck every time I hear the percussion come in, grounding and cocooning the return of the now familiar main guitar theme as it reasserts and consolidates itself, indeed making its cry clear in the most touching way. The rest of the track is recovery, strengthening. We can take joy in what we are, even if this is not shared by others.

The opening of 'The Fragile Shade' in comparison feels more atmospheric than narrative. Carlton creates a haunting aural landscape of guitars that feels like a peaceful but unstable reprieve after the tribulations of 'Our Cries...' and takes his time developing it. Ideas form and come together in the interplay of guitar sounds but swim in and out of focus like turning a kaleidoscope and in these shifting sands Carlton seems to be saying that solace isn't always restful or easy. When one idea does eventually take centre stage just before nine minutes it is sad and beautiful before shifting into a calm meditation on itself in the last five minutes, a story told by intricate acoustic guitar rising and falling, at times with the regularity of breath but always developing and changing.

And then... 'Tree of Poisons'. Oh man. This is an abrupt shift, with everything from the very first note heralding the sheer dread that is to come. Do you want to hear the soundtrack to an anxiety attack? You can't go far wrong with this. The opening section is very disorienting, with hazy, distorted guitar, bits of weird synths that sound like they're backwards, and loads of discordant abstract stuff going on. After four minutes the chaos abruptly stops - for a while - to be replaced with very orderly and minimal guitar, a contrast which only adds to the tension, like being frozen in a moment of dread. It gradually becomes softer and more mournful but reasserts itself several more times before being subsumed. It's hard to adequately describe the sheer power and character of the swirling wall of distorted sounds in the middle section. It's pure focused dread and self doubt and horror that chews you up and shreds your soul. It's definitely a taste that takes a while to acquire, think Fripp's Gates of Paradise. Took me the longest time to feel the love for this one but now I feel it deeply and it has firmly become one of the highlights of the album for me. Eventually the chaos does calm, and there is a more traditionally melodic section of recovery, though right at the end that swirl of distortion starts to rise again, as if to signal that this is one battle that's never really over.

'Resonance' starts with a guitar melody that quickly gathers pace and confidence, interspersing moments of joy with moments of reflection. There is a real sense of motion with the music signalling its own breakdown before recovering over and over. Carlton deftly reminds us that such motion brings both the development of new ideas, and inevitably, reflection and loss. Later, an intricate and discomforting piano section builds the sense of halting motion and reflection with alternating speed and silence, and sound allowed to build up then rapidly curtailed. Like reaching out for something but never quite touching it, it speaks of the never ending tension of restraint and freedom and as a result is tinged with sadness. Before you know it, the final guitar section wraps up the track and the album and the almost 90 minute journey is over.

Throughout Voices Through Endless Walls, Carlton stretched the tools he had to take us on four very different musical explorations. By turns delicately thoughtful, moving and downright intense, what shines through each of the four corners of the album is the intricacy and intimacy with which Carlton explores all of his ideas. This sense is palpable and it doesn't let you go, asking you to listen again, to ponder more. After years and years of listening Voices is still unfolding itself to me and that speaks to how much of value is in here and how much it deserves to be heard.

 For Imagination by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.33 | 2 ratings

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For Imagination
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by simbelmyne

5 stars 'For Imagination' is by far Marc Carlton's most abstract work. There are three tracks, all over 20 mins long, each split into subsections for which we are not given the time references. Combine this with progressively more 'far-out' themes and instrumentation over the course of the album and you begin to understand the demands this work places on the listener. Each track is a reflection on imagination and the inner life in a different dimension, with only the smallest crumbs of guidance given along the way. Here's what I've come to think over the past 4+ years...

The theme that draws together the first track, 'Cityscape', is imagination in the context of our everyday lives. Is the inner life of the mind compatible with our existence in a world that can often seek to distract us from it? This is seen in the sense of juxtaposition throughout the track, the interplay between synths and guitars an early example of this as a tight synthesiser rhythm sounds clean and sharp in contrast to the grungy electric guitar that meanders around it. The central question is also examined in another way. The track is peppered throughout with the sounds of human habitation: drills; traffic; chatter; to which the music then 'reacts' in various ways. This is the story of one mind's journey through the crowd, trying to come to terms with the reality and absurdity of other minds and of one's separateness from them.

At about 7:00, jarring, industrial sounding percussive clanks and bass notes create an uneasy rhythm, always shifting and unpredictable. Out of this grows something that touches the ethereal: the slow rise of the synthesiser here at once eerie and beautiful, it doesn't take over from the earlier rhythm but instead sits alongside it, transmuting it, like trespassing into something ancient and mysterious.

Something that must be mentioned is that after another brief quiet around 10:30, the sound of drills and building work unpleasantly cut through, heralding a brief heavy metal pastiche(!) It's bittersweet comic relief, as just as it gets going it abruptly breaks down to a commentary from the background of 'Argh!' Is it a comment on the kind of music we 'expect' to grow out of a bit of industrial drilling, as a failure of imagination? Or a reflection that not every fleeting idea that comes to mind can be successfully realised? I can't say, but I can tell you this is Carlton as his most obviously playful and tongue in cheek, and well worth longer consideration than the quick laugh of the comedy itself.

Around 13:00 chatter in the background and 'lounge music'-esque electric guitar evoke maybe a restaurant scene. The guitar becomes more and more meandering and then falls away, as if it can't maintain the melody it began. The section that follows and seems to be in opposition to this is fabulous, the guitar solo resolute and full of energy. Drums and harpsichord come in and refocus, reaffirm the theme. It carries you away with it until all of a sudden around the 18 minute mark it abruptly stops, leaving you with the sound of traffic and footsteps, and coming back to earth with a bump.

After this a sombre synth reflects as if trying to reconcile the two worlds. One note repeats, buzzy and insistent in the mix, reminiscent of a heartbeat or maybe the ringing of a telephone. Around it an eerie melody unfolds, interspersed with the occasional jarring piano notes to add to the tension and dread. When this resolves into rain and four last bells it is with a mixture of relief and trepidation. This serves to enhance the joy of the final section, the synth here dancing around the bass notes which gradually take over to tell a story of their own, grounding and accepting. The track does not end but rather fades out, signalling no ultimate conclusion or final twist but rather the continuation of the intercourse between the two things, imagination and reality. Carlton's liner notes indicate that although he views the separation of imagination from reality as important, "it is possible to live in both of these worlds simultaneously and without overlap." I think that is the idea at play here.

The second track, 'Somniare Aude, Sapere Aude' makes me think of imagination in its purest form, the unrestricted world of our dreams, not only from the title but also because the opening section reminds me so much of a lullaby. Perhaps in contrast to the previous track, the acoustic guitar and strings are so gentle and uncontested the sound is like the purest flight of unlimited fancy. The piano and pensively strummed guitar section at around 3 minutes in is reminiscent of Carlton's earlier album, 'Reflex Arc', and this is a comparison that recurs throughout the track, both in the instrumentation and in the way that one melody shifts dreamlike into the next. Brief moments of darkness, first introduced around the 9 minute mark, come not from external forces like in 'Cityscape' but instead organically unfold, signalling the power of imagination and the mind to take us to places of doubt and hesitation as easily as to those of wonder, and recalls the non-linear and surprising narratives of our dreams. Although the track is mostly gentle in tone there is plenty of energy within it, as can be seen around 13:38 when the drums come in and start a section full of motion and excitement. At first dreamy strings and piano take a back seat to the drums but increasingly begin to carry the story themselves. Later, there is a great back-and-forth between distorted guitar and the more gentle melody, with the latter then echoed by faint synths at 16:50 in a way that will put the hairs on the back of your neck on end. There is a real sense of synthesis between the more gentle sounds and the distorted elements, although they structurally seem to be in opposition they end up complementing each other, as if to say: our minds contain multitudes, but there is no real contradiction, they are all us. For me the final few incongruous notes once again recall a lullaby or child's musical box, pulling the various threads of the piece together.

After that we are straight into 'Outward' which is certainly the most unfamiliar territory for previous listeners of Carlton's work, or indeed previous listeners of music in general. A piece that owes a lot to both to Tangerine Dream at their most abstract and Robert Fripp's Soundscapes series, it certainly challenges the listener to look at it closely, and to keep doing so for almost half an hour! Here, spacey echoey synths evoke both a sense of vastness and a sci-fi feel, in a way that recalls the album's cover art. Like Soundscapes, it feels structureless at first but then shapes begin to appear in the rising and falling of the sound. This fades to one growly, deep note, growing gradually louder. Around it other sounds come and go, like huge unknown objects passing in the dark. The sounds change in pitch in a way that sounds like sirens or the calling of unknown creatures. (I may have been watching too much Star Trek: TNG but it makes me think of the season three episode, Tin Man). The sound is so alien and abstract that I can only describe it in such oblique ways. It's fascinating that in such a vacuum the ear eagerly grabs onto the first signs of what could become anything like a melody, so when the new synths grow out of the void at 6:49 they seem to carry all the more weight, asking us to reflect on what we've heard. There's something like a sadness to it, a loneliness, but it's calm - wise.

Around 11:40 this fades with a boom and once again we are left with quiet except for a rhythmic, repetitive sound that almost seems to be beeping, like a beacon emitting its signal into nothingness, over and over. More synths growing - impossibly slowly - louder, like the approach of something. A thrumming like engines. It's amazing what the brain projects onto something so minimal. I have a whole story worked out of a journey through space, approaching a new planet as, so gradually, the sounds become warmer and more familiar again (eventually there are drums and even guitar!) but I'm aware it is just that, projection. But that's exactly 'Outward''s fascination - it makes you examine that, what you bring of yourself to the music, the power of the listener's imagination. It's not just for the artists, it's for all of us.

If you haven't heard any of Carlton's work, I wouldn't start here. But I wouldn't miss it out either. For Imagination is unapologetic for what it is, which is music at its most serious, inviting and important. It toys with the role of listener, it makes no effort to ease the journey. But it's also brimming with reward for that effort. It's the essential nature of prog, pared back and unmitigated. I can't recommend it enough.

 For Truth by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.63 | 6 ratings

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For Truth
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by simbelmyne

5 stars As other reviewers have mentioned, this is an album of many layers and much to demand of the listener. Although at first glance the set of sounds present makes it superficially similar to the previous couple of albums, in terms of density 'For Truth' is a very different beast, sharing more with Carlton's early work. There is so much going on in this album that it's taken me a long time to fully feel at ease with it. Despite this, the investment is well worth it- with moments here standing among Carlton's finest and most mature.

The title track introduces the album slowly, synths gradually building a reflective atmosphere which the lead guitar decisively cuts through at 3:40 and by the 5 minute mark has an energetic and fresh sound which reminds me somehow of the first track on 'Reflex Arc'. Guitar dances deftly around piano on this track in a scene-setting or laying out of principles for the album to come. At 9:25 particularly, a burst of distorted guitar adds passion and drive to the previously cerebral piano, which could showcase the relevance and intertwining of Carlton's liner note philosophy snippets into everyday life.

'One Possible Dream', a feat of primarily acoustic genius at nearly 12 minutes, starts at pace and sounds quite busy with close layers of different guitars. Rising and falling, in full flow and then suddenly hesitant, this is an exquisitely crafted piece that effortlessly sweeps you along in its story throughout. There's lots here that is reminiscent of Carlton's earlier album 'An Ageless Sense' and a favourite moment for me are the high notes in the first half of the seventh minute - the epitome of bittersweet.

In contrast, the opening strings of 'Ghosts Where Once We Hid' lie thick and heavy on the soul before the atmosphere brightens to make room for sparse guitar to tell its story from 2:15. Another exercise in bittersweet reflection, but one that seems to somehow resolve itself after 5:20, with the remainder of the track very different. It reminds me vaguely of a child's music box being reheard and remembered fondly as an adult- a nostalgia of sorts, but not a regretful one.

'Intersection Minor' is an obvious pair to the later 'Intersection Major'- both of which successfully help to break up an album otherwise made up of lengthy tracks. Unlike the latter, here the guitar is pensive and incredibly sad, at points seeming to sink into a hopeless and ruminating despair. Continuing this theme, 'Caught in the Fourth Wall' has a fantastic Silent Hill feeling to it, atmospheric and full of odd percussive elements; it is like being frozen in the dread and horror of absurdity, feeling half in and half out of touch with the world. The tension here is broken when its grumblings of discontent and alienation are given voice, made explicit by the entrance of the lead guitar at 4:38. Quite an unusual sounding track, and a personal favourite.

The following track, 'Mindfire', is a tricky one and can seem ass-backwards at first: almost as if it starts with a conclusion; a confident guitar exhausting and replenishing itself before dealing with breakdown and murmuring doubt in the middle section, resolving itself with a burble of building guitars before bursting out and surprising you with a reiteration of its main theme. One of the hardest tracks to get my head around but one which in turn I still feel has more to reveal to me yet after two years of listening.

'Return from Fading Landscapes', a turbulent and beautiful piece, starts with a plaintive buzzing like a siren call to memory. It's a track of contrasts as sparse and weighty keyboard work is interrupted abruptly by the guitar and percussion at 3:30, warming and brightening the whole thing. Full of fragility and gravity throughout, the strings at 5:13 add intensity before a breakdown at 6:04 which leaves keyboards echoing into nothingness. The piercing re-entry of the guitar at 6:50 is a peak of poignancy leaving the rest of the track pondering and consolidating its resolution.

The warm acoustic notes of 'Intersection Major' are welcome to the ear at this point, a pastoral and folksy piece with a more traditional structure that is executed with confidence. The following 'Reason or Die' concludes the album with a flourish, the brooding momentum of its percussion and strains of electric guitar reaching a crescendo in its 6th minute before leaving dreamy, pondering synths to end the album as they began it.

A few reviewers of Carlton's previous albums have labelled them 'relaxation' music, a judgement I have always felt to be short-sighted, but I particularly defy the reader to listen to this offering and say the same thing. If you believe that then you are simply not listening. This is extremely cerebral music absolutely packed full of stuff to ponder. If you want relaxation have a cup of tea and listen to whale song or something. If, however, what you want is brain food from a skilled and dedicated solo artist, you can't go far wrong with this.

 Bridge (with Kate Toft) by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.91 | 3 ratings

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Bridge (with Kate Toft)
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Fourth bridge? Fifth really!

Marc Carlton is exclusively a solo writer and performer. All his releases to date have been instrumental albums on which he has been composer, musician, producer and technician. In 2006 however, he collaborated on this album with his partner Kate Toft under the name Bridge. This album thus sits between Carlton's "Still" and "Ofriah" releases. Uniquely for this album in addition to his guitar and keyboards contributions, Carlton also sings. The lyrics however come from Toft's poetry throughout. Toft is highly talented in her own right, being a poet, singer and multi-instrumentalist.

In terms of the musical content, it would be easy to simply describe it as a Marc Carlton album with vocals, for that is essentially what it is. The vocals do though make a big difference in terms of accessibility and perhaps commercial appeal. Listening to the opening "Origin", Carlton's voice is reminiscent of Mike Hugg or Mike Batt, being atmospheric rather than operatic. This shorter introductory track is largely reflective, with symphonic string synth backing the main vocal.

"Theatre rain" sees us gently drifting in to a more upbeat light instrumental with musical box type keyboards. This serves as an introduction to the longest track on the album, the 10+ minute "Wave to me". Here we come upon the delicate tones of Kate Toft's vocals for the first time. Her voice is similar in tone to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins, the sparse arrangement here placing her vocals well to the fore. The track has something of a folk feel to it, with acoustic guitar dominating instrumentally.

"Impasse" returns us to the ambient instrumental moods which prevail in much of Carlton's work, synth being the main instrument of choice. The track segues seamlessly into "No time", where Toft returns with a more orthodox melodic song. This 7 minute piece gradually builds and develops throughout, while retaining a largely straightforward melody.

At about 9 minutes, "Colour" is the second of the feature tracks on the album. Initially, this piece is one of Marc's most abstract numbers, with Floydian lead guitar played over waves of ambient sound. "Alliances" is a stripped back solo piece by Carlton, featuring only his dulcet tones and acoustic guitar. The song is Tim Buckley like in its inherent simplicity.

Marc moves to piano for the barely audible fragility that is "Spent", a beautifully reflective solo. The song "My last breath" comes from Marc's "Far tide" project, the acoustic version here consisting simply of acoustic guitar plus vocals by Kate Toft. The album concludes with the brief "Kokoromachi", a further acoustic piece with soft vocalising by Toft.

While this may not strictly speaking be a part of Marc Carlton's solo discography, "Bridge" is an important component of his output. Here he offers a unique opportunity to enjoy his music complemented by vocals. Those vocal are far from intrusive, and the album remains largely instrumental. Those who have discovered Carlton's albums such as "Still" and "Reflex arc" will also find this album rewarding.

 For Truth by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.63 | 6 ratings

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For Truth
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Not grandiloquent at all

"For truth" is Marc Carlton's latest album at time of writing, although he has recently completed work on "The far tide", a computer game related project. Released in 2009, this is is first full length album since "Reflex arc" in 2005, the interim "Ovriah" being a mini- album of material mostly written some years previously.

As with all his releases, Carlton writes, arranges and performs all the music himself. The theme of the album is a lamenting of the way genuine "truth" has been lost in a world of "subjective" truth, or as Carlton enigmatically puts it "rendered grandiloquent by postmodernist scorn".

This time around the tracks which make up the album are self contained pieces, with no attempt being made to link them together to form a whole. Thus we begin with the relatively lively 12 minute title track, which sees Carlton arguably at his most ambitious, then move directly into an equally long solo acoustic guitar rendition entitled "One Possible Dream". The latter resembles some of the more relaxed works of Steve Hackett or Anthony Phillips, the track as a whole displaying Carlton's admirable guitar virtuosity.

"Ghosts Where Once We Hid" is a fine arrangement of symphonic string synthesiser and acoustic guitar, similar to Vivaldi's "Guitar concerto" as adapted by Continuum and also Steve Howe. "Intersection Minor" is the first of a couple of brief interlude pieces, Steve Hackett's influence once again being apparent on this "Blood on the rooftops" like acoustic guitar rendition.

"Caught In The Fourth Wall" has a rather spacey atmosphere to begin with, before moving into perhaps the heaviest territory Carlton has ever allowed himself to stray into. There is a rather doomy undercurrent to the music here which belies any notion that Marc does not have ambitions beyond the pleasant and relaxing. Things brighten up again with "Mindfire", where melodic guitar is backed by symphonic strings.

"Return From Fading Landscapes" is the final track to breach 10 minutes (the album runs to over 70 minutes in total). Here we have an odd blend of the light and the dark, with melodic twinkling being counterpointed by some decidedly darker moods. Carlton's lead guitar work is the high point here.

The second of the interlude pieces is naturally called "Intersection Major" this "Horizons" like track running to under 2 minutes. The closing "Reason Or Die" draws together the moods and sounds of the album in a single, beautifully crafted piece. Chorale and string keyboards blend with some fine lead guitar and surprisingly intrusive percussion to create a track which is more demanding of the listener than the bulk of Carlton's work.

In all, "For truth" stands as Marc Carlton's most accomplished work to date. Here, he displays a confidence in both the technology he uses and his own talents, allowing him to explore more challenging territories than hitherto. The tenets which have serve him well on previous albums are still reassuringly in evidence, but here he uses those values as a foundation from which he builds something truly inspired.

 Ovriah by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.50 | 2 ratings

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Ovriah
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Portrait of a man

In a fascinating, exclusive interview for this site in 2007 (see the Interviews section of the forum), Marc Carlton provides some interesting background to this album. "Ovriah" was one of the first pieces of music Marc ever wrote, but at the time he felt he did not have the skills or equipment to do the piece justice as a recording. An early acoustic version appeared as "Ovriah II", a track on Carlton's first album, but it took another 8 years for things to go any further. When he decided the time was right to commit the music to tape, the recordings were reasonably straightforward, helped in no small part by Marc's long time familiarity with the music.

When asked about the relatively short length of the album (a shade under 40 minutes), Marc says that he sees it as an EP or mini-album. Admirably, he says he resisted the urge to pad the album out simply to fill the space available on a CD. The music is intended as a "symphonic portrait" of someone called "Ovriah", in seven parts. "Ovriah" was a character in a book Carlton was writing in the mid-late 1990's.

The music here is closer to that which appeared on "Still" than on "Reflex arc", being generally more ambient and unhurried. Soft sound based colours dominate the early tracks, with waves of pleasant noise being preferred to discernible melodies. As the third section "Ovriah's Distance" develops, electric and acoustic guitars move us towards a more defined musical structure. This development is sustained on the following "Triumvirate", where harsh rock based lead guitar suddenly sends us in a completely unexpected direction. As such, this section represents the musical crescendo of the piece, a sort of apex if you will, after which we are gradually returned from whence we started.

Marc's affection for the music of Mike Oldfield becomes obvious on "Tabula Rasa", a more orthodox gentle rock section featuring lead guitar. Some fine piano rounds things off nicely on the closing "Who Sleeps In Throne Eternal".

In all, a highly enjoyable album of moods. There is little here by way of excitement (other than on "Triumvirate"), this most definitely is music to unwind to.

 Reflex Arc by CARLTON, MARC album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.97 | 10 ratings

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Reflex Arc
Marc Carlton Crossover Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Contains some fine numbers

Released in 2005, a year after "Still", "Reflex arc" may perhaps be labelled as an abstract concept album. This is the only album to date not released by Marc through his own label, "Reflex arc" being distributed by Musea Records. The track titles give no hint as to the themes which link the tracks, as they simply restate the track numbers in narrative form from "One to "Sixteen".

According to Carlton, "this project carries the multifaceted theme of human responses; some unconscious, some we are aware of, but all of which make up who we are." The relative brevity of most of the tracks confirms that the album is intended to be heard as a complete piece, similar to many of the works of Carlton's inspiration Mike Oldfield. As with the work ethic of Oldfield, Marc once again plays all the instruments here, the emphasis being on guitars and keyboards.

Right from the opening track, ("One"!) it is apparent that Marc is seeking to distance himself from the new age nuances which were a feature of previous albums. Here, improvisation plays a much greater part, at least in the compositional phase. The sounds and themes are far more varied this time, with little in the way of overt repetition.

Highlights include "Three", where choral keyboard effects and melodic guitars combine in a beautiful cacophony of sound, and "Six" which sounds like it could have been lifted from Oldfield's "The songs of distant earth", the lead guitar here being particularity effective. The album is brought to the perfect conclusion with the ethereal "sixteen".

Overall, while this album has obvious structural similarities to the work of Mike Oldfield, I actually find it reminds me more of some of Anthony Phillips best works such as "Slow dance". The music here is that of a talented composer who is able to work within his own strict quality controls to create an album of great beauty and imagination. Recommended.

Thanks to Garion81 for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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