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THE LENS

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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The Lens biography
To find the roots of a "modest" band called THE LENS, we have to go back to 1976, when guitarist Mike Holmes, Peter Nicholls (vocals) and Niall Hayden (drums) met when according to the urban myth, searching for a GENESIS ticket, so they decide to form a band called THE GILN almost out of nothing.

They soon recruit bass player Rob Thompson and keyboardist Peter Blackler and changed the name to THE LENS. They start to play in small venues. Really this was an amateur attempt, to the point that Niall Hayden often was replaced by Brian Marshall, or when the two were together, both played, something similar happened with Peter Nichol's position.

The first revolution starts when Thompson and Blackler leave and the excellent keyboardist Martin Orford joins the band, his first appearance with THE LENS was the last one with two drummers, because Niall quitted after a show in Nettley Abbey.

After some changes, in 1978 the band turns into a four piece, but despite the problems and constant changes they kept growing, until 1981 came and THE LENS vanished, but...........IQ took it's place, the rest is history for anybody who knows a bit of Neo Prog.

Their only release is a compilation album of old material that was released by GEP Limited in 2001. Good material for fans of IQ who want to dig in the past and for those interested in solid Neo Prog with clear MARILLION influences.

Iván Melgar Morey

The Lens official website

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Word in Your EyeWord in Your Eye
Import
Inside Out Germany 2004
Audio CD$14.17
$13.98 (used)
RegenerationRegeneration
Import
Indie Europe/Zoom 2010
Audio CD$13.13
$17.17 (used)
Lens / Dusk Till DawnLens / Dusk Till Dawn
Coldharbour Recordings
Vinyl$8.02
$8.01 (used)
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THE LENS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE LENS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.65 | 53 ratings
A Word In Your Eye
2001
3.74 | 104 ratings
Regeneration
2010

THE LENS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE LENS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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THE LENS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 A Word In Your Eye  by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.65 | 53 ratings

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A Word In Your Eye
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars This album has been a long time coming, over twenty years in fact. The Lens was the band where Mike Holmes and Martin Orford (and sometimes Peter Nicholls) first played together. Mike formed the band in 1976, with Martin joining in 1977. The band never recorded and broke up in 1981, with Mike and Martin forming a new band, called IQ.

Many IQ fans, myself included, have wondered what The Lens sounded like, as I was down in Devon when they were playing in London so never had the opportunity to hear them. This album is an attempt to put things right, although this is a new version with Mike providing all of the bass as well as guitar, Martin keyboards flute and the few vocals, and they are joined by Paul Cook on drums, with Tony Wright also providing the odd sax. Given that three of them are full-time members of IQ, and the other is often a guest for IQ, it is no surprise that at times they sound fairly similar. What must be remembered though is that IQ grew out of The Lens, not the other way around.

"Choosing A Farmer" is my particular fave, with some great guitar and interplay between the main protagonists while Cooky shows what a superb drummer he is. The album is mostly instrumental, although Martin does sing on "Childhood's End". This is an album that will be a huge hit with all IQ fans, but will appeal to all those who enjoy progressive rock. The songs all have purpose and although instrumental do not just meander through without meaning. A short history is provided in the booklet, and this is a release worth getting.

Originally appeared in Feedback #66, Feb 02

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 Regeneration by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.74 | 104 ratings

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Regeneration
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars With Martin Orford retired from music, it was left to Mike Holms to resurrect the occasional Lens project on his own. This time around, Mike attempts an interesting experiment - rather than crank out another album of old Lens material from the pre-IQ days (the best of which had already been perfectly adequately handled on A Word In Your Eye), he'd do a little thought experiment and present an album of the sort of music he thought The Lens might have ended up producing in a parallel universe where they had stayed together and kept playing to the festival circuit rather than transforming into IQ and getting involved in the nascent neo-prog scene.

His conclusion is that thanks to exposure to acts like Ozric Tentacles, Steve Hillage, and the nascent rave culture, The Lens would end up drawing much more on spacey dance music than previously. (Don't worry, it's proggy dance music - think Porcupine Tree's material on Voyage 34.) With gorgeous neo-prog guitar Holmes still in the mix, the end result is an intriguing mix of neo-prog, space rock, and spacey trance. It's a lovely parallel universe to visit - but owing to the lack of IQ, I wouldn't want to live there.

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 Regeneration by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.74 | 104 ratings

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Regeneration
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Slowdown

IQ side-project The Lens returns with a second album, nearly ten years after their first one. I reviewed their 2001 debut album (and gave it 2 stars) a couple of years ago, but frankly I don't remember anything about it! Hence, I cannot say with much confidence that this second album is really better. I strongly doubt that I will remember anything about this album either another couple of years down the line.

The Lens produces somewhat meditative and "spacy" instrumental music with influences from Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Camel (in their softest and spaciest moments), Vangelis and the like. There is a little bit of Progressive Electronic, a little bit of New-Age, a little bit of Psychedelic/Space Rock, some jazzy touches. Needless to add, it has nothing at all to do with the Neo-Prog of IQ. All in all Regeneration is rather understated and while pleasant on the ear it is not music for active listening.

A decent album of its kind, but not really my cup of tea I'm afraid

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 Regeneration by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.74 | 104 ratings

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Regeneration
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak

4 stars An excellent production of songs each exemplifying the style(s) and sound(s) of some of the most influential synthesizer-oriented progressive rock bands from the 70s: Pink Floyd/Hawkwind/Eloy, Camel/Genesis, Vangelis/Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre. I love the way that several songs contain or are initiated/ended with sampled voices from some of the most influential Sci-Fi movies of the same period (e.g. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner). While not a trend setter and heavily steeped in simple and repetitive riffs, the music succeeds in capturing a different strain of 'classic' prog than is being done typically today--the spacey, synthesizer-driven musics. Well done, M. Holmes. A very engaging and enjoyable album.

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 A Word In Your Eye  by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.65 | 53 ratings

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A Word In Your Eye
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Lens were Michael Holmes and Martin Orford's pre-IQ band, who managed to create a fairly well-received demo album (No TV Tonite) before breaking up - with Orford and Holmes forming the nucleus of what would become IQ. Like IQ's Seven Stories Into 98 was a more or less loyal rerecording of the Seven Stories Into Eight demo tape, A Word In Your Eye is a fresh recording of the old Lens material, with IQ's Paul Cook guesting on drums.

It's quite apparent listening to this that the Lens' style was more or less in keeping with the other major forces in the primal days of the early neo-prog scene. As with Arrive Alive by Pallas and Live At the Target by Twelfth Night, there's a diverse range of influences at play here, firmly busting the myth that neo-prog arose out of unabashed Genesis worship. Like Pallas at the time, I hear a bit of Rush (in particular, echoes of the gentler parts of the Farewell to Kings album); like Twelfth Night, I detect a little influence from Steve Hackett's Spectral Mornings and Defector albums, and like the early material from both the other bands, I get a touch of Eloy- esque space rock here and there. On top of that, the band include a fusion influence or two in Childhood's End, which includes a neat guest appearance by Tony Wright on saxophone.

IQ fans will be eager to pick this one up to see the roots of the band, whilst I would say that most fans of early neo-prog will be well served by this release - as well as anyone fond of late- 1970s and early 1980s released by the likes of Eloy, Rush, Steve Hackett, and other artists who managed to bridge the end of the golden age and the start of the 1980s with their progressive spirit intact.

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 Regeneration by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.74 | 104 ratings

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Regeneration
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars There are times when one can get solid evidence about the amazing talents that lurk out there unknown and underrated, just begging to be acknowledged. IQ's Mike Holmes has never won any prog guitarist poll and probably never will. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the Lens' debut album released in 2001 but containing decade old material that frankly even instrumentally surpassed some recent IQ stuff. So I was greedy getting my hands on this one , allegedly containing all new material and the wait was well worth it , the overall mood is tremendous right from the Floydian sax of the opener (Man, is sax really sensuous or what!!!) "Choosing a Farmer Part 4", a mesmerizing aquatic soundscape that exhilarates on a plethora of levels (sonically stupendous, attractively mellow yet powerful and highly evocative) . The pedal is kept firmly pushed on the breezy follow up, a synth romp of the finest ilk, expertly propelled by former IQ drumster Paul Cook (never knew he was that technical!). Yes, there are strong hints of Genesis (Hackett in particular) and Floyd as well as a slight Hawkwind vibe (the booklet rightly mentions that illustrious space rock band and its huge influence on music). Case in point , the heroic "Dreams" clocks in at 10 minutes + and provides one hell of a joyride that would make Captain Dave Brock drool with envy , a blastoff loaded with unremitting booster rocket drums , propelled by some adamant bass and wobbly synths, all fueled by some massive mellotron bursts , I mean, ?.WOW! Nice floating synthesizer passage straight from the classic German school of electronica and you see what I mean. Frankly, stupendous! Whispered accented words ("Follow Me") combine with luminous sequenced slivers of sonic genius that all lead back into a bruising Hawk soundfest maelstrom. A classic for all times. "Sequential" is exactly that, a continuation of the same theme but in a slightly gentler vein, where bubbling synth patterns and waves of 'tron coalesce in sublime harmony, a trance delight. "Full of Stars" reverts to the cosmic journey, a kaleidoscope of sounds and effects that inspire and illuminate the spirit, neither boring nor even clichéd, a pulsating rhythmic feast that is accomplished by a clear sense of melody and not just banal atmosphere, Holmes letting his axe fly and soar majestically liberally peppering the universe and then infusing some stellar rough organ and slithering electronic swirls to the mix. The short but delicious "A Little Robot Juice" retains lush rhythmic mechanics, swerving synths scouring the melodic horizon, preparing the groundwork for a gentle electric guitar foray that rekindles the bygone Hackett spirit but in a more obscure fashion. Simply delightful! "Slowdown" lays down, like the title clearly implies, a serene atmosphere where vocals are in the listener's mind, a seasoned expanse from a quality musician whose reputation remains highly underrated, a seriously talented multi-instrumentalist, producer and overall prog guru.

Easily one of the finest instrumental prog albums in my rather massive collection. One I intend to regenerate often.....Bravo! 5 High Intelligence Novas

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 Regeneration by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.74 | 104 ratings

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Regeneration
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by idlero

3 stars Second release by a band which according to PA biography released one album and vanished.. All the music was written by IQ guitarist Mike Holmes and was recorded with a little help from his friends Niall Hayden and Paul Cook on drums, and saxophonist Tony Wright.Although all the music was written by Mike Holmes you won't hear too much guitar solos here. The music is an eclectic collection of Pink Floyd, rock, ambient, electronic, dance and whatever...One hour of good instrumental music(there are occasional voices a la Pink Floyd ), in eight tracks from which only one is shorter than 3 minutes. Some might like it (most probably IQ fans) , some might not. In my opinion it lacks a central idea and the current place(62) in PA 2010 top is much too high in a year with so many good releases.. 3.5 stars rounded to 3 stars for a decent album.

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 Regeneration by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.74 | 104 ratings

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Regeneration
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by robbob

4 stars Well I got my I-copy of this very original work and i am sure I will buy the original and so I will delete this one.

Very original work .Its name tell us this is a Regeneration of works of the most famous bands of prog.

In this album The Lens honour the best prog rock bands...so this work is not in the line of the first one: a very good neo prog rock album in the line of IQ.

This one is not neo prog is eclectic prog.

¿Why?

Because here we can listen to a mix of very good symphonic prog and electronic prog mainly.

First song inspired by Pink Floyd...second by Camel and Genesis...then by Amarok s Mike Oldfield...then...Tangerine Dream and JM Jarre inspired music...etc...

So if all those band join to write an album it would be like this one.

4 stars mainly because we listen to good songs and for the very original concept of Regenerate old prog bands music.

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 A Word In Your Eye  by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.65 | 53 ratings

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A Word In Your Eye
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Low IQ

The Lens is a band that consist of some members of IQ; Martin Orford, Michael Holmes and Paul Cook. The roots of the band apparently go all the way back to the mid 70's, even if this, their sole album, A Word In Your Eye, was released in 2001. The Lens is thus both a pre-IQ band and a side-project. The music itself, however, has little to do with that of IQ. A Word In Your Eye reminds more of Jadis, another IQ-related band. Similarities with Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Steve Hackett (but a Steve Hackett on sleeping pills, really!), Solstice and others can also be detected. Maybe even a bit of Vangelis! The instruments involved are keyboards, flute, electric and acoustic guitars, bass and drums and competently played. There is also saxophone on one track, creating a kind of lounge-Jazz feeling!

This album is not wholly instrumental (as some other reviewers have said), but almost entirely instrumental. The sparse and discrete vocals are apparently by Martin Orford and there are also some Pink Floyd-like spoken word samples in the background reminding of those on Dark Side Of The Moon. There are only occasional outbursts of Neo-Prog "flash", but for most of the time the music here is slow and very soothing and relaxed. There are some nice acoustic guitar passages (occasionally sounding a bit like those New-Age albums Steve Howe did with Paul Sutin). Everything here sounds great, but despite the lovely sounds they produce, the music overall tends to lack direction. The result is indeed pleasant, but very unremarkable and unmemorable (like much of Jadis output). This is the kind of music you will want to have in the background while reading, but not something for serious listening.

This can really only be recommended for collectors of everything related to IQ or maybe also to those with a special interest in the lighter side of instrumental Prog (even if I can think of many better examples of that kind of music)

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 A Word In Your Eye  by LENS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.65 | 53 ratings

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A Word In Your Eye
The Lens Neo-Prog

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I almost forgot I had this very nice release by The Lens laying somewhere around here waiting to be reviewed. The Lens is a sort of predecessor of IQ as we can read in the band description. I will not repeat the history Ivan has written down there but most interesting thing to realize is that though this album was released in 2001 the material is actually from the period before IQ was even founded in 1981, so late 70's is what you will have to think of.

Ivan also wrote the material is interesting and I agree with him. The songs are all instrumental with exception of Childhood's End which contains a bit of vocals done by Martin Orford. A very nice track this by the way with very fine sax play by Tony Wright. The rest of the tracks are all just about of the same quality but not really in the same style. Most of the songs are calm and ambient (with a touch of prog folk in some occasions) but some are more energetic, at least for parts of them. Like Frost and Fire for instance where first half of the song is quiet and second half (as title suggests) much more spicy.

So all things considered an interesting album to add to your collection. 90% is played and composed by IQ members so IQ fans are invited to take a chance here I'd say. But any fan of very nice, good quality instrumental neo prog could go for this one really. Recommended. 4* (rounded up from 3,75).

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Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition.

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