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GAIA CONSORT

Prog Folk • United States


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Gaia Consort biography
GAIA CONSORT is a Progressive Folk-Rock band based in the Seattle, WA area of the United States. They draw influences from many different genres of music including Folk, Space-Rock and straight-up Rock 'n' Roll. The band lineup varies and rotates from album to album, various studio musicians, string quartets and the like all contributing to the overall sound, but the key player in the band is founding member and primary songwriter Christopher Bingham, who writes about many different subjects such as evolution, sensuality, pagan subclutures of the pacifc borthwest, and the world itself.

The band's sound has been described as being a mix between Jethro Tull and Peter Gabriel, but plenty of mainstream Rock music has crept in as well. Think of this band as a modern take on Jethro Tull with considerably less Flute and a heavier edge for fans of very eclectic musical tastes to enjoy.

After playing at Nudestock '97, a few demo releases and much fanfare, Bingham and co-founding member Sue Tinney released their first proper debut to much critical acclaim, After their initial run of success, trhee more albums followed, each being even more well-recieved than the last.

The band's latest opus, ''Vitus Dance'', was released in 2007, and the band is currently on an indefinate hiatus while Bingham pursues his other musical endevours, but one thing is for sure-- be it truly through or merely just begun, Gaia Consort will mark a significant and influential chapter in the songwriter's musical career.

This band should specifically appeal to anybody interested in Folk-Rock, but there are enough Prog elements present in the music for fans of bands such as Jethro Tull to enioy.

::: written by p0mt3 :::

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EvolveEvolve
Suddenly Naked Arts Collective 2004
Audio CD$12.01
$4.98 (used)
Vitus DanceVitus Dance
Suddenly Naked Arts Collective 2007
Audio CD$22.00
$4.62 (used)
Gaia CirclesGaia Circles
Single
Suddenly Naked Arts Collective 1999
Audio CD$7.93
$5.78 (used)
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GAIA CONSORT discography


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GAIA CONSORT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Gaia Circles
1999
3.00 | 1 ratings
Secret Voices
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Evolve
2004
3.95 | 2 ratings
Vitus Dance
2007

GAIA CONSORT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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0.00 | 0 ratings
Concert for the Rainforest
2008

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GAIA CONSORT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Secret Voices by GAIA CONSORT album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Secret Voices
Gaia Consort Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

— First review of this album —
3 stars Listening to Gaia Consort reminds me that no matter how liberal I think I am there are always plenty of folks to my left. And apparently an awful lot of them live in the American Northwest.

This isn't a band in the traditional sense of the word. They're more like a musical collective, although the nucleus appears to be the duo of Sue Tinney and Christopher Bingham, who have also performed and recorded as the Bone Poets Orchestra. Besides them the lineups on the group's four albums varies widely, and from reading about them so apparently do their live show assemblages. Bingham writes all the songs, plays guitar (acoustic of course) and sings, while his wife/partner Tinney offers well-placed alto harmonies and apparently produces much of the recorded music.

The style of the band is rather fluid, but almost always reveals hints of both contemporary folk, some rock and a youth obviously spent indulging in progressive and rock music as well as the various ancillary pleasures that went along with that scene.

Some tracks such as the opening "Secret Womb of Night" and "Three" come across a bit like Paul Simon meets Barenaked Ladies (the opening drum track of 'Secret' sounds suspiciously like the one on Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"), although the lyrics are firmly rooted in Northwestern tree-hugger nature loving. Same goes for the lyrics on the anti-modern world ballad "Every Sacred Thing"; although instrumentally Bingham's acoustic strumming and strings (violin?) dominate on this one.

And speaking of the Barenaked Ladies, the rhythm and tempo of "Cry Freedom" bear a striking resemblance to their 2000 hit "Pinch Me" (which itself sounds quite a bit like Sheryl Crow's "Leaving Las Vegas"), although here the message is quite anti-organized religion with lyrics like "can't you see that all religion lives by a steady trade in lies" and "do you trust a creed that claims to set you free by spending half a lifetime begging on your knees". Zealots might want to skip this one, although the strings here are excellent and quite emotive.

"Illumination" is a brief but beautiful all-string instrumental featuring acoustic guitar, violin, cello and I'm pretty sure viola as well. Too bad the group didn't include a bit more of this as they are quite good at it. Later in the album the band offers up an almost traditional Anglo folk track with "Beltane Fires" which is also a sound I would like to hear more from them.

I was ready to write the album off as decent folk-rock until "Secret of the Rain" came along. The band adds organ and snare drums for a clearly progressive music-inspired track that includes plenty of tempo shifts, innovative breaks and a couple of tasty keyboard solos. Very nicely done, and another song I wish Bingham would have expanded into something even more than it is. "All the Light?" on the other hand is sort of a round with at least three lively vocal parts alternating along with acoustic guitar and plenty of percussion before slowing down to morph into an acoustic folksy Mother Earth number for a couple minutes before resuming the round/jam to bring the song to a climax. Not really my cup of tea but I'm sure this one was a live favorite for the group.

The closing title track is either about schizophrenia or becoming one in harmony with nature, not sure which, but the electric guitar here is a bit of a shock after so much acoustic music to this point. This is a fairly conventional light-rock number but a pleasant enough close to the album.

I'm probably not quite as freethinking as these guys, but I have to say that despite some reservations the first time I played this record it has grown on me. Probably not to the point where I'll put it into heavy rotation on my disc-changer, but definitely an album that will get some play next time I find myself in a car, plane or bus trekking through the American Northwest with some spare time on my hands. A collection of songs that should make you feel pretty good if you aren't turned off by some of the values espoused in it, 'Secret Voices' is a decent record that should appeal to a lot of folk and indie-rock fans. Three out of five stars.

peace

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 Vitus Dance by GAIA CONSORT album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.95 | 2 ratings

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Vitus Dance
Gaia Consort Prog Folk

Review by JLocke
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Gaia Consort is relatively unknown around these parts (or at least, that is how it would seem since this is the very first review the band is getting, despite being around since the late 1990s!). Not that I blame the prog fans for not being familiar with Bingham and crew. It's not like the music found here is traditional prog music by any stretch. However, plenty of prog influence CAN be heard more often than not, and overall, this album is quite a pleasant listen. One might like to think that the only reason nothing has been said about this band on the site yet is because people may in fact be aware of their existence, but do not wish to make a poor investment in music that has not been reviewed yet. So hopefully this review of mine will get the ball rolling.

This little gem of a record starts out with the beautiful ''Twilight Calling''. Jethro Tull meets Kansas? Not sure if that's he best comparison, but oh well; it's what my mind went straight for in prog terms. Sure, the style itself is more traditional than either of those bands, but the overall mood of the music transports me to a more old fashioned song style, by traditional music and progressive rock standards. The song kicks in right away, and there is this wonderful vocal melody and harmony all throughout, with a truly lovely string section coming at near the two minute mark and giving the rest of the instruments a break. By the time that section is over, a truly Doors-style keyboard solo breaks in at 2:50, and is the highlight of the song. It is quite an odd mixture for me to hear; classic prog rock instrumentation, married with a very folky songwriting approach, and twangy (yet beautiful!) vocal stylings. Yet somehow, these all merge together very well. You just have to listen for yourself to fully absorb what I'm talking about.

The next song, ''Only Now'', starts things off with a clever, almost jazzy drum beat. Then a folk-style guitar and a vocal melody that puts me in mind of the great Barenaked Ladies, believe it or not. At a minute thirteen, the first true guitar solo on the album comes into play, and honestly, Christopher Bingham's tone and playing style here sounds like Steve Howe to my ears! I'm not sure if that is intentional or not, but it doesn't feel forced or unnatural to the music. I wouldn't say these guys ever intentionally rip anybody off, but each song truly does stand alone. This is NOT album-oriented music. Every track could be played seperately from the others and retain the same emotional impact as they would have if listened to in order. This incredible diversity and variety kept the album from ever getting dull for me.

''Dirty Little Secret'' may be my favorite song on Vitus Dance. It's absolutely beautiful. The acoustic guitar is sorrowful and earnest, the lyrics speak from the heart, and Bingham's solo singing for the verses are so soulful and raw, I wish that he would take that approach more often than I heard on this record. It's a very average length in actuality, though it feels much shorter than it should, because I have so much fun listening to it and never want it to stop. During the verses, a distant mellotron can be heard, adding to the prog side of things, and giving plenty of atmosphere. The choruses see a return on the vocal melodies between Bingham and Tinney, which are typical for this band, and they are followed by a brilliant string section, full of lush violins and bellowing cellos. A little repetitive, perhaps, but it never gets old, and like I say . . . it's probably my favorite. Just listen before making your call on it.

''Oracle'' Is probably the first song in this album that you could wholeheartedly call 'prog' without feeling dishonest. A very spacey, psychedelic opening full of back-masked and echoey vocal whispers, dark guitar stylings, etc. By the time the song properly starts, you already feel like you've been through quite a ride. The pre-verses are really cool, featuring a distant chant accompanied by quick distorted guitar chords and violin/viola flourishes. Not as much keyboard presence in this song, but it doesn't need it. Plenty is going on already. It's a really cool track.

Now for the second truly progressive song, ''All We've Got''. There is actually some audible bass guitar in this one! Cool! Oh, and the lyrics are really clever, here. Well, I think so, anyway. As he plays high, psychedelic off-notes on his guitar, Bingham sings away about life: ''They got the jobs hangin' over our heads; they think they hold the only key to redemption; they think it has to do with what we do in bed.''. Probably aimed at all sorts of authority figures and heads of the entertainment business, I also think this song speaks about waking up those who have become somewhat hypnotized by the material things around them. I'm not sure I agree entirely with everything these guys tend to speak about in their music, but the music itself is not so attached to the message that it can't be enjoyed by all kinds of people. Plenty of really rockin' keyboard and guitar is present in this song, as well. Gaia Consort certainly does feature plenty of talented musicians!

The first thing that came to mind when hearing the intro riff to ''Heather in the Mead'' was classic 70s rock! Wah pedal-assisted muted guitar strumming and heavy-handed drumming abound, there also seems to be some sort of wind instrument that my still- growing ears cannot quite detect. Anyway, the combination of all of these elements really make this song have certain appeal to Doobie Brothers fans, in my opinion. Also, this song features my favorite bass work on the whole record. Really punchy, groovy and rhythmic. Gotta love that Dan Mohler! Oh, but the most noteworthy aspect of this particular song . . . the bridge section features pipes! Uilleann pipes courtesy of Eliot Grasso! Come to think of it, THAT is the wind instrument heard earlier in the track, but it doesn't come in full-force until this point. Man, I love that! Kind of wish they had been featured on some of the other songs, but it was only here that they used them. Oh, well. Short but sweet, the presence of the uilleann pipes.

''Face in the Clouds'' starts with the band's string section playing overtop of an unusual time signature that causes the vocals to fall overtop of it in a very interesting way; the verses are sang in a way that picks up the pace, slows down, then picks up once again overtop of the odd time. It gives the song a very free-flowing, dreamy quality that I think is a breath of fresh air. A lot of classical influence seems present here, due to the heavy string instrument presence. Truly lovely.

The third full-on prog track on the record, ''Turtles All the Way Down'', gives me a very ancient Arabian vibe, as it has a very middle eastern-style guitar style and a snake-charmer's flute section played throughout. Over the course of this very cool track, the pace begins to pick up and things get very intense very quickly. I just love this track, as it not only serves as a fantastic lead-in to the title track, but it also merges the two so brilliantly, than this one and title track, its successor, are the only two songs I would consider inseparable. They truly feel like one track. The only occasion on ''Vitus Dance'' when this happens, but well worth listening to together. It adds even more punch to the next track when it finally gets started.

Well, here we are. The title track. ''Vitus Dance'' is certainly just as worthy as all the other tracks thus far. Musically, it is possibly the most up-tempo and varied, and the subject matter to me sounds like they are speaking about some sort of ceremony. The lyrics chant ''Ring around the rosey, boys. Ashes, ashes!'' overtop of a rockin' groove full of punchy drum kicks, jazzy keyboard lines and that same flute/guitar combination from the previous track, amped up even more to create a wonderful head-bopper of a listening experience.

With ''Perils of Poly'', we are back to the traditional rock side of this diverse band. Nothing much 'prog' about it, but certainly a lot of fun to listen to. I don't know if I have fully gone into just how much I love Christopher Bringham's voice, but in this song, during the chorus, it is especially worth making note of how capable he is vocally as well as his undeniable technical abilities on the guitar. It seems as if h is the brains behind the project as a whole, so his talent is most likely immense all across the board, but not everybody who writes great music will necessarily also have a good singing voice. Fortunately for us, this guy has it all up to par. Unless you are VERY picky in your singers, you shouldn't be disappointed by any aspect of this music. The playing is fantastic, and )in my opinion) the vocals far exceed expectations.

''Goodnight'', while lovely, doesn't seem to offer anything more than already present in previous tracks. So if you like what you've heard so far, no reason to skip this, but it's nothing special, really.

''The Green''. Ahh . . . what a wonderful, soothing intro. Light, atmospheric keyboards, soon followed by bright clean guitars, before some slightly too screechy strings come into play, haha. Not to worry, though . . . soon, things balance out, and overall, this song is another pleasant ride. I do think too little happens in it for its length, however. Much too long, and it IS the longest song on the record. In a way, it takes a bit of value away from this experience for me personally, because things went pretty smoothly for me up until this point without much complaint from me. I guess not all of the songs could have appealed to me, as it may be asking a little too much, but even if I had enjoyed it more, I still would have felt the length was a bit much for the song's content (or lack thereof). Nothing is wrong with it, but it isn't as up to par with the rest of the album, in my view. And for it to last as long as it does, that may be a harder pill to swallow for some, especially the typical prog-only listener.

The album closer, ''Mercy'', is back on track musically, and is probably the most stripped down of all the tracks. Primarily, it's just Bingham and his guitar, singing a calm, folk-style ballad. Sue Tinney does come in as well for the harmony vocals, as usual, byt other than that, there isn't much to this track. And that'd a good thing, as far as I am concerned. A soft, simple, beautiful track to close it all out. The perfect ending to a (for the most part) well-balanced, well-played, Folk-Rock album.

Yes, that last sentence was intentionally phrased. You see, as much as I enjoy this record and feel that Gaia Consort DO deserve to be here, their music IS Folk-Rock with heavy Prog tendencies, not the other way around. To call them a 60% Folk, 40% Prog combination would not be inaccurate at all, and yet, I honestly think that is enough. Unless you are a complete snob with no desire to truly diversify your musical tastes, there is no reason why you should enjoy these guys. Plenty of great songwriting and playing is present in this band (and on this album in particular), and to overlook or disregard all of that simply because some may think it isn't 'prog enough' would be doing all of these guys a terrible injustice. So go find a copy and give it a listen; just be mindful of the more traditional folk aspects. Who knows, you may just find yourself listening to Gaia Consort much more frequently than you initially thought you would. I know that's certainly rang true for me.

A very highly-recommended 3.5 out of 5 (rounded off to 4 due to the absence of previous reviews or ratings).

Happy listening.

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