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Syd Arthur - Sound Mirror CD (album) cover

SOUND MIRROR

Syd Arthur

 

Crossover Prog

3.94 | 76 ratings

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Guldbamsen
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
4 stars 'Songs you most likely are going to sing along to at some point'

This one could very well turn out to be AOTY for me. It's been a fun ride, even if I had quite the preservations coming into this thing, as I first laid eyes on the track listing: 10 songs and less than 35 minutes of music!?!??! Wtf! Even the debut had a long cut clocking in at about 8 minutes - feeling like a mini epic with big sweeps of violin and guitar. On Sound Mirror everything is concise and to the point, no time for riff raff or extended wild soloing, and I'll certainly be the first to admit it. I felt a little disappointed with this new development, because like most fans of rock that pushes the envelope (sometimes just a wee bit), I'm always looking for that ever so delightful and orgiastic long tune that sets my blood on fire and transforms my copious corpus into a quivering pool of jello.

Yet when I then got my hands on an actual release - unpacked the bugger like a mental person and frantically placed it in my stereo, every doubt and preconceived notion flew out my ear and left for the ceiling. I instantly loved the album! The tunes were shorter, but what they perhaps lacked in length - they conquered back in the band's violinist Raven Bush and her newly found love of the piano, mandolin and various keyboards - making Sound Mirror feel altogether more refined and matured. Now I personally tend to go for the young teen angst zeitgeist in rock music, but not to worry. Even if the band's sound palette seems to have grown in size, there's still a strong presence of the youthful nonchalance and carefree ways the debut was soaked in.

What Syd Arthur mostly has got going for them is something very rare inside modern PA releases. At least according to my tastes that is. I often find the vocals in modern prog horrific - with 90% of the lot sounding like tired versions of Andy Latimer. On here you get a warm and rather nasal charm to the vocals. You cannot help but feel joy and the energy of youth, whenever this guy opens his mouth. Liam Magill is a wonderful singer, and the things he does with the guitar ain't too shabby either, although he never really goes all out. He is first and foremost a terrific rhythm guitarist. The combination of his guitar and those brilliant vocals works like a real charm. Especially on a track like Chariots does this shine through...in spades! It's everywhere though.

Getting down to brass tax here! How does it sound? Any reference points? Well, one could be as glib as to call Sound Mirror the soul of a gifted singer songwriter coming together with the chops and gusto of a psychedelic folk rock group with a strong Canterbury odour. On the debut I heard some serious Caravan touches coming through in Raven's violin work, often reminding me of 'For Girls who grow plump in the Night'. With this new one the Caravan touch is still there, although coming through in other instruments. I am constantly reminded of the melodic work of Dave Sinclair, no matter what keyboard is afoot. It's by no means copycatting behaviour we're talking about, but merely a whiff of something familiar dressed up in an altogether different gown. In addition to the references, you'll find distinct sections where the group suddenly feels like a second cousin to Grizzly Bear and their brand of psychedelic folk rock.

The peaks on this baby are far too many to count, but there's of course the titillating riffs of Chariots, the bluesy expression of the opener Garden Of Dreams, the naive and always impeccably played 60s inspired rhythm section, the staying power of Forevermore with it's memorable chorus that'll be playing the rest of your evening from the insides of your skull - or perhaps the melancholy and slightly circus-like feel of the keys adorning the closer Sink Hole, - fact of the matter is wherever you look, there's magnificence. The grandeur of this release though doesn't exactly explode in your face upon first listen, but rather comes crawling through the window when you're not looking. It's a ninja thing.

The only negative thing this album is facing with the prog crowd is the fact that Liam sings so incredibly well and smooth, that there are bound to be folks writing him and the rest of his companeros off as a psychedelic Indie rock group. Maybe that's true - I certainly wouldn't call Syd Arthur a prog band, but then again I feel comfortable keeping this album right next to my Caravan and Hatfield and the North albums too. There's an effortlessness and breezy nature to the way they play making all technical sparks and turn overs feel natural and unforced. The 'Canterbury' sound may well be modern and hard to pick out among the straightforwardness of the songs, but the feel of things is still there.

In the end this is merely a collection of incredibly well performed songs. No bs just music with heart. 4.5 stars.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |

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