Taking a break as the front man of progressive/psychedelic rock band, KingBathmat John Bassett has released his first solo acoustic album in late March 2014. An English multi-instrumentalist and singer best known for writing and producing several albums by KingBathmat, Basset utilizes his songwriting skills and production magic while playing literally all the instruments excepting the drums which are handled by Nathan Summers. The melancholy collection of songs on Unearth fall on the gentle end of acoustic progressive rock, mostly speaking to the realism of life in modern times.
The album opens with the single “Stay Away From the Dark” with a echo laden piano that draws the listener in. As the acoustic guitar picks up the rhythm it is easy to hear the gentle strumming of the pick across the strings. Bassett’s vocal continues his recognizable quality found on KingBathmat releases, and steps it up a notch on the splendidly delivered chorus. The drums are clean and the overall mix and tonal balance is very good. It is evident that a lot of attention went into obtaining an excellent sound while recording the 10 tracks on this release.
Following in a similar vein, “Survival Rate”, hits off with steady drums that clearly separate their various elements with the kick and snare drum ever present throughout the piece. There is ample separation among the various other instruments, with a subtle grind from the bass guitar. Basset’s voice has an edginess that is backed by a keyboard evoking the 70’s Canterbury sound. Don’t expect much in the way of dynamics, these somewhat somber pieces are effectively steady as you go songs, and provide a laid back listening experience.
Picking up the pace, “Nothing Sacred” moves quickly with nice catchy melodies. The acoustic guitar dominates the rhythm, introducing single notes that play along side the vocals. Bassett adds depth by doubling the voice tracks, along with a strong chorus that lends exceptionally well to the strength of this piece. Drums are lively playing into the up tempo while not crowding the overall balance of the mix.
The title track Unearth has a dreamy state exemplified by the keyboards distant reverb that washes across the soundstage. A stripped down instrumentation features guitar and keyboards with vocals delivered in a more commanding fashion, a real sense of folk a la prog, or let’s just say art rock.
With an eerie guitar lick that bends from the left to right speaker, “TV Is God” blends psychedelic and pop rock into a sensational tune. Comfortably balancing acoustic and electric guitars, Bassett easily takes the listener on a journey where a modern early day Pink Floyd might have visited. Complimenting each other, the instrumentation comfortably delivers a mind bending happy feeling with a relaxing aural zone.
The acoustic prog epic of the album “Something That’s More Worthwhile” has the most of KingBathmat’s persona in it. Winding among an intelligent arrangement yet carrying the overall simplistic instrumentation found among the other tracks, it produces a song that finds its way into your sub-conscious. For me, it is the solo towards the end of the track that carries this tune to a fantastic finale, taking a cue from the ethos of the first part of the song which produces a real nice dynamic ending to this track.
Unearth is a very well recorded and mixed album that fans of art rock and melancholy will surely want to check out. Its soothing sound provides plenty of room for a relaxing listen on any day. It is available as a high resolution download from Band Camp or as a Compact Disc from several sources.
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