Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Review: Thieves' Kitchen - The Water Road (2008)
A Beautiful Road
The Water Road, the 4th album by Thieves’ Kitchen and the second one I get to listen to after Argot, is a beautiful album with fantastic crystal clear sound to it, making it clear the amount of work put into it.
I’ll quote a short text from the band’s website to illustrate this point:
“Meticulous attention to detail has been evident at all stages of the making of this album, and the mixing and mastering processes were no different. In particular, listeners will find that the album has been mastered to preserve the dynamics in the performances and compositions, something that we're seeing shamefully less and less of in these days of 'brickwall limiting'.”
All I can add to this is that the album sound lucid and clear, with all the instruments being heard well in the mix and that adds a lot to the listening experience which is already highly enjoyable due to the music itself. They also wisely incorporate other instruments such as flutes (one of them played by another former Anglagard member, Anna Holmgren), a saxophone and an oboe. Those serve to add to the already existing rich sound of this album.
The opener, 'The Long Fianchetto' is a fabulous dream-like sounding piece with some tougher sounding guitars and superb sounding keyboards performed by Anglagard’s keyboardist Thomas Johnson (there are occasional appearances of his “Anglagardian” sounding days here). The tune is appeasing even when becoming more dynamic and loud (though never too much for me); the opening segment lasts for about 7 minutes until the blissful voice of Amy Darby starts singing. Her voice is perfectly suited for this magnificent music, perfectly blending with all the instruments creating heavenly harmonies that are pure joy. The keyboards create an ethereal soundscape, a mesmerizing and delicate accompaniment for the melody to roam quietly with. However, not everything is going so peacefully; there is some energy injected into this water road, as the guitar and keyboards collaborate to create a loud and faster part, augmented by the efficient bass playing. This balances out very well the preceding part and all in all you get an equilibrated piece that goes back and forth between these pieces of the road. This song alone makes it worth getting the album; but it’s by no means the only song to give this impression.
The album has a distinct sound to it, with variations here and there in the form of, for example, Returglas which has a distinctly folk/eastern-Eurpoean rhythmic vibe to it. However it still sounds very much like a Thieves’ Kitchen piece, with their very good musicianship, and the incorporation of “classic” sounding prog-rock (which will be evident to the listener from the keyboards part). Om Tare, which is apparently sung in Sanskrit, is a great rocky tune with effective riffing, sometimes countered and sometimes joined by Amy’s singing. This is a great dynamic track which breaks the general slower and ponderous characteristic of the album.
Aside from these, and returning to the distinct sound of the album, the other songs such as Chameleon and Tacenda For You are fine and well accomplished examples of their pensive progressive-rock sound which while being influenced from 70’s prog rock spirit, does not sound outdated at all; rather it’s fresh and exciting.
The Water Road is a highly enjoyable album, with a lineup of beautiful songs and talented musicians and composers.