Diving Bell is the debut album by a band called Sanguine Hum. I didn't realize that they emerged from the British, Oxford based band Antique Seeking Nuns that already recorded three highly acclaimed EPs. Double Egg With Chips And Beans (And A Tea) (2006, see review) and Careful! It's Tepid (2009, see review) were both reviewed by Background Magazine, but their first one Mild Profundities (2003) never made it to our website! Eventually Matt Baber (keyboards), drummer Paul Mallyon (guitar, vocals), Joff Winks (guitar, vocals) and Brad Waissman (bass) decided to move forward to seek for new horizons. Originally focussed on Canterbury-styled songs they began to broaden their horizon by incorporating more rock elements. Sanguine Hum started recording the basic tracks for their full-length debut in May and November 2008. In the end this ambitious album saw the light of day at the end of 2010 containing profound song-writing, haunting melodies and excellent musicianship.
A re-release of the album took place in 2012 with the addition of three bonus tracks. I think people who had the chance to listen to any of the three EPs by the Antique Seeking Nuns have to check out Diving Bell. These three EPs were a Canterbury flavoured delight filled with humour and great sounding melodies. Although Sanguine Hum seems more serious and more rock based I was equally pleased by the music. The four musicians are very talented and use complex and odd time signatures in such a melodic way that they can hardly be compared to any other band. The excellent vocals slightly reminded me of a band like Muse. In my opinion the song structures and the guitar parts are quite similar compared to this band, but maybe other listeners won't hear those comparisons at all.
The influences of the Canterbury scene are still present on this record, but less than on the above-mentioned EPs. A touch of neo-progressive rock can be noticed in the compositions as well, but it won't remind you at all of bands like Pendragon, Pallas or IQ. It's just difficult to describe the music of Sanguine Hum, which makes it hard for the readers to determine whether this album should be part of their collection or not. As for myself I can say that I was overwhelmed by the emotional content of Diving Bell. Furthermore the album has been produced fantastically and it doesn't contain any fillers. Diving Bell surely deserves attention and a second chance since it wasn't picked up in 2010. The three additional tracks have the same high level as the original ones; they certainly add something to the album.
All I can do is to advise you to check out the music of Sanguine Hum on their websites mentioned above in the frame of this review! That's the only way to determine whether you like the music or not. I loved it all the way and I certainly will enjoy this kind of music more often in the future!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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