Those who read my reviews on a regular basis know that I am very much interested in the music made by the British band Sanguine Hum. Their two earlier releases Diving Bell (2012, see review) and The Weight Of The World (2013, see review) were praised by me a lot. They were regarded by me as one of the most interesting new bands in the progressive rock scene. However their live release Live In America (2014, see review) in a way put both my feet back on the ground. The audio CD recorded at the Rites of Spring Festival 2012 sounded great, but the DVD that was included as well was a real disappointment for me. But now with the release of their third studio album Now We Have Light I was very curious if this release could bring them back in the saddle.
Those who think that Now We Have Light is a piece of work made just recently got it all wrong. A large part of the concept story and written songs already date to the days when most band members were still in Antique Seeking Nuns. A band that strangely enough never had the same success as Sanguine Hum has nowadays, even though it had almost the same line up. But that's a different story. This story is all about the band's third release. Which brings them back in the genre of concept albums. Set to music on two CDs and over 80 minutes visions of the future, where utopias come true. The digipack and the 16-page booklet were created with some futuristic illustrations of graphic artist Meriel Waissman. In addition, the visionary story Now We Have Light is told in the booklet, but lyrics are not available.
The story puts itself into a future that seems impossible. The hero Don has caused an apocalypse that has reduced the earth to "the circle". This is a community that protects against the savage planet, with near the village which is close to "the wheel." Don lives in one of these houses, and his neighbours do not know that he is the cause of the disaster. He discovered a new source of clean and renewable energy, which has to do with the back of a cat. And the story does not end there, because at last Don will return in Now We Have Power.
This musical concept originated ten years ago, when Matt Baber (keyboards) and Joff Winks (guitar and vocals) were still in Antique Seeking Nuns and played music together. Since their early days they show their love for ambient electronic music, progressive rock and jazz. The Canterbury sound of legendary bands such as Hatfield And The North and National Health has always been an inspiration for the musicians. But also a musician such as Frank Zappa can be named as an act among their influences. Influences that can also be heard on their current work. However Sanguine Hum don't walk on complex or too oblique composition paths, but being closer to the melodious tones with frequent changes of rhythm and deft instrumentation. Now We Have Light is filled with as explosive as melodious songs, everything is played with the necessary phlegm and understatement. The latter is rather rare in progressive rock, and it makes Sanguine Hum a more interesting exponent.
Although each track on both discs stands on its own, the song structures run organically into one another so that a concept is suggested the best possible way. As for all of the compositions on this release it is easy to say that each of them are of a very high level. Therefore picking out a favourite one wasn't easy. However I'll have to admit that the track Spanning The Eternal Abyss, which is divided into five parts, and takes more than 11 minutes belongs to the highlights on this fine double album.
Sanguine Hum offer an independent progressive musical concept album with their third release, that sounds modern holistically. With melodiousness, rich atmospheres, delicate rhythm changes and a slightly ethereal tinged vocals they just know how to entertain you over 80 minutes. So they have made an album worth listening to. The sound is also produced in the best quality possible. They brought back the dearly beloved concept album in the progressive rock genre in a perfect way! Thanks guys! A true winner that brought them back into the saddle!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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