Sometimes a friend in the music business opens the door to a rather unknown artist. Steve Dunn, bass player of Also Eden, gave me a tip to check out the music of Cosmograf. The musician behind this project is Robin Armstrong, an Englishman who almost did everything on his own on the album End Of Ecclesia. He played guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, recorders and besides, he did all the vocals on the album. Steve Dunn is a guest musician on the last track The Dark That Follows The Light. He played electric, acoustic, and bass guitar and he co-wrote this track. For this track, they worked completely separated. In the end, Robin mixed the relevant parts together. He played the drums although the sounds are from the Roland TD20. Therefore, he used a standard acoustic kit and converted cymbals using Piezo electric sensors to trigger the module. This is a rather non-traditional approach for prog rock, but it enabled him to record with great quality without the expense of a proper drum room and professional studio time.
End of Ecclesia has a concept although in some tracks the concept is rather obscure. The lyrics refer to a man’s conflict with science and religion. Most tracks have a common theme in questioning the value of religion in the light of scientific discovery, in particular Evolution Railroad where this theme is tackled literally. In A Day On The Moon and Return To The Sea, part 2, the questioning is almost reversed. The song suggests the futility of science being dazzled by the beauty of the earth and man’s ability to destroy the natural world.
Perhaps you wonder how this album sounds. Well, if you take in consideration that we deal with a low budget release, Rob did an amazing job. The music goes in the direction of neo-progressive rock mixed with some elements taken from other musical styles. The tracks Return To The Sea, part 2 and Who Will Serve are probably the best examples of how Mr. Armstrong was inspired by the likes of Pallas, IQ and early Marillion. The guitar and synthesizer parts are very common in the music of these bands. However, on Evolution Railroad we hear other influences starting with some heavy guitar riffs making me think of Black Sabbath.
A bit further, we hear human voices that could have been easily taken from The Wall (Pink Floyd). On Return To The Sea and La Iglesia we hear a style reminiscent of classical music and related styles due to the acoustic guitar, piano and flute. Robin Armstrong is a gifted singer as well, as he proves on Return To The Sea and Ministry Of Failure. On The Dark That Follows The Light Robin’s children Sam and Amy did some nice singing. Also nice is the connection with sixties music in Flowers In My Hair and Ministry Of Failure. The first song can be compared to Scott ‘be sure to wear some flowers in your hair’ McKenzie’s San Francisco of 1967, while the second is related to The Beatles’ song Fool On The Hill.
I had a great time listening to the songs Rob Armstrong wrote and performed. It reminded me a lot of the album Focal Point made by his fellow-countryman Paul Cusick, another multi- instrumentalist who released an album on his own. I gave him four stars for his home recordings and the same score applies for Cosmograf. If you like the music of the above-mentioned bands, then try this fine piece of art. Robin Armstrong deserves to be heard by many people.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013