The sixth studio album from ESP Project is Anarchic Curves. Released in April 2022, the album gives us eight tracks of polished progressive rock. Produced by Tony Lowe (Guitars and Keyboards) the lineup on this album also consists of Peter Coyle (Vocals), Pete Clark (Bass), Dave Etheridge (Drums) with additional keyboard work by Cheryl Stringall and Peter Coyle. The artwork and graphics by Cheryl Stringall add an interdimensional quality, providing the listener with a suitably visual interpretation of the music within.
The first song on the tracklisting is Luminous and it shows us this symphonic and moody persona - largely thanks to its massive, looming keyboard parts (a main feature across the album). The atmosphere this song creates echoes throughout, as it never really strays too far from this type of ethereal landscape for its duration. The high quality of musicianship on this release is evident from the start - I especially love Dave's drum playing throughout. It's reserved (for the most part) and crisp, keeping everything else nice and neat. Pete's bass playing really shines on this track and Peter's vocals just melt right into the music. Next up and the longest song on the album is Still Lives Of John Lennon. Dreamy keyboard flourishes give the song an oceanic depth, emersive enough to drown the listener in its rich, proggy waves. Opening in spooky fashion via some electronic zipping is Cogs. Its pulsing nature brings a more energetic frequency to the album and it features a gorgeous guitar solo, really elevating the track for me. Lyrics such as "Dangerous, dangerous, individuals, they will corrupt you, they will debase you, challenging the world, questioning everything", show us that the band sure have fire in their bellies. Musical warmth spills out on the intro of following song, The Dead Dark Of Lollipops - a very interesting song title indeed. I really love the beginning with its delicate keyboards whirling around and the drums setting a fantastic groove underneath - it's a rather dreamy effort. It then ends in an orchestral manner, leading us into Invisible Ricochets, which features some top-notch guitar work. Lyrics such as "Cameras are everywhere to track you" bring a sense of paranoia and easily get stuck in your head - it's quite the earworm. A tasty drum groove opens proceedings on Shoreless. It might be the shortest song on the album, but it is also the most energetic one. When Peter sings "We've ripped out the pulse and heartbeat" the lyrics just reach out of the speakers and slap you around the face. Crunchy electric guitars and dramatic strings make this my favourite song on the album at the time of writing. It just doesn't let up and I actually wish there was more of this energy spread across the rest of the music. The drums get mean towards the end of the song and it's just fantastic. Beautiful keyboard flourishes greet the listener's ear on Moon Dust, helping to lift you off into space. This is largely thanks to the hypnotic keyboards and tight rhythm section that make it all flow smoothly. Out of all of the songs here, this one really brings the artwork to life - dusty moon magic! Closing the album is Entangled Stories. The opening of the song slowly builds and builds before the whole band kick in, really driving the song forward. The first three minutes are purely instrumental, but they alone take us through a range of feelings - no vocals are necessary at this stage. Across the song decadent keyboard sounds pour out and soulful guitar playing really adds colour to the sonic canvas. The rhythm section is quite something and the delicate melancholy in Peter's vocal delivery is truly moreish here. A great way to close the album.
This release is delivered in the most tasteful manner, filled with spacious arrangements, dreamy vocals and textured instrumentation. With this in mind, it's an album that just didn't grab me straight away, yet it continues to grow on me as I write this review. I feel it lacks momentum in certain areas and I'd love to hear a little bit more energy injected throughout the album, but this is simply down to personal taste. Despite this, I'm certain lots of people will enjoy what is on offer here and for good reason. The album is available digitally and it has also been released as a limited edition version on CD, so check those out via the links below.
*** Rickalonius Monk
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