Kompendium is the name of a project initiated by Rob Reed. Most prog heads know him as Magenta's band leader and keyboard player. However, in the past he has also recorded albums with Cyan, The Fyreworks and Chimpan A, but the album Reed recorded with Kompendium hasn't any relation with these albums whatsoever. On Beneath The Waves he steers on the path of musicals, something he hadn't done before. A couple of years ago Reed realized that great albums in the style of Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Peter Gabriel or Kate Bush were no longer recorded. On those albums the artists could just do whatever they liked music wise. They played all styles of music and blended it into a fine musical melting pot. Rob Reed also wanted to do that with his new project. No rush and no need to look at the cost. Only the final result mattered, which resulted in a CD that's one of a kind.
In my opinion Beneath The Waves is a masterpiece that grabs you by the throat and just won't let go! The style of music can be regarded best as a mixture of Celtic music, prog rock, folk and classical music all skilfully woven together in a most tantalizing manner. To appreciate its musical content even more, you must be known with the storyline. It's taken from a report from 1902 carried in an Irish newspaper about a man who experienced a series of tragedies that claimed the lives of both his wife and infant daughter and for which he blamed himself. The story unfolds as he seeks salvation with the sea being the only barrier between him and them.
Such an explicit theme requires many degrees of emotion and expression both musically and lyrically. To be sure that this was done the best possible way, Reed invited several guest musicians to help him out in order to create an album about which people would still talking about after many years. For the lyrics he asked his brother Steve, who also wrote the lyrics for Magenta in the past! The male leading part is performed by singer Steve Balsamo. I enjoyed his excellent voice for the first time on the eponymous debut album of IOEarth (2009, see review). Unfortunately he invited female singers who didn't get such a large part as Steve got, but they also did very well. Especially Angharad Brinn, who has the role of the wife that committed suicide, has a very strong voice. It's hard to believe that she's just a school teacher in daily life. However, the small part of Christina Booth (Magenta) and the choir by the Synergy Vocals Group are worth listening to as well.
Beside the musical contributions of Rob Reed on bass guitar, piano, acoustic and electric guitars he invited several other excellent musicians. On drums we have Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), who provides the album with a wonderful groove. The guitar parts are performed by great players like Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis), Nick Barrett (Pendragon), Neil Taylor (Tears For Fears, Robbie Williams), Jakko Jackzyk (20th Century Schizoid Band), Francis Dunnery (ex-It Bites), Chris Fry (Magenta), John Mitchell (Arena, Frost*, It Bites,) and BJ Cole (ex-Elton John, ex- David Gilmour). On Chapman stick we hear Nick Beggs (ex-Steve Hackett, Lifesigns, Steve Wilson Band), while Mel Collins (ex-King Crimson, ex- Camel) contributed on sax. Undoubtedly one of the most important musicians is Troy Donockley (Nightwish, Bad Shepherds, ex-Iona). His parts performed on the Uilleann pipes and the whistles provided the album a certain melancholic feel and above all a distinct Irish-Gaelic atmosphere. Furthermore you can enjoy contributions of The English Chamber Choir conducted by Guy Protheroe, the London Session Orchestra conducted by Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield And The North, National Health) and renowned opera singers like Rhys Meirion and Shan Cothi.
Since all of the twelve compositions have been written by Rob Reed it may be obvious that they're all of a high musical level. They contain many Celtic characteristics and can be compared to classic Iona, Mike Oldfield and IOEarth. From time to time his songs sound like the music he wrote for Magenta. Unlike Magenta the music isn't performed on keyboards, but on other instruments playing the same kind of musical parts. This way this CD got a different feel compared with the CDs of Magenta. For that reason fans of Magenta should listen to Beneath The Waves first before buying it. However, I guess they'll be as much impressed as I when I heard it for the first time. The combination of the aforementioned styles makes sure that this album has a lot to offer.
It's not only the music that's perfect; the whole package looks stunning especially when you buy the CD/DVD version of Beneath The Waves. It's released in a 7-inch gatefold sleeve with a twenty-page booklet. Just like the old vinyl gatefold LPs of the seventies, but smaller and with superb artwork done by Geoff Taylor, very detailed credits, lyrics, biographies and photos. The most spectacular addition, however, is the DVD with three kinds of audio variations: surround mixes in 24/96 5.1, in DTS 5.1 in Dolby Digital 5.1. You just have to listen to the surround version of the album, because then you almost hear the music as it was recorded in the studio. Furthermore three music videos have been included to give the story more visual effects. Finally some footage of the recordings and rehearsal sessions can be enjoyed as well. You can also buy vinyl versions of the album.
Maybe others won't agree with me, but in a way the whole Kompendium project outshines anything Rob Reed has done in the past with Magenta, Cyan and The Fyreworks. Beneath The Waves is an amazing, breathtaking and superb album. It's a masterpiece created by a musical genius. He dared to come up with something that others are afraid to do nowadays. Music wise Rob Reed did whatever he liked, just like Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Peter Gabriel or Kate Bush did back in the seventies.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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