Speak is the debut release of Renaissance keyboardist Jason Hart's solo project. Hart is responsible for all keyboard, piano, and orchestration work as well as the lead vocals. A great portion of the album is characterized by subtle keyboard tones creating the backbone for the compositions. Hart lays down plenty of keyboard and Renaissance-like piano work, at times also branching off into Tony Banks territory due to beautifully arranged classical themes and melodies. His singing is more so in the vein of Radiohead meets Porcupine Tree, where a lot of monotone lines are delivered softly over the slow-building soundscapes.
A stellar list of guest musicians supports Hart on this album. John Gargano from IZZ supplies his unique bass lines, expanding the songs' chordal parameters and giving them a full low-end. Laura Meade contributes some backing vocals, and the great Steve Hogarth from Marillion sings on the album's final track, the Rufus Wainwright cover "Go or Go Ahead." Much like Hogarth's recent project with Richard Barbieri, the song features his unmistakable theatrical singing in a very minimalist sound environment, filled with rich layers of synth explorations, a subtle piano theme that runs beneath the central vocals, and sweet acoustic guitars. Most of the album is slow and contains a good dose of vintage keys mixed into more modern textures. Rather than creating songs that will stick with the listener, the main focus is on exploring moods and atmospheres, complete with vast washes of sound and deep space in the production department. The arrangements are sparse and built patiently; each progression takes its time to develop and the vocals and instrumentation are provided with beautiful contrasts. Although all four tracks clock in at over 10 minutes, each piece segues into the next seamlessly and carries passages filled with reams of ebbs and flows.
Fans of Renassaince, IZZ, Echolyn, Hogarth-era Marillion, and No-Man as well as anyone who enjoys beauitfully textured ambient passages in progressive rock should check this disc out.
- And I Awaken
- Hide and Seek
- The Face Behind the Eyes
- Go or Go Ahead