Times Up: Sea of Schemes
Welsh progressive rock band Times Up are back with a new album titled Sea of Schemes. It is quite a bit different than their last outing, the excellent Snow Queen. Fresh blood has been infused into the band as new members Linda Barnes (vocals) and Bob Teague (keyboards, vocals, narration) join up with Andy Gibbon (bass, rhythm guitar, vocals), Mike Hagland (lead and slide guitar, banjo), Richard Lawton (sax, flute, keyboards, vocals), Steve Leman (drums, percussion) and Ron Rogers (keyboards, percussion).
I think the biggest change of direction is the use of more pastoral elements which creates a more diverse musical palette, especially when contrasted with harder edged guitar. There is still a symphonic element at work, lots of keys and synths and the band uses some interesting sound effects to augment the sound. Different instruments such as banjo, used quite frequently and saxophone also add a different dimension than what the band has done previously. The guitar is also plentiful creating moodier textures, some heavier crunch and hard rocking solos. The softer arpeggios give a couple of tracks, "Sea of Schemes" and "Let the North Wind Blow", a classic prog vibe. The male and female lead vocals is another plus and work well as a tandem. I've always considered their vocals to be very good and Sea of Schemes is no exception.
There are six tracks with four containing multiple parts. The first track "Chasing Ghosts" winds its way from softer moods inundated with heavy blasts of synth to more dramatic motifs with the vocals almost having an operatic flair. It is all very cinematic with liquid sounding keys, sweet acoustic guitar and dramatic bursts of sound. It is quite different than what they have done before and gets better each time I listen.
My favourite is the title track where symphonic rhythms, moody organ and tasty guitar emits a Floydian soundscape of rich sonic delights. The neat effects and pastoral elements have a trippy vibe. The album's last track "Let the North Wind Blow" begins with a calming symphonic sound before edgier guitar makes its presence felt. It is both moody and melodic and again Floyd comes to mind.
Sea of Schemes is a fresh sounding rock album with enough prog to keep this reviewer happy thus earning an excellent 4 stars. To learn more about Times Up and their new change in direction their website would be a great place to start.
1. Chasing Ghosts (4:50)
2. Meat on Bone (11:37)
(i) Meat on Bone (00-2:19)
(ii) Betwixt Extremes (2:20-5:32)
(iii) For Whom the Bell Tolls (5:33-8:02)
(iv) Be Prepared for a Change (8:03-11:37)
3. When Kings Fall (9:50)
(i) My Liege in Decline (00-2:50)
(ii) When Kings Fall (2:51-7:53)
(iii) When I'm Dead and Free (7:54-9:50)
4. Snakes and Ladders (8:28)
(i) Lunar Disturbance (00-3:09)
(ii) In My Desolate Dreams (3:10-5:50)
(iii) Snakes and Ladders (5:51-8:28)
5. Sea of Schemes (8:48)
(i) Have Faith in Adam (00-0:57)
(ii) Total Immersion (0:58-3:39)
(iii) Sea of Schemes (3:40-5:46)
(iv) An Interval of Brief Alignment (5:47-6:50)
(v) Sea Witch (6:51-8:48)
6. Let the North Wind Blow (6:26)
Added: January 14th 2015
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
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