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M-Opus: 1975 Triptych

With so many wonderful sounds around, I always seem to be playing musical catch-up. Hence it's only now that the 2015 M-Opus debut, 1975 Triptych, has been getting some serious abuse in my CD player. And what glorious abuse it is, the bang up to date, yet utterly and intentionally retro prog a real revelation. Split into three tracks, the album feels conceptual, but in truth it's only when I sat down to read the lyrics that I realised just how few of them there are. It's a testament therefore to just how strong the music is, the album captivating from start to finish, although the vocals are excellent and lyrics very well worked. The 33 minute long, 11 part track "Different Skies" is a musical study of how the sky can and does make an impact on our lives, "vi. S.A.D." a voyage in eight lines of lyrics of how it can impose depression through deprivation, "iv. Super Sonic Shock" an investigation into how experience creates knowledge and how knowledge becomes ingrained from generation to generation. That it's done in less that 50 words is as surprising as it is impressive. Musically it's an even more intricate journey, aspects of the classic prog elements (Genesis, Yes, King Crimson) used as mere starting point for music which feels informed through rather than dictated by the past. Abstract, synthesized voices relay the facts in the words, full on vocals the interpretation. Gloriously Middle Eastern flavours are explored as the epic piece draws towards it close, strings and wordless vocal meanderings built upon by ethnic percussion, before guitars and drums ease into the scene, grounding everything in a sound that permeates across the remainder of the track. The guitar work is superbly poised, the keyboards integral to the unmitigated success this piece proves to be; the slow atmospherics which begin this track's long, enthralling journey illustrating to perfection the class and guile on show.

The band themselves are nothing more than a duo, Jonathan Casey (vocals, keys, guitars, bass) and Colin Sullivan (guitars, vocals) augmented by drummers Mark Grist and Aran O'Malley, bassist Oisin O'Malley and the Greenwich Village Orchestra, NY. The pair may be pretty well unknown names, however Casey (as Arch Stanton) has been a part of King Crimson man David Cross's band, while he and Sullivan have performed together in a variety of guises for over a decade. Since then Casey has also gone on to become a composer of some renown, traveling the world and creating music for both film and TV.

Unsurprisingly that experience shines through, the more expansive sections masterful, captivating and yet never over egged. Something the two shorter bookends confirms, the Yes, or Spock's Beard inflected "Traveling Man" a bouncing, popping introduction to the album. Stinging, yet clean guitars working in unison with a mixture of classic keyboard breaks and layered synth atmospherics. Although a recurring section that reminds of the theme music to the UK quiz show Countdown is a little off putting. The dreamy, psych of "Wasps"shows a different side; unsettling yelps and scrapes the backing for a tension filled guitar melody and beautifully restrained vocal, where the most clever thing about the expected, mad crescendo, is that it never arrives. The desire to offer something at least slightly different one of the main weapons in this album's armoury.

If you were sharper on the uptake of this excellent debut from Ireland's M-Opus, you'll doubtless already have been singing its praises for all to hear. If like me you've been behind this duo's curve, the chance to catch up and be dazzled by the results is simply far too good to pass up. Put simply this is one of the best prog releases last year offered up and in a twelve month span which provided many highlights in that genre, that's high praise indeed.

Track Listing
1. Travelling Man
2. Different Skies
i Snowflake
ii Throne of Polaris
iii The Tempest
iv Super Sonic Shock
v Ancient Light
vi S.A.D.
vii Every Day the Orbit
viii Magnetic North
ix Every Day the Orbit (Reprise)
x Flood
xi Endless Echo

3. Wasps

Added: March 20th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: M-Opus online
Hits: 2097
Language: english

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