Wednesday, 22 June 2016

MONARCH – TWO ISLES (El Paraiso Records LP, CD).

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Here’s one for you 1970s “Classic Rock” aficionados!!..........if a blend of late 60s sweet California jams and a fusion of tricksy guitar rock is your thing then you are really going dig Two Isles, the debut album from West Coast laid back sonic voyagers Monarch. Informed by sun kissed psychedelia and inspired by the more Jazz Fusion influenced Prog Rock bands of the 1970s, Monarch are a throwback to the heady days of the post-psychedelic era where the blurring of boundaries was common and cornucopia of musical styles were up for grabs. Hailing from the fertile Southern California Psych scene, Monarch connect the dots between classic California rock, sweeping Prog Rock soundscapes, languid pastoral Psychedelic jams, explosive Jazz Rock fusion and the vivid, expansiveness of early 1990s British Shoegaze. With Brian Ellis from SoCal Prog Rock titans Astra on board as producer, Two Isles is the sound of a band conjuring new magic from styles of bygone years. It's full of breezy Allman Brothers guitar leads gliding effortlessly on top of subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, Prog-Rock structures. Even when it gets squally and heavy there's still an airy, inviting quality to Monarch's music that makes more than anything Two Isles the perfect head trip for easy summer days…………and all the other days you wish it felt like a balmy July afternoon.

Monarch’s line-up features three guitarists with powerful, supple drumming and lithe bass playing holding down the bottom end……………..guitars twist and intertwine, soaring and spiralling in a mad dance with the players swapping lead lines, executing jazzy runs and soloing like a demon, all with an air of supreme musicianship, while the tight as you like rhythm section underpin the whole thing with verve and precision. It’s music from an era where complex time signatures, intricate song structures and virtuoso playing was celebrated and not frowned at. Kicking off with a flurry of Prog Jazz before easing into a blissed out swirl of guitars, the album’s title track encompasses what Monarch are about……there are elements of the classic West Coast vibe of Quicksilver Messenger Service mixed with the newer sounds of bands like the Allah Las, all intermingling with a 70s style display of breath-taking musical dexterity. This combination of the old merging with new continues with other tunes such as the hazy, mellow ‘Hundreds, Thousands, Millions’ and ‘Dancers of The Sun’ with the truly brilliant ‘Assent’ not sounding out of place next to the best Sleepy Sun songs. Monarch seriously get their Prog on with the final two tracks on the album………’Sedna’s Fervor’ and the epic ‘Shady Maiden’ are a riot of sparkling guitars, tempo changes, Moog washes, jazzy bass lines and powerful, intricate drumming which has the feel of Neil Young & Crazy Horse jamming with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s Prog Rock alright…………………but with a warmth that you would not normally associate with the genre and it's about mood and texture as much as it's about anything else. Blending classic genres with a modern sensibility, Two Isles is an imperious debut from a thrilling new band and well worth checking out for both suburban Prog Heads and bedroom Psychedelicists alike.

Two Isles is another quality release from El Paraiso Records and is due to hit the shops and usual outlets at the end of July. Available on Red/Green blended vinyl and CD, pre-orders are being taken now at the El Paraiso web store now.


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