The West London UK based five-piece band KINDRED SPIRIT — headed up by talented song-smith and singer/guitarist Elaine Samuels — have two excellent, classically trained lead players in their Folk Rock/Prog Rock line-up. Their wizard of the perfect fifths is Martin Ash (violin and viola) while their magical floutist is Catherine Cooper (flute and saxophone.) The band was formed in the late 1990s by Elaine, and now has Mike Hislop (bass) alongside Aleem Saleh or Les Binks (the Legendary Judas Priest percussionist) on drums.
We have been fans of this band for a long while (certainly, since the days of Annie Parker, Gavin Jones and Alan Barwise) and we have been enjoying their polished & meticulously presented songs since before their happy (and well deserved) recognition on the UK “Prog crcuit”. We are especially pleased to be able to review their 2019 album: “Elemental.”
Rain-forests once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface; now they cover only 6% and experts calculate the last remaining rain-forests will have been exhausted in 40 years. Thus, this “protest album” has a boiling, flaming, fuming, globe on the cover (also identifying, maybe, the different elemental properties of each individual band member) … and starts with “No Smoke Without Fire” and a somber ch-chang from acoustic guitar. The smouldering flute seethes fermented smoke into the melancholic blue atmosphere until an angelic vocal harmony arrives, perhaps to lift us from the fire and into an eternal firmament.
This song metamorphoses around a motif that’s very probably Ray Thomas inspired — it might almost have been found on In Search of the Lost Chord it’s that nostalgic — and into something far more radical and Jefferson Airplanish. Are we to blame for this scorching world? Do we care, while we rest in our nylons, the electric lights ablaze, with central heating exploding in our faces, while we hear the words : “Did you start the fire? Were you the one?” Ending deforestation is the probably the best opportunity we have to stabilize our damned climate, save wildlife species and protect our planet. But are you playing your part? * *
The softly pattering rhythms on “Pandora’s Box” — with its serpentine coils of flute and descending stepping-stones of chorus — are merciful, but instructive. Elaine’s voice is benevolent and crystalline. The legend says that Pandora (the figure of Eve, she, the first human woman) opened a jar containing disease, death and evil. When she realized what she had done, she attempted to close the container, but it was too late… everything bad had spread into the world, except one thing: hope.
The intro of “Beyond The Ninth Wave” is reminiscent of Uriah Heep‘s “Lady In Black” but then becomes much more intricate in nature, with a voice that ranges from soubrette to half soprano. The composition is hypnotic, fluid and sinuously sweet. And then the entire thing evolves into an expressive dance.
Over-population and “industrial greed” are issues close to Elaine’s heart. So, “Don’t Have More Than Two” is a significant moment on this album: and this is where Martin’s violin is allowed a reign of free-fire to make circles, snakes and spirals, before an insistent chorus breaks out. This chorus is given extra gravitas by Molly Larder and Skye with Bethany, Keira and Grace and other friends of the band.
“Daemons” is ever-fermenting and promiscuously potent and the most properly prog-rock track in substance. Although, possibly, the highest mark of the album is the percussive: “Red Red Rose” with a melancholic, melodic edge that corresponds to the band’s former haunting composition, “Run Red” — though the new track comes with wind-milling fiddle-play and consistent voices that hint of the price of devilry and the coming purification.
“Elemental” is an ingenious and advanced folk-rock album with several well-favored songs and a lot of creative and wonderfully accomplished musical ornaments. Written for a species that is about to be lost in the fires.
Is it too late to save our planet? Play your part. **
Album launch: Saturday 2nd November ALL HALLOWS CHURCH HALL, Twickenham
Words & Pictures: Neil Mach
** Small scale deforestation was practiced by society for tens of thousands of years, and before the beginnings of civilization. With the advent of agriculture, larger areas were deforested, and fire has been the main tool for clearing land for crops for at least 7,000 years. In other words, the scorching of the earth has been going on for as long as man has existed. While the politics behind deforestation and land clearance is complicated (subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of deforestation) wildfire arson, “reckless burning” and habitat fragmentation for profit is always unacceptable HOW TO HELP? Support organizations fighting deforestation, use recycled products, reduce your meat consumption, raise awareness, and please plant a tree.