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Patchwork Cacophony - Patchwork Cacophony CD (album) cover

PATCHWORK CACOPHONY

Patchwork Cacophony

 

Symphonic Prog

3.41 | 12 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Patchwork Cacophony is the new album envisioned by multi instrumentalist Ben Bell, featuring 14 tracks, 9 of which encompass the epic 'Dawn Light', and mastered by Peter Maher. The CD comes with a nicely illustrated book including some quirky portraits by Candy Medusa that represent the instrumental content, such as a plucky parrot perched like a plectrum on an acoustic guitar and two roosters going head to head about to press the red button to prevent a fox from devouring the other, or are they? One may ascertain that the red button releases a trap door for the other rooster to fall into the fox's gaping maw. But if they press at the same time both are certainly doomed. Included also is a delightful piece of artwork with two elephants swinging from trees adorned by a spider in a hat, forest animals dancing, ladybirds and the tired old fox sleeping beneath the trees - perhaps sleeping it off after dining on the gullible roosters. This wonderful artwork represents the whimsical track 'Dance of the Fleet-footed Heffalumps', a title reminiscent of the imaginative books of Dr Seuss.

I like the way that each song is represented by some information to alert the listener to the type of music that is being experienced and the inspiration behind each track is outlined on Bell's liner notes. The lyrics are also included and this is always a nice touch and really helps to enhance the enjoyment of the album.

The album is primarily a solo effort though had some input from others in an inspirational sense. Bell plays such instruments as piano, Hammond organ, Profit 08 synthesiser, Clavia Nord Stage, Yamaha TG55, Mellotron, drums and cymbals, fretless and fretted bass, electric and acoustic guitars, jam blocks, Timbales, congas, cowbells, telephone bells, kazoo, nylon brushes, tin cans, jingle scarves, tambourines and all vocals and multitracked voices including the Fabled Choir of Doom.

It opens with a 16 minute piece 'Sketch of a Day' that bounces between piano and synth lines with lush Mellotron washes cascading over. It builds gradually into a heavy percussive treatment. Layer upon layer of keyboards melt together with tasteful bass and drums. The organic sound and focus on piano is reminiscent of Rick Wakeman in many respects. It is very complex and dense in structure and features a grand finale of synth soaked flames flickering brightly over a choral section, Pink Floyd majesty shining through. A grandiose start to the album and one of the highlights for sure.

'No U-Turn' has a melodica instrument that bounces merrily over an effective baseline. The exuberant melody is upbeat and frolics over Hammond stabs and strong drum beats. The happy Organ sound is akin to the early Keith Emerson style of ELP.

'Dance of the Fleet-footed Heffalumps' has a flute synth and lush mellotron washes. It is a bright sound helped by acoustic vibrations. The deep bass synths are effective too in this short but loveable piece.

'Brinkmanship' opens with well executed piano played with classical flair. The rhythm kicks in with bass and drums and then a synth plays the fractured melody. This has a more progressive rhythmic feel. The catchy tune is accessible after a while and this may be one of the more memorable tracks on offer. It changes time sig and moves into a fast cadence with some wonderful keyboard finesse. The Hammond blazes over piano staccato notes and then settles into a slow melancholy steady rhythm. The sound reminded me of Procol Harum the way the Hammond organ shimmers and prominent piano is ever present. One of my favourites from this album; almost 11 minutes in length and a masterful track.

'Nylons for Parot' is a guitar laden piece with synth pads; short and to the point like a Steve Howe acoustic workout. Originally written for piano the piece works as a transition between the mini epic previous and the huge epic to come.

'Dawn Light' is an epic suite of over 26 minutes broken into many sections. This is where the album changes gears and features some spacey synths and thought provoking lyrics. In 'Change is in the Air' the verse opens with "Dawn light grows as darkness yields, sunshine falls on golden fields, all the signs of a normal day, but something pulls my mind away, can you feel a change is in the air?" The vocals are welcome after all the instrumentation. They are mixed rather low with the hypnotic piano motif taking centre stage. A synth with a retro sound enters and lifts the atmosphere.

The song 'No Time' has the repeated verse like a mantra "no time to think things over, no time to watch and wait, grab a bag and travel late, it'll all be over if we hesitate." Again the song is dominated by a keyboard motif that locks in the brain. The organ solo is enjoyable and upbeat. The Hammond quivers are fabulous and the runs that rumble add a sense of dramatic tension. It's a pity it fades out rather than segues seamlessly to the next track as this is far more effective.

'We Can't Stay' has lyrics that question our position at the crossroads when facing decisions "Where are we going? The pace is slowing, can we all slow down now? can we stop and wait? Are we nearly there yet because it's getting late." Such lyrics cause us to ponder on life itself, searching for answers and whether it is safe to go home, or travel forward or turn back. In any case it makes the point we cannot stay the way we are because it is not going to work; we must go one way or the other. I think many listeners can relate to this state of being. The lyrics resonate with me on a personal level also. The piano is played with some heavy handed stabs. The best is uptempo and the vocal style is multi layered though a bit too high in the vocal register at times. I wasn't as taken in by the vocals here but I liked the jaunty melodic sound of the keyboards.

The melancholy sound of stripped back piano and soulful vocals is on 'Rest my Feet'. It slows the pace considerably. Sounding slightly like

'Scorched Earth' is an instrumental with organ crunches and fast tempo switches. The odd dialogue is a mystery to me but seems to fit in okay.

The epic concludes with 'Final Sunset' with lyrics that come full circle but this time the sentiment is "Are we looking at the final sunset? Are we coming to the end of the line? Are we living through the final days of the world? Is this the end of our time?" Such lyrics remind me is the early works of The Moody Blues particularly their debut album "Days of Future Passed". The rhythm is strong and fast paced. The multi tracked vocals sound good here. The epic might have been better if it had been one seamless track rather than with definite breaks between tracks. I think of the works of Caravan who always segued each track seamlessly and how great that feels when one listens to those long tracks.

Overall this is a solid album from Ben Bell with some thought provoking content and inspirational instrumental pieces. The multi movement suite of 'Dawn Light' is a definitive draw card to the album but it all culminates in an enjoyable musical experience. I believe that although it doesn't quite reach the mark of other 4 star albums I have heard this year, at least in production, it still warrants a 3 and a half star rating. I will have to round it down to 3 stars as there is room for improvement here. I hope more Patchwork Cacophony albums are forthcoming as this features some excellent material.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |

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