Baby Pendolino Kickstarter

Tilt-shift PenodolinosMike Hale and Ben Ando are running a Kickstarter for an N-gauge Virgin Trains Pendolino.

Love them or hate them, they’re the signature train for the electrified west coast main line, which cannot be realistically modelled without them.  The model will be produced by the Canadian manufacturer Rapido Trains.

The model will be available in 9 or 11 car versions as per the prototype, in DC or DCC with sound. For those without the space for a full-length set (A 9-car train is just short of 5 feet), there is also the option of a shortened 5-car set. The price for the basic 9-car set without DCC is £255, which compares very reasonably to Bachmann’s 6-car Midland Pullman.

The above photo is a tilt-shift image the prototypes at London Euston, by Stuart Axe.

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Steve Rothery at Bush Hall

Steve Rothery at Bush Hall

Marillion’s guitarist Steve Rothery and his band came to Bush Hall on a wet Saturday night for a sold-out gig to mark the end of his short UK tour to promote his solo album “The Ghosts of Pripyat”. He bought the five piece band he put together to record the album, including Yatim Halimi of Panic Room on bass and Dave Foster of Mr So and So as a second guitarist.

Support was the Italian four-piece RanestRane, playing to a back-projection of first part of “2001″. They played melodic contemporary neo-prog, with effects-laden guitar and the occasional foray into Hammond-heavy hard rock. It had its moments, and it was all skilfully played, but much of the time it felt a little generic, and by the end you found yourself paying far more attention to Stanley Kubrick’s visuals that the music. The fact that the drummer sang lead which meant they lacked a proper frontman may not have helped here.

Steve Rothery and his band began with his new solo album “The Ghosts of Pripyat” played in full. They recovered from a slight hiccough early on with guitar problems at the end of the opening number “Morpheus” to deliver a very impressive first set. The material, all of it instrumental, comes over strongly live. It’s powerful and emotional stuff, built around Rothery’s lyrical guitar playing, but far more than just an excuse for extended soloing.

Rothery is one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, casting such a shadow over subsequent waves of progressive rock that other guitarists in the scene either end up sounding like him or must try hard not to. He’s equally at home supplying effects-laden atmospherics and textures, or soaring lead lines. His playing is always melodic, with a less-is-more approach that doesn’t waste a note, and the first hour demonstrated all of this.

There were times that resemble Marillion without vocals, but with two guitars the textures were often denser and darker. While it’s obviously Rothery’s show, Dave Foster still made his mark, sometimes playing muscular riffs while Rothery added atmospheric fills, and has a few spotlight moments of his own, his metal-orientated shredding contrasting with Rothety’s own distinctive style.

After the final notes of title track of the album died away, Rothery announced that they’ve be taking a short break, and would be back with some Marillion songs.

This is the point where it might all have gone horribly wrong; on a live album recorded in Rome earlier in the year the second half was something of an anticlimax, largely down to the guest vocalists not doing the material justice. Not so tonight; Steve Rothery drafted in Martin Jakubski from the tribute band Stillmarillion, a singer who knows exactly how to bring the classic early material to life on stage.

It started slowly, with the early B-side “Cinderella Search” and the reflective title track on “Afraid of Sunlight”, the only Hogarth-era song played. But things really caught fire with the dark intensity of “Incubus”, the disturbing song written a generation before ‘revenge porn’ was ever a thing. With “Chelsea Monday”, “Fugazi”, and the encore medley from “Misplaced Childhood” the band took the roof off.

This was material from the Fish era that the present incarnation of Marillion never play nowadays in regular touring sets, and sung with all the high notes intact rather than the rearranged versions Fish has performed in recent years. It was the closest thing to Fish-era Marillion in their mid-80s prime as you’re likely to get in 2014.

With the majestic first half and the strongly crowd-pleasing second half, this was a life-affirming occasion.

This review also appears in Trebuchet Magazine

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The news that Muse are to headline Download Festival 2015 has predictably drawn out the tribal idiots of the rock world. If The Prodigy can headline the same festival, and Metallica can headline Glastonbury, then a band as over the top and bombastic as Muse ought to go down a storm at Britain’s premier metal festival. Surely people can remember “Knights of Cydonia“?

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TILT Kickstarter

tiltTILT, the band featuring Steve Vantsis and Robin Boult, long-term collaborators with Fish and members of his current touring band, along with Dave Stewart, Paul Humphreys and Paul Dourley have launched a Kickstarter campaing for the debut album “Hinterland”.

This is their first full-length album, following on from their 2008 EP “Million Dollar Wound“.

To quote the band:

We have been working on our debut album ‘HINTERLAND’ for the past 3 years and have some fantastic music recorded. Now it’s your chance to get involved, help us get the album released and grab some exclusives in the process! In order to get the best sounding album we possibly can we have enlisted the services of legendary rock producer Chris Kimsey (Rolling Stones, INXS, Marillion). We are very excited about this and you should be too, Chris’s credentials speak for themselves.

Steve Vantsis and Robin Boult wrote significant portions of Fish’s superb “Feast of Conseqences”, so there is some very solid songwriting chops there.

The Kickstarter ends on December 2nd.

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Interesting that taking a break from Twitter (I will be back) results in some very different usage patterns on this blog.

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That Infamous Shirt

The Internet is throwing one of its childish tantrums again.

The rocket scientist Matt Taylor, who had just made the remarkable achievement of landing a spacecraft on a comet, did a TV interview while wearing a Hawaiian shirt decorated by 1950s-style pinups that a female friend had made for him as birthday present.

Yes, the shirt could be seen as sexist in a workplace context, though I’d doubt most people would have batted an eyelid had he worn it to a rockabilly gig. But the outrage that followed blew things up out of all proportion, and showed the internet at its worst. It started with a nasty mean-spirited article on a clickbait website I won’t link to, and it was followed with the usual pattern of a Twitter mob gathering up torches and pitchforks. It resulted in the man making a tearful apology on TV. But the resulting backlash shows no signs of dying down.

Sorry, but I’m not seeing this as a successful calling out of sexism and misogyny in science. I’m seeing a brilliant but socially awkward man set upon by a pack of bullies over a social faux-pas. And from what I can tell, that’s how a lot of people outside the social-justice bubble see things as well. You are left with the impression they’ve gone for him because he makes an easy soft target who won’t fight back, and forcing a humiliating apology gives them a nice glow of moral righteousness. But there are far worse things than an inappropriate shirt, and cheap victories are often hollow ones.

There are real problems with structural sexism in the worlds of science and technology, but they’re not going to be solved by this sort of knee-jerk public shaming. Remarkable scientific achievements are often the work of people who don’t spend precious brain cycles on things like fashion sense. A scientific world that has no room for socially awkward people with a few rough edges who have difficulty navigating complex and constantly-changing rules of etiquette is a scientific world that will be less able to do things like land spacecraft on comets.

By all means call out blatant sexism. But always retain a sense of proportion, and never forget that there are real human beings at the other end of the invective. As I said about the Requires Hate saga, we must always put empathy before ideology.

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When Fleetwood Mac are charging £125 for floor-level tickets, you can assume their audience is predominantly 50-somethings who go to one gig a year, and haven’t listened to much new music since they got married and had kids. You could see many newer, better bands for a fraction of that money.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 1 Comment

Now Playing: Pink Floyd’s Endless River. There may be a full review along later, but for now I’ll say that the late Richard Wright was to Pink Floyd what Malcolm Young was to AC/DC. Unassuming and understated, but absolutely central to their sound.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 2 Comments

The Social Media Outrage Cycle

It goes like this:

  • Somebody does or says something that somebody else thinks is tacky, tasteless or offensive.
  • Somebody else throws together a hastily-written and completely overblown 600 word thinkpiece on why that thing is an existential threat to civilisation, and it’s published on a clckbait website.
  • The link to the thinkpiece gets shared on social media by people outraged at the target of the thinkpiece
  • The link gets shared by an opposing group of people who are outraged at the thinkpiece itself.
  • The whole thing gets picked up by trolls who just enjoy watching the internet burn
  • Innocent bystanders end up being hurt.

There is no point linking to the current outrage-of-the day. There will be another one along tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that….

I wish there was some way of breaking the cycle.

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Mantra Vega Update

Mantra VegaIn a blogpost entitled “Beyond the realms of summer wine“, Heather Findlay gives an update on the progress with Mantra Vega:

I’m finding the creative themes behind the album are really mirroring a lot of my own personal journey this year, which in itself has had one or two rather unexpected twists and turns, leaving me with a lot of gratitude for the freedom I have within this project to have been able to explore this musically. Dave has had a very intuitive approach to working with me which has allowed for what will be I think a very authentic, heartfelt piece of life art. (If that’s even a thing!) The amount of times that just the right piece of music has been mysteriously supplied by Dave at just the right time is a work of art in itself! I hope you will agree and very soon you will be given the chance to decide for yourself.

Moving forward, the Mantra Vega shape of things is likely to take form via single being released in the very early part of 2015, closely followed by the album itself when we’ll explore the prospect of doing some live shows with the possibility of appearances on both sides of the Atlantic being discussed.

You can keep in touch with what’s going on by either liking the our MV Facebook page, or by joining my mailing list here

As well as that, Heather will be making a guest appearance of John Mitchell’s forthcoming solo album “Lonely Robot”.

2015 is looking like getting off to an exciting start with the long awaited albums from Karnataka and Chantel McGregor also expected early in the new year.

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