Panic Room are one of three new bands formed from the ashes of the original incarnation of Welsh celtic/prog band Karnataka, made up from Jon Edwards (keys), Paul Davies (guitar), Gavin Griffiths (drums) and Anne-Marie Helder (vocals and flute) from that band, plus Swansea bass virtuoso Alun Vaughan on bass. Their debut album has been three years in the making, and has finally appeared.
With four members of the old lineup of Karnataka in the band, comparisons are going to be inevitable. But while there are plenty of echoes of the previous band, this is certainly no simple pastiche of Karnataka’s music. It’s an awful lot more varied, for a start.
High spots are many. The rocky opener “Elektra City” takes just a couple of listens to become a serious earworm. Then there’s the brooding atmospheric “Endgame”. “Apocalypstick” with guest musician Liz Prendergast’s eastern-sounding electric violin centre-stage reminds me more than a little of Hawkwind’s “Hasan-I-Sabah”. And the arrangement of the traditional folk ballad “I wonder what’s keeping my true love tonight”, again featuring Liz Prendergast’s violin, is absolutely gorgeous.
The playing and production on this album are perfect; it certainly sounds like they took their time getting it right. There’s plenty of sweeping keyboard soundscapes from Jon Edwards, Paul Davies’s distinctive guitar is used sparingly but effectively, and Gavin and Alun make an incredibly tight rhythm section. And Anne-Marie Helder proves she’s a great lead vocalist in her own right; having seen a couple of her acoustic solo sets live I’ve never really doubted that, but this is the first time I’ve heard singing lead backed by a full band. The often complex multi-layered songs makes me wonder how on earth they’re going to reproduce all this live.
This album is definitely worth the three year wait.
The limited edition of the album is only available from the band’s website, www.panicroom.org.uk (warning! Flash only!). If your browser can’t cope with Flash, the band tell me you can also get a copy by posting a cheque for £11.49 (inc. £1.50 p&p) made out to “Firefly Music Ltd” to; Firefly Music Ltd, 3 Talbot Street, Gowerton, Swansea, SA4 3DB