Tag Archives: Luna Rossa

Resonance Festival, Balham

Resonance Festival

The Resonance Festival held at the very beginning of August was a four-day charity event held in The Bedford in Balham, featuring bands from all aspects of the contemporary progressive rock scene, everything from the traditional and the neo to the avant garde. I couldn’t get to the first two days, the evening only events featuring Mostly Autumn, Also Eden and Lifesigns. But I did attend the all-day events of Saturday and Sunday where the three rooms played host to a wide variety of bands.

The biggest room, the magnificent circular Globe was booked for a comedy night on the Saturday, but it was still available during the afternoon. So that became the acoustic stage for the day. First up was looping guitar maestro Matt Stevens, conjuring tapestries of sound from a battered acoustic guitar and an array of looping pedals. He’s a familiar sight on the prog circuit having opened for just about everyone, but he’s still an entertaining performer no matter how many times you’ve seen him.

After The Far Meadow, whose competent neo-prog was spoiled by terrible sound, it was back to The Globe for a beautiful set from Luna Rossa, the acoustic duo of Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards of Panic Room. They’re not “Panic Room unplugged”, but a completely separate side-project playing their own material rather than Panic Room songs. With Jon on piano and Anne-Marie adding some acoustic guitar and flute, their beautiful set featured songs from the album “Sleeping Pills and Lullabies”, a couple of interestingly-reworked covers, and one new number offering a tantalising glimpse of their second album that they’re currently part-way through recording.

Anna Phoebe and her band were the first all-instrumental act of the weekend. With lead instruments of violin and acoustic guitar for much of the set, they were the missing link between rock and gypsy jazz. Anne Phoebe is a stunning virtuoso musician with a dramatic stage presence to match.

Matt Stevens celebrated his birthday by returning to the stage a second time, this time in electric mode with a full band in the shape of The Fierce and The Dead. They’re not an easy band to describe, but their instrumental sound driven by interlocking guitars with a raw sound comes over as a kind of punk version of King Crimson. It was intense and Earth-shatteringly loud, and the audience staggered out of the room wondering exactly what had hit them.

Saturday ended with the symphonic majesty of The Enid. Much like their performance at HRH Prog back in March, the set mixed older favourites with newer material from “Invictia”, ending with a mesmerising “Dark Hydraulic” and a version of Barclay James Harvest’s “Mockingbird”. There is nobody else remotely like The Enid, and they, perhaps more than any other band embody the spirit of everything progressive rock is about.

So ended the first day, and that was just the highlights; there are also honourable mentions to Unto Us, who bravely playing their set with a laptop replacing their ailing drummer, and the avant-noise of Trojan Horse, a band with feet in enough different camps they do supports for the likes of post-punk veterans The Fall.

Sunday’s bill was a day of clashes between the various stages, made worse by timings going awry which made it easier to wander from stage to stage seeing what sounded interesting rather than planning things too much in advance. Early bands included Rat Face Lewey, a very young power trio, at times verging on punk, at others playing some more melodic guitar lines, and Hekz with their strongly song-focussed prog-metal. Vocals are often the weak link in prog-metal, but Hekz’ Matt Young had quite a remarkable voice.

Maschine were the first band on the main stage, now in its rightful place in The Globe, and started late because of technical problems. Although to some extent they’re a vehicle for Luke Machin’s virtuoso guitar playing, there’s some solid composition behind all the flash. They’re the missing link between prog-metal and jazz-fusion. Quite a bit of their entertaining set was new, as yet unrecorded material alongside highlights from their début “Rubidium”. They’re not quite the same without Georgia, though.

King Bathmat were actually three-quarters of King Bathmat, since they were without their keyboard player and played as a power trio. In such a stripped-down form they sounded like a completely different band than they do on record, but nevertheless did make a strong impression, dominated by John Bassett’s psychedelic lead guitar. Because the two sets clashed I only caught the end of Synaesthesia’s set, but what little I heard it seemed like their set was something special indeed, a remarkable combination of youthful enthusiasm and compositional maturity well beyond their years.

Mr So and So turned out to be one of the unexpected highlights of the weekend, with a really powerful performance. They’re a band representing the song-centric side of things with distinctive use of dual male-female lead vocals. Their set was tight and intense with both guitar crunch and soaring melodies, with Charlotte Evans giving a very strong vocal performance, and some tremendous shredding from Dave Foster.

Former Enid guitarist Frances Lickerish threw a complete curveball and had to be the strangest act of the weekend. He started out playing some solo instrumental pieces on, of all things a lute, before being joined by vocalist Hilary Palmer for some genuine medieval songs. It seemed like folk’s revenge for Prog taking over Cropredy this year, and made Blackmore’s Night look like the Dungeons and Dragons parody it is. He even played a few bars of Smoke on the Water. On a lute.

At this point things started to go really pear-shaped. Swedish proggers Änglagård, making a very rare UK appearance were due on the main stage at 6:30. But despite already being allocated a two-hour setup time, they were nowhere near being ready to go at the scheduled time, and were ultimately well over an hour late, throwing the rest of the timings into disarray. I appreciate that a band relying so much on temperemental vintage gear (including two Mellotrons) might suffer from technical problems. But I was told the exact same thing happened last year at Night of the Prog at Loreley, which makes we wonder if a band like this should really be playing festivals at all.

The delay did give the chance to check out the other two stages, with some in-your-face metal from Jupiter Falls, and an entertaining unplugged set from 70s veterans Gnidrolog. Änglagård finally did hit the stage very, very late with their largely instrumental and very retro classic prog sound. It was a swirling mix of flute, Hammond, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, saxes and an array of percussion instruments including a massive gong. All very heady stuff, although there was always the nagging doubt at the back of the mind that this was all a Spinal Tap style parody of prog excess.

Headliners Bigelf came on very late, and played a truncated set despite the hastily extended curfew. But it all proved worth the wait, and they blew everyone away, sounding like a cross between The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and early Queen. Few people in the prog world have such a magnetic stage presence as frontman and keyboard player Damon Fox. He completely dominates the stage, playing a Hammond B3 with one hand and a Mellotron with the other while singing lead at the same time. With a setlist drawn heavily from “Cheat the Gallows” and “Into the Maelstrom” they bought the festival to a spectacular if somewhat belated close.

Resonance was an entertaining festival, and the variety of acts covered almost all corners of progressive rock’s increasingly large tent. The only failing was that the whole thing was probably a little over-ambitious with three stages and far too many bands to be able to see everyone. One thing that amused me was the way the bar kept running out of real ale; did nobody tell them what prog fans drink?

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Stage times for the Resonance Rock Festival

Resonance Festival

The Resonance Rock Festival have published the stage times on the festival Facebook page.

Here are the final, definitive running times for Resonance. PLEASE NOTE: We now have an Acoustic Stage on Saturday 2nd August, as well as the Prog and Synergy stages. Luna Rossa are now playing on Saturday on that stage, NOT on Sunday 3rd/ Synergy stage. Due to unforeseen circumstances outside their control, both Parallax Faction and Mothers Ruin will no longer be playing. We wish them well, and they return the blessing!

Thursday 31st July – Prog Stage (only)
Doors @ 6pm

Kalamus – 7pm / 7.45pm
Robert Webb Masterclass – 8.15pm / 9pm
Mostly Autumn – 9.30pm / 11pm

Friday 1st August – All 3 Stages
Doors @ 6pm (All Stages)

Prog Stage (Globe)

John Mitchell – 6.45pm / 7.30pm
Lifesigns – 8pm / 9pm
Nosound – 9.30pm / 11pm

Synergy Stage (BallRoom)

Moheir – 7pm / 8pm
Fuzzy Nautilus – 8.30pm / 9.30pm
Thumpermonkey – 10pm / 11pm+

Jack Daniels Stage (Tavistock)

Stella+ – 7pm / 8pm
Red Letters – 8.30pm / 9.30pm
Also Eden – 10pm / 11pm +

Saturday 2nd August – 3 Stages (Prog, Synergy and Acoustic)

Acoustic Stage (Globe) – Doors @ Noon

Matt Stevens – 12.30pm / 1.00pm (Unplugged set)
Jack Arthurs – 1.15pm / 1.45pm (Unplugged set)
Guy Manning – 2.00pm / 2.45pm (Unplugged set)
Luna Rossa – 3.00pm / 3.45pm +

Prog Stage (BallRoom)– Doors @ 1pm

Halo Tora – 2.00pm / 2.45pm
The Tirith – 3.15pm / 4.00pm
Anna Phoebe – 4.30pm / 5.45pm

Break

Henry Fool – 7.45pm / 9pm
The Enid – 9-30 pm / 11pm

Synergy Stage(Tavistock) – Doors @ 1pm

The Far Meadow –1.30pm / 2.15pm
Triage – 2-45pm/ 3.30pm
Unto Us – 4pm / 5pm

Break

Trojan Horse – 7.00pm / 8.00pm
The Fierce And The Dead – 8.30pm / 9.30pm

Sunday 3rd August

Prog Stage (Globe) -Doors @ Noon

Maschine – 12.30pm /1.30pm
Synaesthesia – 2pm/ 3pm
The Gift – 3.30pm / 4.30pm

Break

Angalagard – 6.30pm / 8.00pm
Big Elf – 9pm / 10.30pm

Synergy Stage (Ball Room)– Doors @ Noon

Rat Face Lewey –12.30pm / 1.15pm
Kingbathmat – 1.45pm /3pm

Break

A Formal Horse – 4pm / 4.45pm
Francis Lickerish – 5.15pm / 6.15pm

Break

I Am Your Autopilot – 8pm /8.45pm
X Ray Quartet – 9.15pm

Jack Daniels Stage (Tavistock)– Doors @ Noon

HekZ – 1pm / 1.45pm
Babajack – 2.15pm / 3 pm
Mr So & So – 3.30pm / 4.30pm

Break

Jupiter Falls – 6 pm / 7pm
Aeon Zen – 7.30pm / 9pm

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Exciting news from Luna Rossa! They’ve just stated on Twitter that they’re well into recording their second album, with a release scheduled for Autumn, with an accompanying tour.

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The Morpheus Rising album launch

Morpheus Rising's

Morpheus Rising chose Bilston Robin 2 as the location for the launch of their second album, both as an excellent rock venue with great acoustics, and as a central location that’s accessible for fans across the country. Not only that, the show also marked the live début of Luna Rossa, Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards’ acoustic Panic Room side project.

Luna Rossa at Bilston Robin 2

Luna Rossa played a beautiful set, drawn almost entirely from “Sleeping Pills and Lullabies”. Shorn of the strings and additional instrumentaion of the album, the stripped-down sound of just voice, piano and guitar emphasised the strength of the songs. Jon Edwards’ expressive piano and Anne-Marie’s equally expressive voice make a perfect combination in a live setting, and songs like “Heart On My Sleeve” came over especially well.  The one all-new song was an atmospheric piece featured electric piano and some of Anne-Marie’s flute, and offered an intriguing taster for the next Luna Rossa album. They closed with the multi-layered “Gasp”, the one time they resorted to backing tracks for a song that wouldn’t work without the strings and looped backing vocals.

Morpheus Rising's

Then it was time for the twin guitar classic hard rock of Morpheus Rising. Their shows supporting Panic Room last hear had previewed quite a few of the new songs, one of two of which even became live favourites. But for the launch show the band played the whole album including the two download-only bonus tracks. The whole thing came over very powerfully live, so much so that it’s hard to pick a single highlight, though “Bending Light” with Pete Harwood’s e-bow solo came over especially strongly. With new drummer Nigel Durham they’ve gone up another gear as a live band.

Morpheus Rising's

They had intended to continue with the highlights of their first album, but unfortunately a poorly drummer forced them to curtail their set, making for a slightly confusing ending.  They did come back for one more number, a rousing rendition of “Lords of the North”. But the slightly premature end failed to take the edge off a fantastic night. On paper, the two very different acts sharing a bill ought never to have worked. But the combination of delicate acoustic beauty with full-on rock and roll ended up complimenting each other extremely well, and the whole thing made for a remarkable evening.

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Panic Room – Incarnate

IncarnatePanic Room had something of a troubled 2013. Several years hard work paid off with a growing reputation and audience for their powerful and sophisticated mix of rock, folk, jazz and metal. Then their year began with the departure of the lead guitarist, founder member Paul Davies. While Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood did a sterling job standing in on their already-booked tour, his commitments to his own band ruled out any longer-term involvement. So they initially announced that they’d be writing their fourth album as a four-piece. Then around the time the band were ready to enter the studio they announced the recruitment of Adam O’Sullivan, bringing the band back up to full strength.

In a rock band the lead guitarist can often be as important as the singer, so how would the new-look Panic Room sound?

Hard rocking opener “Velocity” with its spiralling guitar riff is close to the feel of their last album, but with the next few numbers a rather different sound emerges. It’s a step away from the rich wall of sound that characterised the last couple of Panic Room albums, with a lighter, more pared-back feel that has as much in common with Panic Room’s acoustic side-project Luna Rossa than it does with 2012′s “Skin”. In places there are echoes of the début “Visionary Position” and the singer-songwriter feel of Anne-Marie Helder’s 2006 solo record “The Contact”, and it’s notable that Anne-Marie has sole songwriting credit for half of the ten songs.

There are plenty of moments where the space in the mix gives individual members the chance to shine. There’s some inventive drumming from Gavin Griffiths, and some great understated Fender Rhodes from Jon Edwards across much of the album. Adam O’Sullivan’s guitar isn’t always prominent, though he does have his spotlight moments. Much of his playing has a strong jazz flavour, with some great bluesy rippling flourishes. A good example is on “Nothing New” where his guitar work duels with some equally jazzy piano runs from Jon Edwards. The one moment towards the end of the album where he cuts loose with a rock-style solo, it’s superb. Yet again Anne-Marie’s vocals are everything you’d expect from someone voted Best Female Singer by readers of Prog magazine, hitting the sweet spot between melody and expressiveness.

Much of the strongest material comes in the second half of the album. The atmospheric “Into Temptation” with its eastern-sounding vibe is reminiscent of parts of “Endgame” from the band’s début. The following three numbers “All The We Are”, “Searching”, and the soaring “Close The Door” all demonstrate Anne-Marie’s talents as a singer-songwriter.

The album closes with the dark and brooding “Dust”, an ambitiously progressive piece sounding like Massive Attack crossed with late-period Led Zeppelin, building on a repeated motif keeps going round and round in your head even after the album has finished playing.

At this stage in their career, Panic Room could easily have attempted a retread of the well-regarded “Skin”. But that would have been a mistake, and they should be applauded for not simply repeating a successful formula. It’s not quite perfect; the album might have benefited from one or two out-and-out rockers in the vein of Skin’s “Hiding the World” or Satellite’s “Dark Star” to add variety and raise the energy level. But it does feel like the beginning of a new chapter for the band. This is album by a band not afraid to try something slightly different, and there is much to like about it, especially after repeated listens. It’s still unmistakably Panic Room, but with their sophisticated sound it’s a record with a wider crossover potential too.

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Eximus Humanus pre-order

Eximus HumanusMorpheus Rising are now taking pre-orders for their album “Eximus Humanus”.  The band funded the album with a successful Kickstarter campaign. Those of us who backed the have already downloaded the digital version of the album, and it’s exvellent. Now is the turn of those of you who missed the kickstarter.

Morpheus Rising will be playing a launch gig at Bilston Robin 2 on 23rd February, with Luna Rossa as the support, which ought to be an excellent night.

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2013 Album of the Year

Luna RossaSleeping Pills and Lullabies

Luna RossaSomehow I don’t think many regular readers of this blog will be surprised at my album of the year. When I get comments asking what Panic Room would have to do to get a bad review, and get members of the band quoting those comments to me, I’m probably guilty as charged of being a fanboy. So don’t just take my word for it. There are many, many other people who agree that this is a stunningly beautiful work.

Luna Rossa are, of course, Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards of Panic Room in acoustic mode, with the focus on Anne-Marie’s voice accompanied by Jon’s grand piano, with strings, acoustic guitar, some electronic percussion, and all sorts of other strange instruments adding colour. Parts of the album have a Panic Room unplugged feel, others are more experimental with echoes of Kate Bush and Massive Attack. It’s the sort of record that ought to have a crossover appeal well beyond Panic Room’s rock audience.

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Luna Rossa to support at Morpheus Rising album launch

Morpheus Rising AlbumMorpheus Rising have annonced the launch gig for the Kickstarted-funded second album “Eximius Humanus”, at Bilston Robin 2 on Sunday 23rd February 2014.

With a strong crossover fan base, Morpheus Rising deliver an energetic and powerful show which appeals to the Classic Rock and Prog fans alike. This will be the band’s first headline show at the Robin, having previously played shows supporting the likes of Panic Room.

Not only that, but the show will also be the first even live appearance of Luna Rossa, Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards superb acoustic project.

In this, their first ever live performance as ‘Luna Rossa’, the duo will explore the stripped-back splendour and beauty of their debut album ‘Sleeping Pills & Lullabies’. A rare treat for any fans of Panic Room or those who love the magic of timeless, entrancing songwriting.

This is looking like a show not to be missed.

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Luna Rossa – Dark Room

Rather excellent fan-created video for Luna Rossa’s excellent “Dark Room”, the opening track from the album “Sleeping Pills and Lullabies”.

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Luna Rossa – Sleeping Pills and Lullabies

Luna Rossa is an acoustic project from Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards, best known as members and principle writers of the highly acclaimed Swansea-based rock band Panic Room.

The words “acoustic album” tends to suggest rootsy folk-orientated or heavily stripped-down recordings, but “Sleeping Pills and Lullabies” takes a rather different approach. For much of the album the dominant sounds are Jon Edwards’ expressive grand piano and Anne-Marie Helder’s remarkably versatile voice, supported by strings and sparing use of acoustic guitar. Occasionally you’ll also hear some spidery electric guitar, programmed rhythm tracks, some of Anne-Marie’s flute, and all sorts of other strange instruments.

After an initial drone, opener “The Dark Room” starts with a rolling piano figure accompanying the vocal and gradually adds layers to build into the closest thing the album has to a conventional rock song. The following “Heart on my Sleeve” is a spine-tingly beautiful atmospheric ballad with the string section prominent, and I love the moment towards the end where Anne-Marie uses her voice as a solo instrument with a wordless vocal line while the strings take up what had been the piano line. Then “Mad About You” is a complete change of pace, an uptempo love song based around acoustic guitar and percussion.

Aside from the delicate cover of The Magnetic Fields’ “Book of Love”, all songs are co-written by Anne-Marie and Jon, and quite a few of those songs wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Panic Room record despite the absence of any crunchy guitars or a rock rhythm section. But I’m also reminded of Jon Lord’s post-Deep Purple classical work, especially on the instrumental “Leaving for the Last Time” with some evocative flute from Anne-Marie. The laid-back improvised feel of “Cloud” recalls the mood of Kate Bush’s “50 Words for Snow”. There are moments recalling Massive Attack at their most song-orientated, especially on the powerful closer “Gasp”, with it’s dramatic piano chords and multi-tracked backing vocal that some might recognise as the intro tape used in Panic Room’s most recent tour.

It’s an extremely varied record; rich and layered in places, sparse and minimalist in others, experimental in some ways yet anchored in melodies that get stuck in your head after just a few listens. This a work that’s pointless even to try and pigeonhole, It’s not really a rock album as such, certainly not prog-rock in the traditional sense, yet with its elements of classical music and touches of electronica it’s progressive in the original meaning of the word. The quality of the songwriting combined with Anne-Marie’s ever amazing voice should appeal strongly to Panic Room’s existing fans, but I can also see this record also having a far wider crossover appeal.

For more information, including how to pre-order the album, visit the Luna Rossa website at www.lunarossa.co

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