Tag Archives: Mermaid Kiss

Zero She Flies news

Jamie Field has given us an update on Zero She Flies, the band formerly known as Mermaid Kiss. The most exciting news is that the new album, ‘Strange Heaven’ is now recorded and is currently being mixed.

The recording band is:
Maria Milewska: Lead and Backing Vocals, Piano, Keyboards, Flute, Sequencing.
Wendy Marks: Cor Anglais, Oboe, Recorders, Double Bass
Shane Webb: Bass, Backing Vocals
Jamie Field: 6 & 12 String Acoustic Guitars, Cuatro de Puerto Rica

With:
Jonathan Edwards: Piano on ‘Riverboat’ & Rhodes and Organ on ‘Delta’
Hannah Simons: Violin on ‘Friend Of A Friend’, ‘Riverboat’ and ‘River Girl’
Robert Kelly: Electric and Acoustic Guitar on ‘River Girl’

The final running order isn’t quite settled pending the final mixes, but it’s likely to be something like this:

One Star (Field/Milewska) 4.51
Sometimes Things Just Happen (Field) 3.36
Friend Of A Friend (Field/Milewska) 4.09
Shimmers (Field/Milewska) 3.41
Small Mercy (Field) 2.52
The River 20.27
(i) Riverboat (Field) (3.22),
(ii) Strange Heaven (Milewska) (4.45),
(iii) River Girl (Field/Milewska)( 5.46)
(iv) Watertight (Field) (2.13)
(v) Delta (Field) (4.21).

Due to Jamie’s ongoing hearing problems, sadly he won’t be able to play live with the band. So for live gigs, they’ll have the following lineup:

Maria Milewska: Lead Vocals, Flute,
Wendy Marks: Cor Anglais, Oboe, Flute, Recorders, Double Bass, Backing Vocals
Shane Webb: Bass, Backing Vocals
Jeremy Robberechts: Piano, Guitars, Backing vocals
Ed: Percussion

No annoucement yet of a release date or when the live gigs might be, but there will be a brand new Zero She Flies website launched in the near future. Until then, watch this space.

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Mermaid Kiss become Zero She Flies

With new singer Maria Milewska, Mermaid Kiss have evolved to become Zero She Flies. As they say on their website:

As many of you will be aware, Jamie’s recently been writing and recording a new album with vocalist Maria Milewska. Originally we’d intended to release this as a Mermaid Kiss album, however as the recording has progressed we realised that what we actually have is a completely new band. Whilst it clearly has elements of the Mermaid Kiss sound, notably Wendy’s woodwind, the new members have each brought their own ideas and influences to the music. Jamie and Maria are therefore excited to announce the new band, called: Zero She Flies.

The Mermaid Kiss Website has also been completely revamped, with a full history of the Mermaid Kiss story as well as updates on the new band,

(Photo by Chris Walkden)

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2012 Albums of the Year – Part One

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when everyone who fancies themselves as a music critic lists the records that have defined their year.

The usual disclaimers apply, of course. They’re selected from the albums of 2012 that I’ve actually had the chance to hear over the course of the year. It’s also a personal list of albums that have made an impression on me rather than any attempt to declare them the “best” of the year, whatever that might mean. Which is why there are very obscure independent releases alongside heavily-promoted major-label albums.

My self-imposed rules exclude both live albums and studio restatements of past material, although Steve Hackett’s “Genesis Revisited II” and Heather Findlay’s “Songs From The Old Kitchen” deserve mention.

It was going to be a top 20, but once I’d got my list finalised someone went and released a record in the middle of December that really deserved to be on the list. So now it’s a top 21. I’ve given up trying to rank all 21 album in any kind of order, and have gone for grouping them under Good, Great, Superb and Legendary, the last being my album of the year.

So here are the ten Good albums, which form numbers 21 to 12 in the list, ordered alphabetically.

Joe BonamassaDriving Towards The Daylight

Excellent album of guitar-shredding blues-rock from one of the most exciting guitar players of his generation, with electrifying takes on blues standards from the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon alongside a handful of original numbers. Yes, the ever-prolific Bonamassa can probably turn out albums like this in his sleep, but that’s just a measure of his talent.

DelainWe Are The Others

A seamless blend of in-your-face metal riffs and chart-friendly pop choruses, featuring the remarkable vocals of Charlotte Wessels, all of which makes it more of a mystery why a major label sat on this record for months before releasing it. If only daytime radio wasn’t afraid of big-sounding guitars.

EnslavedRiitiir

Symphonically-dense wall-of-sound metal which mixes moments of brutal heaviness with a surprising amount of melody. There’s plenty of death-metal growling, but there are also passages that prove how well metal riffs and Gregorian chants go together.

It BitesMap Of The Past

The 80s pop-prog veterans reformed a few years back, with the talented John Mitchell at the helm.  Although the latest album doesn’t quite top 2008′s “The Tall Ships”, it’s still an impressive work that combines emotionally-rich songwriting with all the widdly soloing you could possibly want.

Mermaid KissAnother Country

A move away from the symphonic prog-rock of their previous album “Etarlis”, with a beautiful semi-acoustic record with touches of Americana and gospel. Not many bands have Cor Anglais as a principle lead instrument.

Sankara Guided By Degrees CD ArtworkSankaraGuided By Degrees

An impressive melodic hard rock début from former members of The Bluehorses and The Reasoning. It’s a rich, multilayered record in which Gareth Jones’s excellent vocal performance proves he’s more than capable fronting his own band.

Shadow Of The Sun – Monument

Former Reasoning guitarist Dylan Thompson returns with some prog-tinged hard rock/metal with guitars that go up to Eleven. A record that’s only been out a few days and I’ve only given a handful of listens. But that’s enough convince me it belongs on this list.

Howard SinclairThe Delicious Company of Freaks

Lyric-driven semi-acoustic balladry from the Bristol-based singer-songwriter who supported Panic Room on their November tour. Some memorable songs, with one high point being the spellbinding “These Dark Hills” sung as a duet with Panic Room’s Anne-Marie Helder.

SquackettA Life Within A Day

Two of the most distinctive instrumentalists in the prog-rock world combine their talents for a polished and song-focussed album. At times this collaboration sounds like Steve Hackett with a different bassist, at times it’s Yes with different guitars and vocals. “The Tall Ships” with it’s bass groove and soaring vocal harmonies is a particular highlight.

"I fireball the gazebo"Winter in EdenEchoes of Betrayal

With a great vocalist in Vicky Johnson, the Durham-based band prove if the songwriting is good enough it’s possible to do female-fronted symphonic metal without needing the choirs, orchestras and kitchen sinks of the more extravagant European bands.

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Mermaid Kiss – Dust Bowl Bride

Mermaid Kiss have put together a video for “Dust Bowl Bride”, from their new album “Another Country”, using footage in the Prelinger Archives in NYC.

You can read my review of the album here.

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Mermaid Kiss – Another Country

Way back in 2008, Mermaid Kiss made quite a few live appearances supporting bands such as Panic Room and Breathing Space. They performed as a semi-acoustic lineup, playing a mix of stripped-down arrangements of songs from their 2007 album “Etarlis” and brand new material from a project with a working title of “American Images”. Four years later, that project has reached completion as their new album “Another Country”

It’s not a long album; with a running time of an 38 minutes it’s closer to an old-fashioned vinyl LP, and this time it’s a digital-only release. The theme is an imaginary journey through the America of music and film; the nation as seen though the eyes of someone who’s never actually been there. The American Images page on the band’s website tells the stories behind the songs

There’s a strong emphasis on acoustic instruments, with a lot of flute, cor anglais and acoustic guitar. With touches of gospel and Americana the sound is closer to those 2008 gigs than to the symphonic prog-rock sweep of their previous album. It’s all very song-focussed, there are no lengthy instrumental passages, although there are some brief interludes of piano and cor anglais. But neither is it an unplugged record; there are electric solos courtesy of lead guitarist Pete West, and Colin Henney’s less-is-more keyboards add some effective atmospherics. Good as those two are, if anything the best instrumental performances come from woodwind player Wendy Marks with some evocative playing that’s a major component of their signature sound.

High points include the spine-tingling “Dust Bowl Bride”, with it’s haunting melody, evocative choral sounds and beautiful flute solo, and the simple but effective ballad “Comes And Goes”, with another melody that gets stuck in your head.

Evelyn Downing has progressed a long way in four years as a vocalist, giving an especially strong performance on “This Trail of Tears”. This recording marks the end of her work with Mermaid Kiss, as the band begin work on a follow-up to “Etarlis” with new singer Maria Milewska. It will be interesting to see what projects Evelyn involves herself with next.

I like this album a lot. It takes them in a slightly different musical direction while still keeping enough of a continuity with their earlier work. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s worth the wait.

It’s available for download from CDBaby.

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Mermaid Kiss – Circles of Fire

It’s been a long time since there’s been any activity from the Mermaid Kiss camp, but they’ve just released a new download single, “Circles of Fire”. It’s taken from their forthcoming album “Another Country”, the culmination of their “American Images” project.

Those of you who saw the semi-acoustic version of the band supporting Panic Room, Breathing Space or The Reasoning back in 2008 may well remember this song, as it featured in the live set. It’s a great showcase for Evelyn Downing’s very distinctive vocal style, Although acoustic instruments still feature heavily with Jamie Field’s guitar and Wendy Marks’ beautiful flute playing, here it’s expanded into a full band version culminating in a great solo from lead guitarist Pete West. As a slightly harder-edged Mermaid Kiss with more emphasis on guitar compared with the keyboard-led atmospherics of their last full-length album “Etarlis”, it’s in interesting taster for the forthcoming album.

It’s available for download from CD Baby.

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The Reasoning on Tour

I managed to catch Cardiff’s The Reasoning three times on their short “Dark Angel” tour.  Their mix of melodic rock and metal with progressive seasoning always works well live, and with an excellent second album under their belt, this was a tour to look forward to.

First up was the Classic Rock Society’s gig at Wath-upon-Dearne. I’ve not been to a CRS gig or this venue before; the venue reminded me of the Drill Hall at Lincoln; raised seating at the back with a level standing area at the front. This was an all-age gig, with loads of kids in the audience; it makes for a very different atmosphere. There seemed to be a good crowd; I estimated two hundred or so.

Support was Combination Head, a band I’d never heard before. Hearing then described as ‘a bit like ELP’ made me fear the worst. I’m not a big fan of ELP, the band that wrote the rule books for Bombastic and Self-Indulgent. But Combination Head, while they had plenty of Hammond organ pyrotechnics reigned in the self-indulgent widdling and threw in some decent tunes instead. Not bad at all.

Introduced as “An Evening of Gorp-Metal”, The Reasoning’s set was powerful and impassioned, much improved from their slightly hesitant set at the Cambridge Rock Festival. With their new album out they’ve revamped the setlist completely, playing almost all of more metal-orientated “Dark Angel” plus the best half of their debut “Awakening”, a superb 90 minutes of great music with no let up at all. They’re a band that really mean business now. The new material came over well live; ‘Dark Angel’ and ‘Sharp Sea’, already familiar from January’s gigs have already established themselves as live favourites. ‘Call Me God?’, premièred at Cambridge, is an absolute monster live, and Rachel dropped some unsubtle hints as to who it’s about. The epic ‘A Musing Dream’ also comes over well on stage. They encored with a cover of Alanis Morrissette’s ‘Uninvited’ and the old Karnataka favourite ‘Talk to Me’.

Sunday’s acoustic gig at Kimberworth was a quite different affair; a relaxed and laid-back performance before a select audience of fifty or so dedicated fans. So laid back that the some of the band took to the stage and were ready to start while one member of the band was still in the loo; he got a huge cheer when he turned up. They played an hour’s worth of acoustic reworkings of material from both albums.

The third and final gig I went to was Crewe Limelight. Recent gigs there had been very hit-and-miss sound-wise, but I still love this venue. It’s one of those slightly seedy but atmospheric small clubs, walls completely covered in posters and album sleeves. Pure rock’n'roll.  And they attracted a good crowd; significantly more people than the last time they played this venue in January.

Support this time was Mermaid Kiss, with their new keyboard player Colin Henney. I’ve seen a lot of them this year, with their earlier support slots for Panic Room and Breathing Space. While they’re definitely not to everyone’s taste, I love what they do.  Their semi-acoustic lineup emphasises Evelyn Downing’s distinctive voice and Wendy Marks’ assorted woodwinds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another band use a cor anglais on stage.  While I’d like to see them do some gigs at some time with a full electric lineup reproducing the atmospheric progressive rock of their albums, the stripped-down acoustic arrangements of many of the songs from “Etarlis” work well live.  Tonight’s set was slightly shorter, with some material from their forthcoming “American Images” omitted, but still pretty good.

The Reasoning played an absolute blinder this time around. They’d been good at Wath, this took their performance to another level entirely, helped by the best sound I’ve heard at The Limelight for ages. Three dates into their tour, the lineup had fully gelled, with that incredible mix of high energy, tightness and emotional intensity they’ve established a reputation for. The setlist was much the same as we’d heard at Wath, but with a rearranged running order for slightly better pacing, opening with ‘Sharp Sea’ rather than ‘Dark Angel’, and swapping ‘Talk to Me’ and ‘Awakening’.  New guitarist Owain Roberts has really fitted in now, reeling off some amazing solos that always stop well short of anything remotely self-indulgent; restrained virtuosity indeed.  He absolutely nailed the guitar parts of earlier “Awakening” material, and shone on his own work on “Dark Angel”.

Reports I’ve read of later dates in Cardiff, London and Bilston suggest the final dates were better still.  They’re on the road again supporting Fish next month; I hope to catch at least one of the dates – on this form they’re going to give the headliner a serious run for his money.

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Breathing Space/Mermaid Kiss – The Robin, Bilston, 7-Sept-08

This was the eleventh time I’ve seen Breathing Space live, and the seventh time this year.

It’s amazing how far this band have come since I first started following them; I first saw them live playing in a pub in York last February; that night wasn’t a terribly good gig, as they struggled with serious technical and sound problems, but I could see they had potential. Towards the end of last year they released the superb album “Coming Up For Air” which surpassed my expectations. Then at a small club in Mansfield this June they played an absolutely spellbinding gig which for me was the point where it became clear they were playing in the same league as their fellows in the ‘York/Swansea scene’.

Bilston continued this progress. Having seen some small crowds at Breathing Space gigs I wondered what sort of audience they’d attract on a Sunday night. But while the place was by no means full, they pulled a healthy sized crowd.

As at the Mansfield gig, the support was a semi-acoustic set from Mermaid Kiss, this time playing as a four-piece without Jon Edwards on keys. While they were good, I didn’t think they quite had the edge they’d had the last time I saw them; the sound was a bit muddier and I missed Jon’s keys. Still, Evelyn Downing was on fine form, even though her distinctive vocal style is not to everyone’s taste, and Wendy Marks’ assorted woodwinds gave some excellent backing.

Breathing Space’s performance was up to the standards I’ve come to expect, everyone on top form as usual.  With only two albums worth of songs, there wasn’t much in the way of real surprises in the setlist (No return of “Shades of Grey”), except for the live première of a new song, “Butterflies and White Feathers”.   Difficult to judge on one listen, but it’s an atmospheric beginning and some great Hammond organ at the end.  It’s interesting different from anything they’ve done before, while still sounding like Breathing Space.  It augers well for their next album, which they plan to record next April.

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American Images

Mermaid Kiss explain their concept behind their current work-in-progress album American Images. Yes, they’re a prog band – an album’s got to have a concept.

Although I have never been to America, I have a good idea of what it’s like. In my head are cities, deserts, buttes, mountains, canyons, houses, cars, people, lakes, rivers, lots of empty space. And roads. Especially roads.

Evelyn’s never to been to America either. I harbor a desire to sling a couple of guitars in the back of a beat up Buick (it wouldn’t have to be a Buick, anything distinctly American would do) and play our way across the USA, taking our time, stopping off whenever and wherever we feel – staying as much as possible on the back roads where we believe the real heartland of America lies.

This fantasy, is, of course, fueled by watching far too many US road movies with evocative soundtracks… As we planned our imaginary journey from picturesque Boston to the bright lights of New York, down via the Appalachian Mountains where time stands still, and on to the steamy South (ours is to be no straight ‘coast to coast’ trip), it dawned on us that the America we were driving through is the America of films and of music – an America uncorrupted by reality.

They’ll be telling me they’ve never actually been to Etalis next.

I’ve only been to America on business trips to Atlanta, GA, back in the days before George Bush and the War on Terror. I have no desire to go there now. To me, America resembles a gigantic version of Milton Keynes. Not quite sure if that’s quite what Mermaid Kiss are after.

On the other hand, what about the HO-scale Americas built by various Americanophile railway modellers in Britain?  I’m thinking of things like the small crumbling small prairie town of Godinez, Iowa, featured in the July issue of Continental Modeller.  Or all those grain elevators (every layout seems to have one).

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Breathing Space + Mermaid Kiss, Mansfield, 24-May-08

I’ve been to some funny places for gigs this year. Last time I saw Mermaid Kiss was supporting Panic Room in a village hall in Gloucestershire. This time it was a working mens club in Nottinghamshire, walls covered in posters for dodgy tribute bands.

Seeing the low ceiling I feared the worst for the sound quality, but once Mermaid Kiss took the stage my fears proved unfounded; the sound was pretty-near perfect. They had the same semi-acoustic lineup as at Lydney, acoustic guitar and no drums, which means they can’t play some of the rockier material from the albums, but a lot of the more atmospheric came over well. Much of the set was similar to April’s gig, with several new songs from their as-yet unrecorded next album. High spot was an absolutely mesmerising “Seattle”, sung totally solo by Evelyn Downing.

And then Breathing Space came on and played an absolute blinder, certainly the best headline set I’ve ever seen them play, helped by the same crystal-clear sound. Something like a two-hour set, playing practically all of their superb “Coming Up for Air”, several songs from the first album, and three Iain Jennings-penned Mostly Autumn favourites. I have to say it was strange hearing Breathing Space playing “Distant Train” the night after hearing the Mostlies playing the same song at Bury Met (And I’m not going to get into arguments over which version was the best!). “Hollow” was lovely; Olivia Sparnenn has made that song her own now. So was the encore “The Gap is Too Wide”; in both cases they had to be the best live versions of those songs I’ve heard. Their own songs came over at wonderfully well too; with some interesting takes on arrangements in places, such as John Hart’s wind synth replacing the slide guitar on “Don’t Turn a Blind Eye” and the extended jazzy instrumental section in “Head Above The Water”. It’s difficult to find anything to say about Livvy Sparnenn and Iain Jennings I haven’t said before, they were both on great form. But I do have to say I’m finding myself liking Mark Rowan’s guitar playing more and more. He’s not flash, but his playing is always exactly what the songs require, never playing a note more than is needed, whether it’s the fluid soloing on the title song of “Coming Up for Air” or his really simple but amazingly effective solos on the big soaring ballads.

Two great bands, nearly three hours of great music. It’s a crying shame that they played to such a tiny audience, something like fifty people. Surely this beats watching the Eurovision Song Contest on the telly?

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