Hollow Water are progressive rock duo from Aberystwyth, Wales, made up of Alan Cookson (keyboard and lyrics) and Huw Roberts (guitars).
Capturing the Spirit of 70’s Rock Giants
Capturing the spirit of 70’s greats like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, rather than the darker, heavier work of many modern day protagonists, Hollow Water‘s album is based on the concept of the pursuit of “the rainbows beam that always stays in one place”, with the promise of accessing another dimension. The album is long, as would be expected, with a running time of 75 minutes, taking the listener through a sprawling instrumental journey, songs chopping and turning at will.
What startles most on listening to Rainbows End initially is the full bodied nature of the music, padded out from some of the duo’s previous work and musically more expansive as a result. Vocals have been added courtesy of Mark Lock, and session musicians involved, including bass from Jair-Rohm Parker-Wells and Siros Vaziri of Billion Dollar Man on drums.
Expansive and Experimental Instrumentation
Opener ‘Day In Day Out’ introduces the narrative of the album as a journey home from a pub into the unknown of the night is soundtracked by a roving bassline overlaid with rich guitar work and soaring keys.
‘Mirror’s Frame’ sounds like a 70’s heavy rock jam with Jon Lord-esque keys before saxophones are added to the mix, highlighting the range of instrumentation across the record. The keyboard work from Cookson evokes a real sense of pursuit throughout the album, driving the storytelling, and whilst ‘Rainbows Begin’ is another indulgent and excessive track by modern standards the musicianship is impressive, with the band sounding tight and cohesive.
Deeper Underlying Message
‘Gathering Sunbeams for the Future’ touches on the search for sustainable energy, and points at a deeper underlying message to the record. Lock’s vocals and the sci-fi sounding keys complement this, providing an almost futuristic feel which is at odds with much of the rest of the record. Similarly, the use of vocal skits is surprising, more often associated with hip hop, but they help guide the narrative throughout the album.
‘The Quantum Mechanic and the Map Collector’ and ‘Rainbow’s End’ have both the best vocal performances of the album and the strongest songwriting from Cookson. The mix on the funk-infused ‘Rainbow’s End’ also highlights the quality of production on the album, crisp and clean, creating a modern sheen despite its nostalgic sound.
Hints of Modern Electronica
‘Trick of the Light’ has hints of Genesis whilst the drum fill that introduces ‘Immortal Portal’ could be heard on a trip hop record. The piano work at the start of ‘Solar Beacon’ continues the sonic experimentation, before the track evolves into one of the heavier classic rock tracks on the album, whilst ‘The Light Dimension’ returns Cookson to the fore once again. ‘llusions and Delusions’ has further hints of modern electronica and brings the story to its head as the protagonists come to terms with the ‘lies and deception… falsehoods, distortions had got out of proportion’. Finally, ‘We Changed. This World Didn’t’ allows Matt Quistorf from New York to close the album out with some impressive guitar work, making full use of the time and space many modern musicians are not afforded.
It is a long time since punk emerged to challenge the prog rock giants of the late 70’s and Rainbow’s End explores many of the excesses that punk sought to eliminate. Since then, elements of prog have been incorporated by bands such as The Mars Volta but prog as pure as Hollow Water has often remained on the peripheries. As we are told attention spans have dramatically shortened and the magic of the album has been lost, Rainbow’s End would, for many, be a challenging listen. However, for those who enjoy expansive and experimental rock, played with real technical prowess by accomplished musicians, Rainbows End will be a refreshing listen and a return to a different time and place for long time progressive rock fans.
Rainbow’s End was mixed and mastered by Joel Evenden in London who also worked with artists such as Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Lily Allen and more.
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