By Paul Jerome Smith
I first became aware of this eclectic blend of sound and emotion over a year ago, but I have only recently made the (overdue) purchase that allows me to provide this review. IO EARTH is the creation of two British guys (Dave Cureton and Adam Gough) who first wrote music together in the early 90s when they were barely 12-year olds, and this project is the culmination of their work together over the years. It has been embraced by the progressive rock community as a masterwork and has received substantial critical acclaim from all parts of that community (and beyond) – and you will not find mine to be a dissenting voice!
The 3-part conceptual piece, divided into ‘Water’, ‘Earth’ and ‘Air’, is over 90 minutes long and sprawls across two discs. Each movement has quite a different “feel” to it, with ‘Earth’ and ‘Air’ being the two most immediately accessible. It is progressive music in its purest form and is designed to be listened to as a complete whole, although when I return to it in the future the likelihood is that I will focus upon the second disc as this includes some of the more “straightforward” material, including stunning vocals from Steve Balsamo on ‘Take Me’ and from Clare Malin on ‘Come With Me (Reprise)’. The album concludes with the stirringly orchestral and optimistic ‘Outro’.
The key to knowing whether IOEARTH might be one you would wish to purchase is to appreciate that it is full to overflowing with the blending and slicing together of a vast array of musical genres including ambient, rock, dance, classical, operatic, atmospheric, jazz, electronica, and more besides. It has left me in awe at the imagination of the guys, and of how well-served they have been by the featured performances of Richard Cureton (all drums and percussion), Louise Brabbins (vocals), Christian Nokes (bass), Steve Trigg (horns) and Jason Reynolds (sax) – plus the previously mentioned Steve Balsamo and Clare Malin.
If you have purchased and have enjoyed the albums by ChimpanA, Mermaid Kiss and Dream Aria – and indeed any progressively imaginative music, then this really is a no-brainer. For the rest of you, it is an excellent opportunity to explore an album that should be played loud – one that may (or indeed will) challenge your existing musical preferences, but hopefully leave you feeling surprised and amazed by the emotional experience and the quality of the performances.
The guys are apparently hard at work on their next album (‘Red’). I don’t envy their task: as this will be a very difficult work to equal, let alone surpass. Astonishing!
By Paul Jerome Smith