Oh my, oh my…….
Best of 2020.
“Epic fuzz organ driven prog/jazz/electronic rock music with a slice of lemon” (they said that, not me)
I am first listening to this just as fear is hitting the good folks of the UK, panic beginning to manifest itself in supermarkets as closure after closure commences, with lockdown perceived.
But ho, how uplifting, how retro, how forward-thinking, how absolutely transformational is this album is to me!
This is a revelation of an album , a project created by multi-instrumentalist Ryan Stevenson. Yes you can hear echoes of Egg, Hatfield and the North and National Health manifest through Richard Sinclair’s iconic keyboard sounds, and a bit of Camel or Caravan from time to time. But it is not full on backward-gazing, incorporating other progressive music elements and even classical touches as it does – and for those reasons it’s up there as one of the most exciting releases of the year.
I hadn’t a clue who this bloke was, so had to dig out an interview with him for more info. First musical influences – “Probably hearing The Sound of Muzak by Porcupine Tree for the first time maybe in 2004, and seeing Anekdoten live in Bergen, Norway, 2018.” Interesting!
“I like to write interesting melodies.” He sure does. Check them out.
Where does the Canterbury style come from? “Back in the early 2000s, I came across a couple of Egg tracks on my dad’s computer: Long Piece No.3 and Contrasong; I was immediately hooked, again around the age of 14 or 15. So this is when I started to get into the Canterbury scene and my appreciation and knowledge has grown since. Fun fact, my dad’s favourite record of all time is The Rotters’ Club, so I have him to thank; thanks dad!” Yes, thanks Dad!
I may not have mentioned it, but long-time CRS fave, co-worker and all-time unsung legend Andy Tillison has a role in the album. “I first came across Andy Tillison’s music back in 2006 when The Tangent released ‘A Place In The Queue’. I really liked the tune ‘Lost in London Part 1’ and still do. When I finished the demo mix of the Zopp album late 2018, I had the idea of approaching an experienced musician to oversee things. Considering that this is my first studio album, I didn’t have the confidence to do absolutely everything myself. Andy was an obvious choice as a collaborator because he understands my musical references; you can hear it in his own writing…….When it came to the final mix, Andy played an important role in helping me to realize what I needed to cut, so the arrangements didn’t end up becoming over the top. So his role as an engineer and co-producer on the album was incredibly valuable.”
You can hear this on the short and sweet, atmospheric and evocative “Sellanra”, piano and electric piano processed through Andy’s Leslie cabinet to great haunting effect. You can hear the sure touch of Tillison, who played some lines on a couple of tracks and mastered the album. But this is not a Tillison clone you can hear by any means. Just two like minded musicians coming together with a common musical vision. Ryan again: “I learnt a lot from watching Andy work on the album and I hope we can get together again in the future; talented keyboard player, great writer and friend.”
So, Zopp is primarily the musical outlet for Ryan Stevenson on keys, guitars, some voice, and working closely with Andrea Moneta who plays drums (from Italian progressive rock band Leviathan. And, as well as aforementioned Andy Tillison, no less a person than Theo Travis on the track “V” as well as UK singer Caroline Joy Clarke and American saxophonist Mike Benson.
From start to finish, it is just gorgeous, an aural feast of cleverness, not self-indulgent, but smart sounds, technically tight time-signatures, melodic highs and lows, and absolutely everything you would want from the afore-mentioned “fuzz organ driven prog/jazz/electronic rock music”.
Forget coronavirus and listen to this.
Bad Elephant- you are onto a winner with this one!
- Swedish Love
- Before The Light 06:05
- Eternal Return
- Being And Time
- The Noble Shirker
Ryan Stevenson: Keyboards, Mellotron M4000D, Hammond organ, Arturia
analogue synthesizer, Korg CX-3 organ, piano, Hohner Pianet T, Nord Electro 5d, bass and electric guitars, voice, field recordings, percussion.
Andrea Moneta: Drums and percussion.
Andy Tillison: Additional piano (6), additional Hammond organ (3), Leslie
processing (2, 5, 6), synth (4), effects (3, 9).
Theo Travis: Flute (6).
Caroline Joy Clarke: Voice (1, 7, 8).
Mike Benson: Tenor saxophone (9).
Drum recording engineering: Andrea Moneta.
Engineered, co-produced and mastered by Andy Tillison.
Mixed, written and produced by Ryan Stevenson.
(my thanks to progressiverockcentral for Ryan’s bits, so to speak)