Sanguine Hum have been around for a wee while now. They began as a musical collaboration, through the early 2000s, between school friends Joff Winks and Matt Baber, who set about writing and recording a unique blend of musical compositions taking inspiration from artists such as the Flaming Lips, Tortoise, Aphex Twin and Frank Zappa. Operating under three different guises – Joff Winks Band, Antique Seeking Nuns and Nunbient – during which time bassist Brad Waissman and drummer Paul Mallyon joined the party – the band eventually settled on the name Sanguine Hum with the release of their first album, Diving Bell, in 2009. There have been a few personnel changes since. They drew some attention to themselves in the prog world in 2015 with the release of Now We Have Light.
A Trace Of Memory sees the band both consolidating it’s sound and moving it along a little. There’s a healthy dose of the Canterbury scene buried in there, with sly humour a whimsical feel. But the band adds much to that. The keyboards and guitars are lively and just a little skitter-scatter. The lyrics can be quite biting, but the overall feel is one of living for now and not dwelling too much or often in the past. Dig a little and there’s some jazz, electronics and minimalism lurking under the surface. Hints of Pink Floyd too creep in too.
Keyboard player Matt Baber explains; “The music on this album was written in a very short period of time during the summer of 2018. The plan was to then record the music quickly with the same spontaneous spirit, but over the course of the next 12 months the realities of trying to make the record happen whilst balancing ‘real life’ commitments meant that sadly we decided to drop the project. Fast forward to March 2020 and suddenly ‘real life’ added a slight twist to proceedings that we didn’t see coming!” The band then found themselves recording during lockdown. They’ve not let that define the music though, which maintains a glorious triumphant atmosphere. It avoids the pitfalls of being over dramatic but manages to create insightfulness.
The songs themselves are quite varied in length. The longest track, The Yellow Ship, allows the band to be more expansive and to build the energy in its reveries, whilst some of the tracks are much shorter and pointed. An example of this would-be Unstable Ground, where the lyrics are harder and more direct with reference to battlegrounds and “morbid fantasies”.
This, then, is a thoughtful release that has many moods and approaches. In spite of that it also creates a calmness that can be a little incongruous. It is very intricate and nuanced, and at times quite powerful. It is an excellent piece of modern progressive rock.
1. New Light (3:04)
2. The Yellow Ship (13:08)
3. Pyramids (4:50)
4. Thin Air (4:45)
5. Unstable Ground (4:10)
6. Still as the Sea (3:22)
7. Automaton (8:49)
Joff Winks / guitar, vocals, piano (3), string arrangements (2)
Matt Baber / keyboards, synths, drums (4), field recordings
Brad Waissman / bass, Chapman Stick, upright electric bass
Paul Mallyon / drums (2,5-7)
Andrew Booker / electronic percussion (1), drums (3)
Label: Bad Elephant Music
Format: Vinyl, CD, Digital
Release date: 20th November, 2020