Living in Shadows is the debut album from the new band with the same name Living in Shadows featuring Gateshead, UK, vocalist Zoe Gilby and her instrumentalist husband Andy Champion. Released on both CD and vinyl, Living In Shadows “follows in the tradition of great English alt pop and progressive rock while also reflecting the duo’s jazz background with influences from Kate Bush to Thelonious Monk.” The album also features Mark Williams (guitar) and Paul Edis (piano) as well as special guests. Recording took place at Studio 51 in Gateshead with mastering by Peter Beckmann at Technologyworks Mastering.
Stylistically, Living In Shadows tried not to get stuck in a genre rut on this collection. “We just wanted to make the music that is in our hearts, without concerning ourselves with what pigeonhole it needs to fit into.” That said, jazz is clearly the strongest influence, followed closely by prog rock.
These eight tracks are of the highest quality and remarkably consistent, so I’ll just mention my favorites.“For The Day” opens the album with understated piano chords as a smooth jazz ensemble joins in. Gilby’s vocals are confident and lovely, both solo and when harmonizing with herself, and show traces of Joni Mitchell, Ani DeFranco and others. Graeme Wilson guests with a smart tenor sax solo. “Running Feet” again makes Gilby’s multitrack vocals the focal point atop a sophisticated but engaging jazz-pop arrangement with George Milburn adding color with his mandolin. This song concerns leaving loved ones behind to save oneself: “Leave the past with your running feet / Falling bombs at your heels.”
After two jazz-centric cuts, I was wondering when the Kate Bush influence would appear, and it arrives with “Try To Take It Twice” which is quite close to Bush in vocals, arrangement and that classic ’80s sound, not to mention the lyrics concerning domestic abuse. The penultimate cut “Postcards” is the other track that channels Ms. Bush, including her classic rhythmic breaths with another appearance by Mr. Wilson on tenor sax.
“Sending Electricity” is the second single from the album and features off-kilter rhythms and funky guitar with a more prog-like chorus, making for quite a musical package. A lovely phased guitar appears toward the end over a bed of angelic synths. “Believe” features prominent double bass and evocative violins by Emma Fisk that convincingly replicate a string ensemble with more beautiful chorus vocals from Gilby.
“Smoke & Mirrors” ends the collection as a nearly ten-minute epic. “Commissioned by Jazz North East to commemorate their fiftieth birthday in 2016, ‘Smokes and Mirrors’ takes a long, hard look at what life was like in seventies Newcastle and what lay beneath the smoke and mirrors.” This is my favorite track by far, beginning as a Mingus-like vamp on the double bass before evolving into several different movements and styles, including Kate Bush prog and a terrific avant-jazz piano solo. I get chills every time Gilby sings: “Manipulate in a darkened world / Powered full with a hidden agenda / Reassured by the sinister / Kiss of death from the mouth of Judas.” The lead guitar solo reminded me of the best work by Focus’ Jan Akkerman.
There was virtually not a single moment I spent with this album where I wasn’t charmed, inspired or challenged. A terrific debut!
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