Friday, 23 May 2014

Mike Kershaw - Ice Age

Progressive music comes in many shapes and sizes. Some of the modern examples of this particular art hark back to the halcyon days of the 1970s, recreating the sounds and textures of the early pioneers of the genre; others carve out a more modern niche, pushing the boundaries in true progressive style.

Although self-avowedly 'progressive', I'm not sure where on that spectrum Mike Kershaw sits. His music is relatively new to me and so far I've only really listened to this, his third and latest album, so what did I make of it?

'Ice Age' is, perhaps fittingly, quite a dark, brooding, melancholic collection that reflects the cold and isolation of the cover image. Predominantly keyboard-driven, the music has elements of light and shade - perhaps lighter towards the end of the album, and if anything puts me in mind of the 1980s synth-pop of The Human League and Talk Talk in tracks like 'Tomorrow's Door' and 'Broken Skies', but with elements of Tangerine Dream in 'Blossom Falls' and even a hint of Pink Floyd in 'Broken Skies'. The music is by and large multi-layered and atmospheric, though I found the stripped-down, almost minimalist feel of 'Terracotta' with its piano, solo synth and vocals quite haunting.

The vocals throughout are quite understated and evocative, and the album as a whole - musically, vocally and visually - put me in mind of the work of contemporary band Fractal Mirror, and it is worth noting the support of band members Leo Koperdraat and Frank Urbaniak listed in the sleeve notes, and the common use of Brian Watson's sleeve art by both artists.

'Ice Age' is a collection of songs that uses, I think, the metaphor of winter, with its harshness, darkness and isolation, to speak to the bleaker moments in our existence. I was struck with the words particularly of the final song - 'When Winter Comes' - where Mike says: "Winter comes too quickly: to some it never goes away", but which goes on to perhaps leave us a note of hope: "...something must be badly wrong if I'm on my knees to pray. I've never held with gods and such - never seen the reason why - but witnessing such suffering I feel the need to try."

The album is released on 2nd June 2014, and can be ordered from Mike's Bandcamp site. I would commend it as a fine piece of work and well worth a listen.