Diving Bell (2012)

– Sanguine Hum

Last year DPRP reviewed a record 548 albums from the prog genre. There’s a lot of music out there…

Choosing the right band name isn’t the only factor in improving your chances of getting noticed, but it certainly helps. To be honest, neither Antique Seeking Nuns or the Joff Winks Band are names likely to generate much hope in a passing progressive rock fan. Add to that record titles such as Double Egg With Chips and Beans and Careful, It’s Tepid and I’m thinking more Butlins holiday camp than DPRP.

Now, Sanguine Hum? Same line-up as the other two but this time with a name capable of creating some musical anticipation in the prog community. So is this to be third time lucky for this quintet based in the English university city of Oxford? That’s a distinct possibility. This is good.

Now I’ve heard nothing from the ASN and only two songs (albeit two very good ones) from TJWB. However as Sanguine Hum they impressed many as openers at last year’s Winters End Festival in my hometown of Stroud. I have thus kept my eyes and ears pealed for the promised new album.

Apparently they were originally more focussed on Canterbury styled songs. On Diving Bell Matt Baber (keyboards), drummer Paul Mallyon, Joff Winks (guitar, vocals) and bassist Brad Waissman are approaching a more modern, more rocking and more adventurous musical horizon. Dare I say, it is quite commercial in places with some hauntingly catchy melodies. But thanks to complex song-writing, ever-changing stylings and excellent musicianship, this can most definitely be filed under ‘progressive rock’.

Every song is awash with effortlessly shifting time signatures, some retro synth meanderings, and some lovely guitar work that combines intricate details with virtuoso binges. Part Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson; part Radiohead and Muse.

The album opens with its most rocking and modern song. No More Than We Deserve has guitars to the fore with some delicate synth highlights. Throughout this album Joff’s vocals are smoothly top class with a subtle variety in delivery to suit the song. Here he reminds me a little of the guy from Karnivool in his lighter moments.

The Ladder and Dark Ages have a more prog sound. A dreamy acoustic intro is mixed with some Rhodes and a swirling electronic embellishment textures, delicate guitar picking, odd meters. Both remind me of the material on the excellent Man On Fire concept album Habitat.

Coast Of Nebraska is an instrumental that adds further variety with a rush of fusion – there’s quite a bit of fusion on this record. As a track it doesn’t really wander far enough from its starting point to have staying power.

The Trial is tricky. As with all of the songs it has a bright, upbeat mood which lightens the complexity of the compositions. Just try counting those time signatures. The opening is very effective in combining melody and flow. The second half of the track is more instrumental allowing a gentle exploration of the band’s fusion influences.

Nothing Between Us is a wispy 60s pastoral prog fieldscape. Acoustic guitar, tinkling keyboards and echoed vocals best taken with a sniff of psychedelia. The song is a balladic pause that’s just a little too formulaic and twee for my tastes.

Back to the main pattern for Nothing Between Us and the title track. A sparkling guitar arpeggio riff ties together a mixture of Canterbury and NeoProg stylings, before a somewhat disappointing claustrophobic ending. There’s No Hum ensures that Diving Bell ends as it started – on a catchy high.

This album was released via the band’s website at the end of 2010 as a download only. However a proper CD should be available by the time you read this.

Diving Bell is a beautiful and engaging album that rewards and demands repeat listens. Kaleidoscopic would be a good adjective. Sanguine Hum is a name to remember.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

Andy Read