For the second time this quiet little traveller dares the dark harbour of Ave Noctum; lost perhaps but so welcome. Needed even. So once more I paddle my little canoe out into that sea marked on my map as Out Of My Depth.
But it’s OK as it’s the last album in the trilogy from Lonely Robot, the project by John Mitchell (Kino, Frost*, Arena, It Bites) ably abetted by drummer Craig Blundell with the bit of guesting by Steve Vantsis (Fish bassist). Of all the prog things, Lonely Robot has to be one of the most accessible for non-prog fans, as well as one of the most wistful, slightly melancholy ones. A gentle thing but still made of string and deep emotions even if it barely raises a riff in its entire duration.
‘Terminal Earth’ gives us a little space-comms whisper and a keyboard melody which immediately has me pulled into the gentle orbit of our quiet little traveller. ‘Ancient Ascendant’ steps up, some short proggy guitar phrasing building until it falls back for the clear, thoughtful vocals of Mitchell to speak to us. It is light but beautifully builds to open out, like some satellite broadcast broadening its beam into space. Keyboards step in and out of the melody, a musical theme that pervades the album.
‘Icarus’ begins with a soft, funky almost techno beat, again the lovely, wistful vocals of Mitchell telling the tale to us simply but so effectively. The pop-prog refrain here is just heart tugging, swelling in my belly as it blossoms. A sense of travel, braided with loss and just those bittersweet motes of regret. Just like ‘Sigma’ from the previous album this song nestles in your mind and heart so quickly it soon seems like you have been friends for years. So moving, so emotional.
Title track ‘Under Stars’ takes up that familiar Lonely Robot musical theme carried by simple sparse notes and the rich vocals. Such a beautiful piece of music, so pure and so direct but achingly melodic. ‘Authorship Of Our Lives’ adds a little urgency to the journey, still gentle yes but desperate to be heard. ‘The Signal’ blinks its warning in flickering lights and keyboards, something just breaking through the atmosphere, existing to be heard. ‘The Only Time I Don’t Belong Is Now’ has a most wonderful lyrical guitar, but perhaps in keeping feels like it yarns to move on, to be somewhere else. Does that make sense? Listen to it and you tell me.
‘When Gravity Fails’ has a riff, a progressive sound, a choppy start. Probably the most jagged sound. It spikes and writhes almost as though trying to escape. The title recalls the George Effinger novel, though not the lyrics maybe. ‘How Bright Is The Sun’ falls back to the calm, the smooth. It returns to crackled comms, introspective tones to the singing, a touch of old Queensryche at their most quiet maybe. ‘Inside This Machine’ takes a layer or two of the main musical theme and creates some guitar threads that wind and weave in a simple but always lyrical fashion.
And then ‘An Ending’. Sweet, soft, simple but where others might fall into the twee, this simply wraps you in its arms. It is comfort, reassurance. A voice for us all when we feel lost.
Why did it touch me so easily? Me, a guy whose spirit responds to blast beats and bestial riffing, to howls of fury and discordant noise? Maybe because it’s just pure. Maybe because it reminds me of how small I am, just a little soul wandering as lost as anyone, alone. Maybe it’s just something I need.
I think you might too.
Thank you Lonely Robot. You know where I am. Please visit again.