|CD REVIEW TSM/ SLW Promotions special March 2012 : Abandoned Stars – M.I.C.|
Aha...funny, both bands of this special have a Canadian connection. As you may know, China based M.I.C.'s main man Yvon Serré is Canadian-born, so that's an obvious one. But how does Canada tie in with Edinburgh based Scottish band Abandoned Stars, you may ask...and the answer is that they had the material for their debut 4-track Mini-CD mastered there! Talk about you far-fetched things, because musically the bands have no comparison points other than that they both play the kind of music they prefer.
This Progressive Rock act was founded by Edinburgh based brothers Leen (bass) and Tony Hodge (drums & keyboards) when, in July 2010, they recruited French singer Olivier Hadder and Italian guitarist/ keyboardist Giuseppe Schiavone. Together, and with influences from both old school (Rush, Yes) and modern Prog Rock/ Metal (early Dream Theater, Freak Kitchen, Frost*, Karnivool, Porcupine Tree, and Kamelot), but also touching on more mainstream Muse-like sounds, the quartet started writing their music. The feedback from both the audience and gig promotor from the band's debut performance at their hometown's Sneaky Pete's (which was packed to over-capacity for the occasion) was só positive that it convinced our foursome of the necessity to take their music to a next level. So, in early 2011, the band chose 4 songs of their repertoire (recorded at various studios in Edinburgh) and had the material mixed and mastered by Marty Bak of Ontario, Canada's SLR Studios. Working towards the December 12 release of the mini-album (4 tracks, but for just under 30 minutes of music certainly deserve that classification of the disc), the band also worked on an album teaser video, and a clip for opening track “Beyond Reason”.
When you'll listen to the band's music at (www.) facebook.com/abandonedstars (best offer as compared to the band's MySpace and/or ReverbNation pages, as it displays a full-length version of the aforementioned “Beyond Reason”, 30-second previews of the three other tracks, a demo version of a 5th song, and the solo section of yet another song...as well as the aforementioned videos), you'll immediately notice Olivier's warm and specific mid-high vocal pitch, which is certain to set the band apart as an entity with its own face. The only thing that bugs me, is how the band can possibly play its music on stage without either getting someone to play their keyboard parts, or without using programmed parts for the keyboards. Well, no matter, both possibilities are quite possible these days, and programmed keyboard parts can be triggered by foot pedals easily enough!
End conclusion after my several listening sessions: if you're into Prog Rock with Metallic tinges, you're well-advised to start taking notice of this band. The guys have already started work on a full-length, and that is probably gonna be even more extraordinary, but right now you'd better try to get yourself a copy of this digipak mini-album. Ten year ago, the band would've been signed to a decent label befóre the release of their debut outing, but with today's “global crisis” still reeking havoc on the music industry, the quartet will have to prove themselves first. The real Prog lovers can help (because it takes money to be able to record a full-length and then have it mixed and mastered), by buying themselves a copy of this real fine product. Final words: if Opening Act had been released a month later, it would've been the...fourth(?) entry in my 2102 year-lists. Now, I have to retro-actively add it to the 2011 version!
I could've announced in my review (posted 19/02/2012) of Yvon Serré's solo album Trap, that a new M.I.C. album had actually been released in January, but that would've spoiled the fun of being able to boast about the man's prolific writing skills.
Now, before I get onto the material at hand, the historian in me feels a necessity to let the reader know some of the things that happened to M.I.C. since we last gave an update on the band (at the occasion of the release of the previous album 3rd Degree, review posted 31/05/2011), no matter how little that actually is. In August of last year M.I.C. was support act to famous Hong Kong band Beyond, and they then make it to the front page of the entertainment section of Chengdu's biggest newspaper (you'll remember that Chengdu is the city from which the band operates – with a population of more than 10 million people, the city is one of the larger ones in China – in other words, the article sure was a huge promotional tool). Fast forward to October 3rd, when M.I.C. play at The 8th International Tour Music Festival. The day after they headline The East Chengdu Music Festival, and the rest of the month is spent playing several gigs throughout China. Time to talk line-up. Originally, the band was made up of Serré and Chinese musicians, whom were gradually supplanted by Caucasian ones. And actually, at this point I need to return to Yvon's solo album...because I'd made some mistakes there. You see, all musicians helping him out on that one are actually current residents of China, not Canada, and I overlooked the fact that drummer Tommy Burke (whom had come from London) had already taken part in the recordings of M.I.C.'s 3rd album. On the fourth album however (and I take this moment to give notice of a nice detail in the album titles which have a numerical theme since the second album – the first was self-titled – which was titled Out 2 Rock, third album was 3rd Degree, and this fourth one...well, you've got the idea by now...makes one wonder what the next one might get as title – well, actually I already know, because work on it as already started and a title chosen, but I'm not telling you yet), he is replaced by new drummer Brad Williams, with the rest of the line-up being the people whom helped him out with the solo album, namely keyboardist Rick O'Donald, bassist Sam Lafleurs, and backing singer Janice Atem. Meaning Angela Renzetti is out of the picture (again).
As for my personal appreciation of Serré's music, I have to say I'm getting into it more and more with each of the albums he releases. Funny, I'm even appreciating his singing style some more too, and at one fleeting moment even found a reminiscence of his vocal signature to Canadian fellow musician Kim Mitchell (formerly of '70s band Max Webster). AS far as the music goes, it is of course a further development from the previous M.I.C. albums, and is described by Yvon himself (on his website yvonserre.com/mic) as “A Rockin' powerful Melodic punkish wirling, twisting piece of Pop Rock artsy fartsy Party Music”. Well, personally I feel the “punkish” part has long been replaced by a more sophisticated '70s Poppy Hard Rock feel...with great lead and solo guitar parts which serve to enhance the melodic part of the overall music. Janice's role on this album is apparently restricted to bringing additional female backing vocals to “Chemicals” (one of my favourite songs on the album), but in all other songs Yvon is backed by one of the guys in the band. Too bad, because she has an interesting warm voice I'd like to hear more on M.I.C. recordings (say Yvon, you might see that as a tip for the album you're currently working on?). Oh right...something I first noticed on Yvon's solo album, is that he rather often includes a “wooh” (or “woow”) into his singing, and that's something you'll also find in most of the 11 songs on the new album.
If you're into late '70s Canadian Pop Rock with great guitar play, I strongly suggest you get acquainted with this band operating from out of China. You can find the first 3 songs on the album (including the aforementioned “Chemicals” at (www.) myspace.com/madeinchine.