Combining the diaphanous feel of Celtic music with the thunderous classically inspired rock that powered classic 1970s prog, multi-instrumentalist Rob Reed has created in Beneath the Waves something that feels both timeless and new.
You have both a suitably complex, album-length narrative, and familiar figures from Genesis and King Crimson making key musical statements. At the same time, the addition of folk instruments like the uilleann pipes, along with next-gen contributors from Porcupine Tree, ChimpanA, Nightwish, Pendragon and Magenta, ensure that Beneath the Waves doesn’t become a curio piece.
Singers Steve Balsamo (ChimpanA, “Jesus Christ Superstar”) and newcomer Angharad Brinn, their voices surrounded by the English Chamber Choir and the London Session Orchestra, are charged with conveying a story in song created by Magenta’s Reed and his brother Steve.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steven Wilson dropped by to talk about classic 1970s sounds, prog's rebirth and his amazing album 'The Raven.']
If it all sounds impossibly complex, even without knowing that Reed worked for some three years on the Kompendium project, the album’s devastatingly romantic, sea-faring storyline grounds everything in a very real emotional place.
Apparently inspired by a news story from long ago, Beneath the Waves involves a widower lost at sea after his fishing boat is ensnared in a nasty storm. There, amid the roiling waters, he finally finds some connection again to his late wife, for whom he has pined in crushing guilt since she committed suicide following the passing of their only child.
As it unfolds, one song flowing inexorably into the next, Beneath the Waves, ends up feeling very much like spending an hour or so with a great book — right down to the sumptuously presented booklet featuring all of the lyrics. But, as with everything else about this project, there’s also a layered, very modern experience to be found in the bonus DVD — which also includes surround mixes and a series of fascinating videos.
Porcupine Tree’s Gavin Harrison appears on 10 of the 12 tracks here, while King Crimson alum Mel Collins sits in on both the stirring title track and “Moment of Clarity.” Guitarist Jakko Jackzyk (20th Century Schizoid Band, Jakszyk Fripp & Collins) is featured on “The Storm,” the album’s centerpiece composition, as well as “One Small Step.” Genesis alum Steve Hackett appears on “Lilly,” taking a delicately emotional turn on a nylon guitar, while Nick Beggs (Steve Wilson Band, Kajagoogoo) adds a thrilling performance on the Chapman Stick to the title track. Elsewhere, Reed’s Kompendium band includes touring members of bands for David Gilmour, Tears for Fears and Elton John.