Review by Martin Leach
First, a question. Is it a blessing or a curse for your music to draw comparisons with other artist’s works? For your creative juices to be boiled down to just another version of a tried and trusted formula…. Ask Preacher how they feel about that!
The band was formed in 2007 and comprise of five musicians plus two female backing singers, all of whom have travelled different paths to arrive at this point. Various bands and projects over they years have gone by, acoustic nights and open mics, and in the case of Archie Burgoyne, the band’s amazingly talented keys player who also chips in with the writing, from a tour with Echo And The Bunnymen no less! “Signals” represents the band’s first attempt to build on their loyal fanbase which has grown mainly through word of mouth and gigs in the venues of Ayrshire, Scotland, where the band originate. In my honest view, it is a gem. A diamond in the rough. An audio experience.
We’re talking melodic prog here. Not your archetypal widdly, widdly, twenty minute songs with ten minute indulgent solos and more time changes than you can shake a drum stick at. The music on offer is sublime. It’s an album to turn on, tune in and drop out to. Turn off the lights, close your eyes and enjoy. And with that heady feel to the mix in the soundscape, comes the inevitable comparisons with certain influences…..
From the opening strains of “Time”, almost a prologue, with its piano led tempo and acoustic, earthy guitar, there are distinct Echoes, if you forgive the pun, of a Pink Floyd vibe to the music and lyrics. Now we can dissect and compare all we like. But listen to the understated chord changes, the subtlety of the backing vocals, and the laid back bluesy organic lush of the track. Similarly, the vocals of Martin Murphy draws its own comparisons….it’s hard not to hear the inflections of David Bowie throughout the album, also with a touch of Bryan Josh of Mostly Autumn or even Joe Cocker. “Time” is three minutes and forty three seconds which set the tone of the album brilliantly.
This leads us into “Jupiter To Mars”, track two, and a beautifully arranged track it is. With a flurry of choral singers, the acoustic guitar and piano again lead us into the lyrics. This isn’t a concept album as such, but there is a thread running through some of the songs; that of visitors from other worlds. With a sweep of Floydian chimes, we’re launched into a mid tempo track with Greg Murphy’s ( no relation to Martin ) guitars taking centre stage with a neck spanning solo. There’s a story here in itself. From joining the band as bass player, Murphy took the lead guitarist’s role in 2012. This is from only starting to learn the instrument in 2010! He’s self taught, and it seems he’s a very good teacher!
Each of the twelve, fairly short, punchy songs on “Signals” feels like a movement in a concerto. To reap the most rewards, it’s got to be listened to from start to finish. The longest track, “Arrival” is an instrumental that serves as a six minute musical interlude. Wonderfully placed on the playing order. Davy Johnstone’s bass guitar powers along in a complex arrangement with an awesome production that sounds fresh, vital and new. The band is as one, with great work from drummer Iain Duncan. The variety of sounds that come from his kit throughout the album is stunning. And it’s so simple. Expertly fashioned rhythms and musical layers on tracks such as “Friends Of My Dreams” are a pleasure, this is a standout track, based around a crunching Murphy blues rock structure, an original pounding bass line and an middle eastern influenced phase. “Destiny” will be a staple in the band’s live shows for years to come. The song has a lot of interest from media companies, and rightly so. The soaring guitars and melodic vocals provide a truly captivating moment. It’s an anthem that will have the fans on their feet.
Martin Murphy’s vocals and Greg Murphy’s guitars provide many, many moments of pure beauty on “Signals”, too numerous to mention here. But possibly even these are eclipsed by Burgoyne’s keyboards. We have piano, organ, sound effects and a hell of a lot of synth of show here, all expertly handled. You can almost touch the notes on the album’s closing track “I’ll Be There”. The backing singers pay homage to “The Great Gig In The Sky” before Martin Murphy growls his way through what we’ll call a love song. It’s a great track and a great close to the album, with faultless backing vocals throughout. The music builds into a crescendo and a classic synth solo from years gone by unashamedly launches itself at you. The space rock fills your ears. All it needs is a guitar duel to lead the album out, but sadly the keys fade out….
“Signals” taken as a whole, is something of an oddity….but what a wonderful thing it is. Forget the comparisons. Revel in the music. And all this from an unsigned band….nearly forgot to mention that! As with some debut albums, there are always improvements…..some of the tracks could be longer and the lyrics, whilst perfectly adequate on this chilled out album, could be more challenging or complex in the future…but that’s just this fan’s view! In some ways, the backing vocals lend so much to be band; I wonder whether the lead vocals could be shared next time out. In the same way that bands such as Mr So And So or Mostly Autumn do so well. It will be interesting to hear what the tricky second album is like. Preacher have an absolute classic within them somewhere. On a purely selfish point of view, I just hope “Signals” isn’t it! Time….will tell….