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BIG BIG TRAIN The Difference Machine English Electric (2008)

I was aware of this band previously but had not heard anything by them until this, their fifth studio album. Based around the core members of Gregory Spawton (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Andy Poole (bass), Steve Hughes (drums) and Sean Filkins (vocals), the album is produced by Rob Aubrey (Asia/IQ) and features some top draw guests including Marillion's bass player Pete Trewavas and drummer Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard).

The music is very varied with some wonderful use of sax and keyboards throughout the album,although it features seven songs, three of which are instrumentals linking the other songs and in the best traditions of progressive music, you get three twelve minutes plus epics.

Only one part of the overall sound may put some listeners off and that is the vocals of Sean Filkins, who has a voice with little variation and which has been sampled in parts to give a mechanical feel. That said the vocals do suit the music well and match the use of electronic loops/programming elsewhere on the album.

'Pick Up If You're There' is a standout with Pete Trewavas playing some intricate bass at the end of the song. The addition of flute, sax and viola rounds out the sound nicely with plenty of time changes and like any good epic song it takes various musical diversions throughout. If you had to compare BBT to other bands it would be King Crimson, as you can never guess what musical path the music will take next and Sigur Ros. Oh, and Spock's Beard as well - mainly due to the drums of Nick D'Virgilio!

Excellent sound and production throughout make this one for all lovers of progressive music.


Review by Jason Ritchie

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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