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Borderline, London, 14 October 2011
To promote the release of their third studio album The City Sleeps,
Hertfordshire prog-rockers Touchstone embarked on a very short tour of
the UK (Poole, London, Newcastle and Bilston) supported by former Mostly
Autumn singer Heather Findlay.
only minutes after the doors were due to open I was a little surprised
not to find a long queue of people waiting outside to get in...
descending the stairs, it soon became obvious that the doors had opened
early as The Borderline was already over three-quarters full with a
buzzing and expectant crowd.
To open up proceedings Heather Findlay, joined by her erstwhile
Mostly Autumn colleague Chris Johnson, offered us an hour long acoustic
set made up of three of the five songs from her new EP 'The Phoenix
Suite' (co produced by Chris), a few old Mostly Autumn numbers ('Yellow
Time', 'Blue Light' and 'Evergreen') 'Magpie' from 'Odin Dragonfly' and
some of Chris's own compositions from other projects.
honest and admit that I've never been a huge fan of Mostly Autumn's
mainly ethereal sound, but having downloaded and listened to 'The
Phoenix Suite', a departure into heavier waters for Heather, I was
actually looking forward to hearing the new songs played live.
To say I
was disappointed would be an understatement. I'm no great fan of
'unplugged' sessions either, and this first set of songs reminded me
written for a selection of instruments ever sounds as good when played
with just one guitar... however accomplished the guitarist may be.
pop-rock flavour of the new album's third song (and the opener on the
night) 'Cellophane', was lost into nothingness as was 'Phoenix' and the
final song of the set, the otherwise beautiful albeit heavy 'Mona Lisa'.
almost as if, having trodden a heavier route with the new EP, Heather
decided to play the new songs in a Mostly Autumn way. That both Heather
and Chris have good voices and that Chris is an accomplished guitarist
are not in question...the problem lay in stripping down complex and
heavier songs to just one guitar and a tambourine; a step too far for
this reviewer. I prefer to reserve judgement for when Heather Findlay
returns to the road with a full band.
Set List: Cellophane, Phoenix, Gaze, The Dogs, Yellow Time, Out of
Season, Magpie, Blue Light, Evergreen, Silver Grass and Mona Lisa
Opening up with
'Shadow' from the 'Discordant Dreams' album of 2008,
Touchstone soon ripped into some of the new songs from 'The City
Sleeps' with 'Good Boy Psycho', a song with heavy metal riffs in the
background and haunting, swirling melodies perfectly delivered by Kim
Serviour at the forefront, and 'Horizons' another melodic song with heavy
riffs smashing through every now and then.
was an album launch tour, much of the material that was played were the
new songs, but interspersed amongst them were 'Zinomorph' and 'Joker in
the Pack' from the glorious 'Wintercoast' album and 'One Shot' from the
Mad Hatters EP of 2007.
Paul 'Moo' Moorghen on bass and drummer Henry Rogers are the driving
force of the band, with 'Moo' taking an ever more important role in
providing the heavy riffs, allowing Adam Hodgson to add his own
shredding guitar licks to build the layers.
On top of
that founder member Rob Cottingham adds his own expansive keyboard
flourishes which are ably complemented by Kim Serviour's vocals. All
five are accomplished musicians in their own right, but the obvious
chemistry within the band, to use an old cliché, makes them greater than
the sum of their parts.
'Wintercoast' was a superb album, and on this first impression the new
album looks like it will be every bit as good, if not better. Certainly
the finale on the night of 'Half Moon Meadow', 'These Walls' and the
title track 'The City Sleeps' left me wanting to press the rewind and
play buttons of my life so as to hear it all again.
symphonic metal style of prog may not appeal to a mass market sadly
saturated by Hip-Hop/RnB and The X Factor, but for those who enjoy
listening to well crafted multi-layered music with intelligent lyrics,
Touchstone hit all the buttons.
Set List: Shadow, Good Boy Psycho, Horizons, Zinomorph, Throw Them to
the Sky, Joker in the Pack, Corridors, One Shot, Half Moon Meadow, These
Walls, The City Sleeps