I know I’m over a year too late for this review, but there’s been an album in particular that I’ve been repeating for over a week. Having recently found out that progressive rock’s Cosmograf will be releasing an album soon, I felt it my duty to re-listen to their prior work. Being a fan of all their albums, there’s one in particular that I feel stands out from the rest, being his latest album “Capacitor.” Released earlier this year, “Capacitor” features several phenomenal guest musicians, performing technical yet catchy songs. If their next album follows the same blueprint used for “Capacitor,” then it will surely be another success.
Residing in England, Cosmograf is Robin Armstrong, a talented multi-instrumentalist with a gifted imagination. With every Cosmograf album to date following some sort of theme or concept, the listener enjoys a series of stories told about the afterlife and spirits in “Capacitor.” Similar to the layout of Steven Wilson’s album “The Raven That Refused To Sing,” I feel the same sensation as hearing ghost stories around a campfire when I was a kid. The album’s subtitle “The Amazing Spirit Capture” repeats Armstrong’s direction, consisting of seven tracks lasting nearly an hour long. Helping further his sentiments is the album’s remarkable production quality. As fitting as white noise would be on an album about ghosts and spirits, “Capacitor” is assembled beautifully, consisting of crisp acoustic arrangements, seamless soundscapes of keyboards and pianos, and gainy guitar rhythms. Armstrong’s lead vocals cut through the track, while the various bass guitar performances stand out starkly against the other instruments. An album with so much going on, the added layer of bass guitar is but another brushstroke on a visually striking painting, and does not simply follow the song’s rhythm sections. Each song blends into the next effortlessly, almost as a movie, with each scene forcing the listener on the edge of their seat in anticipation or reclined back in relaxation.
Being a darker album, the listener will be quite surprised by the relative lightheartedness of “Capacitor.” Using a more passive approach, Armstrong is able to adequately perform beautiful passages while still incorporating vigorous, gloomy details. The album’s theme is interdependent with the album’s sound, which frequently poses the question: if energy cannot be created or destroyed, what happens to us all after we die? Each track seeks to further the thesis, relying on its characters to guide us along. From the start, we are presented this idea with two of the album’s hardest tracks “The Spirit Capture” and “The Fear Created.” It so happens that these two tracks are my two favorites for various reasons.
The questions posed throughout “The Spirit Capture” capture the listener’s attention, often spoken softly during instrumental portions of the song. Being a fan of ghost stories and the paranormal, I couldn’t help but imagine asking these questions in a haunted house. The synthesizers and bass lines help heighten that feeling, provided by Robin Armstrong and Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin. The following track “The Fear Created” introduces the acoustic guitar, but it is by no means a soft track. After only moments, the overdriven guitar and heavy bass chime in, providing backing to the album’s most notable vocal performance. In prior albums, Armstrong had recruited guest vocalists to help sing on his albums, but is not needed on this album due to Armstrong’s improved voice. He is more comfortable than ever on “Capacitor,” noticeably in the song’s closing minutes. About five and a half minutes into the song, one of my favorite moments fills my ears, being the passionate cries of a spirit to a loved one. I cannot help repeating that moment after it happens.
Much of “Capacitor” is a battle between the light and dark, the serene and depressing. The song that uses both extremes is the brilliantly performed “White Car,” detailing the story of a hit-and-run victim trying to speak to the other side through a séance. Switching between airy guitar solos with light piano arrangements and the heavy bass guitar and guitar rhythms, the listener is tugged back and forth. What will happen to the victim? Will she be able to tell her story? Before we are given the answer, “The Ghost Gets Made” begins with its 70’s style keyboards and headbang-worthy guitar riffs. The solo at the song’s end is another highlight of the album, rising higher until the closing moments. Each song on this album is thought-provoking, intelligent, and dramatic.
Excluding the star of “Capacitor” Robin Armstrong, I really appreciated Nick D’Virgilio’s performance on the drum set. Known for being the drummer for the band Spock’s Beard, D’Virgilio provides key moments of percussion throughout the album. His entire performance in opener “The Spirit Capture” is one of the most intriguing drum performances I’ve heard, not only because of his flair, but his ability to raise the bar for the other musicians on the track. I feel D’Virgilio’s drumming amplifies the startling nature of the bass guitar, heightens the emotion to the various guitars, and reinforces the themes spoken in the album’s lyrics. Without D’Virgilio, I feel this would be an entirely different album.
It may have taken the news of an upcoming release for me to listen to Cosmograf’s “Capacitor,” but the talent behind the album is enough to suggest it to you all. With incredible performances by every musician, I highly recommend my readers listen to this album. For fans of Porcupine Tree, Thieves’ Kitchen, Sky Architect, Dave Kerzner, and Moon Safari, please support Cosmograf’s latest effort. You can support Cosmograf by checking out their website, and by following him on Facebook and Twitter for band updates. Stay tuned for news on Robin Armstrong’s latest album, which will surely be featured in the near future.