Album review: Transport Aerian – Bleeding
Genre: Eclectic Progressive Rock.
Release date: March 2014
Label: Melodic Revolution Records
Sounds like: Quite probably like very few bands you’ve ever heard
Recommended to: Fans of Riverside, Lunatic Soul, Storm Corrosion, Porcupine Tree, as well as more extreme experimental prog, metal and jazz
Dmitri Shostakovich and Béla Bartók in the early 20th century, then Miles Davis in the 1950s, chose to march beyond the outposts of the music of their day. They built their own musicscapes in uncharted territory. The man who calls himself Hamlet has done the same with modern prog. He’s taken it outside the boundaries and invented a new place for it.
Hamlet has ventured so far into the realms of experimental music that it would be mundane to describe his music as merely progressive. It is as avantgardiste as just about anything you’re likely to hear. If it needs a tag, the most fitting one might be “avant garde melancholy heavy progressive rock”. That’s quite a mouthful. It’s what you hear in the solo music of Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, or from Mariusz Duda of Riverside when he takes on the identity of Lunatic Soul.
Those are big names. Let’s say they’re used more for illustration because Hamlet doesn’t try to sound like either of them. He sounds totally original.
Transport Aerian is a one-man progressive-oriented project in the sense that it is driven by Hamlet, who seems to play almost every type of instrument. He didn’t do it alone, though. On the contrary, he has been a wandering troubadour, travelling from one music centre to another to bring together contributors to the album. Different tracks were put together with different line-ups from a number of countries. This has contributed to the huge variety of styles and moods on Bleeding.
Hamlet says of the album, “It has no strict genre borders, musical or spiritual limits.” He describes it as “sharp-edged musical poetry.”
Bleeding was originally released a year ago. Then it came to the attention of Melodic Revolution Records in the USA. This had three immediate consequences. One, the company recognized that the album has so many nuances that some are lost in standard-quality digital recording. The album has now been released as a 24-bit, high-definition recording. Two, Melodic Revolution is also releasing a live version of the album, Live.Blood.Live, about… now. And three, Melodic Revolution has signed up Hamlet on a multi-album contract. Wonderful! That means there will be more to come from Transport Aerian.
1. Mortals: Appropriately, the album opens with avant garde heavy prog. Then the song swells with echoes of doom, stoner and Riverside-type prog metal. Hamlet deliberately uses discords and horror movie keyboards to emphasize the theme of desperate anguish.
2. Inspire: The first few minutes of this, the longest track, begin like a minimalist symphony in experimental jazz. The instruments and percussion are understated and become more and more muted. This is why the album needed high-fidelity recording – the subtleties of the music might be lost with less sound definition.Halfway through, Hamlet steers the melody into deeply atmospheric prog before reverting to a jazz format towards the end.
3. Score: Again reminiscent of later Riverside or Lunatic Soul, the composition incorporates a restrained but complex dialogue between guitar and piano.
4. Fog Vision: Hamlet performs his opening vocals in a lower register against a background of fuzz and reverberation, ushering in a plaintive guitar solo and the type of drumming tattoos I last heard in Berlioz’s “March to the Scaffold”. The closest musical parallel to this song that I can think of is Storm Corrosion.
5. Nightsky: The mood lifts in this song. It is more upbeat and lyrical, although still sombre. It is almost prog folk that reminds me of Phideaux’s Great Leap album.
6. Love: This isn’t sweet romance. It is a bitter lament of the pain that can come from love. It builds into another graceful guitar solo punctuated by full, resonating chords on the piano.
7. Edges: The piano takes the dominant role while the vocals become almost a tone poem. Part of the way in, the music switches to what could, for all the world, be space rock you would hear from Pink Floyd or on Porcupine Tree’s The Sky Moves Sideways. No, wait – now there’s synthesizer that would have fitted well into Camel’s Snow Goose. This is perhaps the most deeply poignant song on the album.
8. Winter: Hmm, prog metal? That’s the feel on this track. The guitar solo is superb.
9. Triangle Town: Hamlet recites a reflective and introspective poem with a background of gentle, spacy rock. He switches to soft, bluesy vocals with the piano behind him, then builds up the power of the instruments and vocals before reprising that album-opening jazz piano.
10. A Lamb to the Knife: After all that had gone before, I was expecting yet another surprise in the final song. I wasn’t disappointed. Much of this track is way-out psychedelic rock. If the names of Steve Hillage or Gong mean anything to you, think of their music updated to the 21st century.
Let me add a note about Hamlet’s vocals. His voice is unusual and distinctive. He can deliver his vocals in soft folk style or like the hardest of rockers. I reckon he must be comfortable over a range of at least three octaves. That demands a lot of control.
I’ve mentioned quite a few bands and musicians so far. Please understand, I’m not comparing Transport Aerian with them, I’m using them to get a handle on Hamlet’s music. It’s so different that the album requires intense listening. It’s really and truly worth close attention.
- This preview of the album gives a taste of what’s on Bleeding. Note that it is just a taste. The variety on the album is almost unbelievable.
For more of Transport Aerian, go here: