Album Reviews

Issue 2018-028

A Few Questions For Clive Mitten

I think a lot of (especially non-English) people will not know what the Fifth Estate is. Can you explain, and what the musical story-line is?

The story line follows what the booklet on the album says. The estates are a concept understood in British, French and other politics: the church, the elite, the people, the press and, I suggest, social media as the Fifth Estate.

Did you have one long piece, largely instrumental piece in mind from the beginning?

I wrote parts two to three first, always for vocals. I then realised that We Are Sane fitted as a prequel. Much was released instrumentally because early listeners said that they wanted to hear the full instrumental versions.

Over 30 years after your last album including music you wrote, what has changed in influences and the way you write?

I now have 20 years of orchestral, dance, metal and ambient inspirations all mixed up in my head.

It's very soon, but what are the plans for the future?

I have an EP due in a couple of weeks and the double CD vocal Fifth Estate in the autumn.

Duo Review

The C:Live Collective - The Age Of Insanity

The C:Live Collective - The Age Of Insanity
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2018
Time: 59:43
Track List:
The Fifth Estate - Part One (The Dictator Speaks) (11:50), The Fifth Estate - Part Two (11:20), The Fifth Estate - Part Three (17:15), The Fifth Estate - Part Four (14:15), This City Is London (5:01)

Jerry van Kooten's Review

A new band (C:Live is pronounced See-Live, by the way) by one of the musicians from one of my favourite bands, Twelfth Night, and an album including remakes of two TN tracks - this was bound to get my attention. For a review on DPRP I know I have to display an objective view as much as possible and hope the difference between my subjective and objective phrases is clear. Hence the Duo Review as well.

Book-ended by remakes of two Twelfth Night-songs, the album consists of one long suite called The Fifth Estate (of which a remake of We Are Sane is part one) and a remake of This City, titled This City Is London.

I won't blame people, when hearing Part One, for thinking this would Twelfth Night sound like today. It's a heavier, more modern version, also in production of course. More stuff is going on than on the original, there are more layers. It is also scarier version. Mark Spencer's voice fits this style very well and adds to the creepiness of the lyrics and meaning of the song. Thirty-six years on, the world has become a crazier and creepier place, with the vicious circle of media feeding people's lust for quick and scandalous news and too many people becoming too lazy to read beyond those words, let alone think. It's scary how fitting the lyrics to We Are Sane still are even when the world has changed so much.

By now it is becoming more apparent what the past years have added to Clive Mitten's pool of influences. He has listened to anything from classical music to dance and is feeling comfortable with including bits of everything into his own music. The biggest challenge in such an endeavour is to make it whole, or you end up with an album with so many different things most people will want to skip different parts, or an album that lacks identity. The first times listening to this album you might be surprised (which is the exciting thing of hearing new music of course) but even at first listen, this surprise was very pleasant.

Part Two might please the proggiest among the listeners with a challenge in trying to find out the time signatures. Although I can be distracted from enjoying music that is complex for complexity's sake (I guess that's the blues side of my taste), that is definitely not the case here. It sounds like the heart was with the mind here when it was written, making it enjoyable even without paying too much attention to the cleverness often found in prog.

More different things in Part Three. At two-thirds of the song, the song changes into a melancholic, piano-based piece with a beautiful, non-flashy guitar solo, appealing very much to my love for the blues and melancholic, dark, or downright depressive music.

Part Four has a very classical-sounding beginning that you feel will be growing towards something epic. After the bridge which reminded me a bit of current-day Galahad, it slowly builds with layers and power like an updated Tubular Bells into a mix of modern classical music, with the production of today. It's then growing into an epic-sounding end section. I must say that this is the only bit where I thought vocals would definitely add something because of the more rock song structure, while elsewhere in the instrumental sections I don't miss vocals at all.

At the foundation a classical version, This City has a danceable rhythm on top of it. Geoff's son James Mann has a great voice and does both the atmosphere and contemporary instrumentation and arrangements justice while giving an emotional and honest performance, from the heart and never over the top. A modern version with updated extra lyrics not painting a very colourful picture. Could this be a single (if that is still a thing)?

The more I listen to this suite as a whole, it seems to be it is the score to a film that has yet to be made, evoking pictures and moods of contemplation and thrill. Not a pretty picture, though, somberness weighs in heavily, although there is hope in the end.

Some parts sound like something that would not be out of place on an album between Fact And Fiction and Art And Illusion, it's where you hear the old way of writing is also still there. Forget definitions, could this be the new classical music? I know a vocal version of The Fifth Estate is in the making, so we'll be able to read and follow the story. That will probably give a different listening experience, but this works very well as it is.

With the great production that is both clean and warm, with the resulting sound, so many layers that can be uncovered at repeated listening, this makes an excellent album for a lot of prog listeners, even those who feel comfortable at the boundaries of other genres. With its long instrumental parts it remains exciting throughout because of all its power, beauty, breaks, melodies, unexpectedly diverse influences, with the main feat being the mix of all these influences and styles feeling like they belong together.

Isn't that what most classic prog albums have in common?

John Wenlock-Smith's Review

Right from opening notes of The Fifth Estate you can tell this is somewhat special and that you are in for a good listen. From its synth opening chords and swashes and the initial vocal line, there is purpose and strength here and good strong lyrics too. Very well recorded with a good clear sound and balance to the mix. Its opening piece sets the tone with its big brother type voice set against Mark Spencer's more standardized vocals.

What comes through very clearly is that Clive Mitten is an angry man and very much angered by this current-day media, the cult of fake news and how the world is suckered into believing fiction as fact - a scenario he wrote about 36 years ago on 1982's Fact And Fiction album by his then band Twelfth Night, this song takes that album's We Are Sane as a launch point for this suite, albeit in a far more sinister manner. With elements of William Blake’s Jerusalem woven into the track to great effect, this is a chilling tale of a world gone mad and not right at all. This song also acts as a clarion call to reject this state of affairs and to reject the lebensraum (habitat) for megalomania so prevalent in today's media. A salutary lesson for us all to reject the perception of "truth" that is foisted upon us daily.

The next three tracks, parts two to four, are all instrumentals. Each will eventually be a vocal version on the forthcoming vocal album that will be made available later in the year. The first of these is The Fifth Estate - Part Two and this is a fairly pastoral type piece, apart from the what sounds like tubular bells in the background. This is very interesting to listen to and doesn’t sound like anyone else I can think of really. It does have an 80s' type synth sound but that works well in this case. This song also contains further elements of Jerusalem in it, along with some synth percussion type effects, but the overall effect is pleasing rather than grating. There are also some good sequencer passages in the mix too, overall a very satisfying track indeed.

A bass riff leads into a more up-tempo segment with soring synths. A burbling and a simple but effective melody overlaying the bass riff, as the guitars of Mark Spencer or Clive Mitten take the song off in new directions. This is a piece that the more you hear it, the better it becomes and it grows on you. A piano motif leads you into the last section of the track and more synths build on the melody to create a great yet slightly sombre mood that is somehow still both majestic and winning.

Part Three opens in similar vein with more synths and percussion effects in the background before the melody is established and emerges slowly, delicately and tentatively almost, before more bass lines unfold against ripping synths and an organ part in almost a jazzy manner. Then the organ swells and guitars can be heard in the mix, submerged and seeking to break out, but restrained and held back for the moment, before the organ steps in again and goes up a key or a tone or two. The synths follow and fill in the sound.

Stirring stuff indeed at the 4:45 mark. Things become a bit more intense with growling synths and electronic percussion taking the helm temporarily, then a pleasant acoustic guitar segment before returning once more to more growling synths amidst good orchestration, creating a darker mood by adding in deep bass. Then a more strident section with dancing synths and pounding drums and a descending scale played to great effect and aplomb. This is a seriously good track! Lots of inventiveness and exploration of the themes being used to great effect. I think I’ve found a potential album of the year here. Seriously, it is that good and I for one can’t wait for the full vocal version when it comes out, as I think that will make it even more powerful and give more gravitas to this work.

A further gentle piano section emerges with synths layered on top, to create a wall of sound in a most effective manner before a guitar solo enters, again to great effect, and with a good echo/delay sound to it. Sounding not unlike something that Steve Rothery would play, a very lyrical solo passage in fact and a very well-played part too. The piano leads us into the final minutes of this song with an ethereal sound to it ass the song plays out with sustained notes.

Part Four of The Fifth Estate again opens with sparse keyboards and synth. Once again it takes a few moments to establish a melody line as the mood builds, before finally at the 2:30 mark what had started out like something from Blade Runner evolves into something far more interesting with its clatter of electronic percussion, throb and pulsating of synths, lead into a very different type of melody, with snatches of fierce guitar riflery in the mix. This is beginning to get interesting as some funky sounding bass emerges.

More chugging of keyboards leads into what is almost a dance music type sound, sounding like a progressive version of Faithless and the like, with its 90s-type soundings and the synths taking the song up a notch, emerging into a strident positive and uplifting sounding anthem with further ending that has passion and poise in droves

This song is a journey through bleakness and despair, eventually revealing itself to be hopeful and all the better for that too, a masterpiece.

Final track This City Is London again has a very electronic backbeat to it and voiced by James Mann (Geoff Mann’s son) to great effect with its definitive chorus of "we are all this city" as it speaks of the wealth and the poverty that co-exist together in this city. A rather poignant song for our troubled times really, and one that calls for us to "take it back", but that ultimately "we are all this city". It concludes with hopefulness and rounds this remarkable album up worthily.

This is an album that will challenge and hopefully inspire you into not accepting the mass media frenzy and fake news and to investigate the stories in the news for yourself, to change the way you view and react to the world. Plus, the music is excellent too!

Folks going to Winters End this month are in for a real treat as The C:Live Collective play this in its entirety. Meanwhile this is here for you to enjoy and appreciate. Simply magnificent, a definite must have for any prog fan.

Album Reviews