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Thieves Kitchen - Argot


Thieves Kitchen - ArgotQuite unique and ultimately refreshing.  Music that massages the brain.  King Crimson on one of their better and more tuneful days.  Gentle Giant minus vocal harmonies.  The clarity of Focus.  Why no long tracks?  The longest barely stretches to 20 minutes and there is what I assume to be a possible single judging by its short length of just under 13 minutes!   Are they selling out?  Definitely not.  Oodles of heavy keyboard, lashings of action-lead guitar, vocals of intense sincerity  held together with bass and percussion straight out of the ELP bible.   Though not dated in any way, these guys sound as if they have been going since the 70s such is the quality of this work.  The CD contains just four tracks totalling some 64 minutes and each track goes remarkably quickly to this listener’s ears.  This is the best new British, dare I say English plus a dash of German, band I have heard in a long while.  Here the label neo-prog does not apply. They are out and out prog in the traditional sense.  Well done chaps!

I contacted the band after learning that they composed purely using midi and asked if any conflicts arose using this method.  Phil Mercy (guitar/backing vocals) explained the process in more depth.

Phil Mercy:   “The way it tends to work is this: There are three main musical composers at present, Wolfgang, Paul Beecham, and myself. Any one of us may start off with an idea. We will usually run with the idea as individuals until we've got as far in developing it as is possible on our own, then we email it on to one of the others. This allows us to put as little, or as much into the creation of a single song as we wish to. Once passed on, the other person has as much leeway as they like to play with the ideas in the track. If the originator really doesn't like the direction it's being taken in he can say so but in practice that hasn't tended to happen yet. I guess that's a measure of how much we all like each others styles :)  Currently, I'm being used as the main arranger etc so the track will eventually make it's way to me and I’ll rearrange, smooth it out, add or delete as appropriate to create a finished piece for review. This seems to be putting my name in the frame as the one having the 'final say' but it was a natural thing as Paul and Wolfgang tend to write parts and embellish them rather than finished pieces. Once I've done my thing the file does the rounds again to make sure everyone’s happy with arrangement, instrumentation etc. We do sometimes get together, two at a time in the same room but this is not always the case. This has come up with some of the best ideas though because the original ideas are a combination of inputs.  'Escape' off Argot was much like that with the vocal section coming out of one such session. The middle bit to 'Proximity' was largely worked out with Wolfgang in another memorable session.  At the other end of the scale, 'John Doe' was pretty much all mine developed over a number of months, mostly because I'd gotten too close to the track to pass it over. 'Call to whoever' was in to two parts, the first was a file from Wolfgang with themes and snippets of themes put into a completely different context and then added to by myself. The second part was a reworking of a song I'd written with Simon earlier, adapted to fit. When a file is complete, Simon tends to work on the lyrics although both Mark and I have written some too. Simon, Mark and Andy also tend to add to the process mostly in production ideas or through their playing. This is why all writing credits state TK rather than individuals. Phew, a long answer, sorry, but it's an insightful question because I could imagine there being conflicts too. It seems to work for us because we all respect each other and give each other the space to develop something until we're happy, that way we're never frustrated.  Fingers crossed that it always stays that way :)”

Maybe other bands should try it.  This album is proof that it works. 

Jem Jedrzejewski

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