Review - Progscape

This review appeared in online progressive rock site ProgScape, and no - it wasn't by someone we know. 



Melbourne Australia's The Merlin Bird sounds like no other band. Really.



Just ask guitarist Dave O'Toole.



"There are elements of Radiohead and George in there, but two of our singers are classically trained, and the other sings jazz. Actually, we don't sound like anyone else I know." 



The thing is, he's actually pretty much right.



Their debut EP, Reason and Rhyme, is a thing of wonder. An amalgam of melodic rock and baroque/classical/chamber influences, the CD lasts an all too brief 17 minutes, by which time the listener has undoubtedly become seduced by The Merlin Bird's many musical and vocal charms. 



EP opener "Rhyme to Reason" pulses, warm bass and synth building a solid foundation for vocals from Geoff Dawes and Beck Sian Robson (who just happens to be related to Kate Bush). Robson's vocals playfully swirl around Dawes' slightly husky tenor, while guests Trevor Carter and Andrew MacPherson add 12-string guitar and solos that fit the track like gloves. "The Father Of Storms" is a hair raising piece, slightly Celtic/Irish inflected, with gloriously right choral vocals that add a spiritual, near-church music feel to the whole. Sue-Ann adds female vocals on this piece (the only track she sings on), and her voice is slightly brighter, more crystalline, perhaps a bit more traditionally female pop singer, yet work well within the song. 



"Puccini Garden" is a treat; a modern canon, entirely instrumental, and a wonderful example of how classical music has always influenced and guided progressive rock from the very beginning. It follows the traditional form while still sounding fresh and contemporary. "Beholder's Eye" has a slightly more electronic feel to it, again focusing on Dawes' vocals. This time they rest over top a programmed percussion line, with Robson's chorused voice and synthesized bagpipes adding a velvety richness on the chorus. Finally, "Reason to Rhyme" completes the circle begun some 15 minutes before, a brief lyrical piece offering some words to live by:



"So to everything there comes its season

Though none may know the place or know the time 

No more try to fit our rhymes to reason 

But learn instead to set the reason to the rhyme." 



The Merlin Bird shows oodles of promise on this short EP, and one can only hope that it portents great things to come. Reason and Rhyme is virtually a must have. 

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