Exposé Online banner

Thieves' Kitchen — The Clockwork Universe
((Not on label) TKCD006, 2015, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-02-20

The Clockwork Universe Cover art

As a Thieves’ Kitchen newbie, listening to The Clockwork Universe starts out as a game of Spot-the-Influence: a bit of Yes here, Renaissance there, Änglagård now, Genesis later… but then it occurs to me that all of that is pointless and irrelevant. This really is an original blend. I can’t say if it’s the same blend they’ve been brewing since their beginning more than 15 years ago or if it’s an evolution or a new thing. One way or another it just works. The first thing you hear is some very subtle volume-pedal playing on the guitar, then Amy Darby’s beautiful voice and an electric piano. Neither the guitar nor the keyboards are playing simple chords, but some nicely sophisticated stuff reminiscent of something like Hatfield and the North. As things develop, Phil Mercy’s guitar develops some really tasty parts, whether legato countermelodies or soaring leads with a touch of wah-wah. Thomas Johnson’s keyboards encompass electric piano, organ, Mellotron, and classic synth sounds, and masterfully blend complex arpeggios, massive chords, and jazzy voicings, knocking them several notches up from so much of the retro-vintage work you hear these days. The rhythm section really works it too, with Johan Brand’s bass often slightly overdriven, though not as heavy as he gets with Änglagård; drummer Paul Mallyon is one of those guys whose playing just fits perfectly, not really jumping out at you, but full of tasty accents and avoiding cliches. The last part of the equation, personnel-wise, is Anna Holmgren’s flute, which gets less time than I might like – when she does appear, she provides a perfect touch of breath and warmth. Of course, the best musicians in the world are wasted if the compositions are dull, but between the words of Darby and the music of Mercy and Johnson, Thieves’ Kitchen has no worries in that regard. The lyrics are imagistic and intelligent, with unexpected phrasing and unusual metaphors, references to science and technology, and realistic emotions viewed in interesting ways. Darby also manages the difficult task of having a beautiful vocal tone but not coming off as bland, overly sweet, or stagey. Aside from giving some recognition to Mercy’s guitar work (dexterous and unpredictable), I’ll just say that my hope for progressive rock’s future is brightened a bit by hearing The Clockwork Universe.


Filed under: New releases, 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Phil Mercy, Thieves' Kitchen

Latest news

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Ange - By the Sons of Mandrin & Par les Fils de Mandrin Live 77 – Banco and PFM did it, so why not Ange? The world of rock music has always been dominated by the English language, and many of the bands who sing primarily in another language have seen fit to record...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues