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

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Magma - Rock Duo »Magma« – As the story goes, this German duo was unaware of a French band with the same name, and they certainly bear no stylistic resemblance to their more widely known and prolific namesake. Drummer Siegfried...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues