Retreat from Moscow – Dreams, Myths and Machines (2023)
I was very surprised when I saw that a new album of Retreat from Moscow would be released and ordered the CD immediately because predecessor The World as we knew it I bought at the beginning of 2022 and I still play regularly. The review of that album can be found here.
Given that the previous album has been decades in the making, it has gone remarkably and admirably fast with this new album.
It is the first time that I write a second review for my website of a band because I started this hobby site in 2021. When discussing the band's debut album with the strange band name, a number of things came up and I was of course curious if much has changed. Well, there is because Dreams, Myths and Machines is clearly a step forward, the album sounds more mature and there is also more coherence between the individual tracks. Where on the previous album there was a combination of simple songs and clearly more prog-oriented ones, you can actually hear only prog songs on this album. That is a really good choice because in my opinion this is where the strength of these men lies. The line-up has not changed so we again hear Greg Haver on drums, Tony Lewis on bass, Andrew Raymond on keyboards and John Harris on guitar and vocals. That's not where the differences are and of therefore the band doesn't sound substantially different, but it's the compositions that have clearly gained in quality and power. From the average considerably longer duration of the songs it can already be deduced that there is more room for variation and experimentation and that fills my proghart with joy. Okay, we're still not dealing with groundbreaking, innovative music, but the average neoprog lover will like Dreams, Myths and Machines and I'm going to try to explain why I really enjoy listening to this album.
Opener Saving California immediately sets the tone with a fairly accessible chorus and a simple rhythm, but gradually this shifts towards a wonderfully floating piece of music with nice guitar work on a sea of keys. Harris plays fine solos throughout the album with a kind of Andy Latimer feel, perhaps a little less virtuoso but very pleasant to listen to. The crazy thing is that when guest Robin Armstrong plays a solo it simply touches me more, it's just a bit more pointed. I will come back to this later.
There are nine songs on this album and no song is missing out on quality. Flowerbride, Running Man, Time Traveller and Assasin's Cloak are all nice songs with a length that varies from just over four minutes to over eight minutes. Complete songs with room for, especially vintage, keyboards and guitars and a solid rhythm section and of course the necessary solos. Nice but not spectacular.
Yet there are also really nice long pieces on Dreams, Myths and Machines such as I can hear you calling, with additional vocals by Jillian Slade, and also The Machine stops, with keyboard solo by Andy Tillison, clocks well over thirteen minutes. Both are true epics that show everything this band has to offer. Sufficient variety in terms of dynamics and atmosphere. Harris occasionally sings even more aggressively and that certainly doesn't feel out of place.
Still, my favourite of the album is the song Windchill of over seven and a half minutes. The first notes on solo guitar already promise a lot of good and that's coming. It is a well crafted song with a not too fast tempo, but it is mainly Robin Armstrong (Cosmograf) who can shine with his excellent guitar work. The full keyboards propel the song to an orgasmic ending on guitar. Delicious.
Final track DNA, of almost ten minutes should also be mentioned. It starts with modern (as far as that is possible with Retreat from Moscow) sounding keyboard rhythms and then goes through a contrarian rhythm to a quieter middle piece and then goes to a somewhat recognizable but oh so beautiful finale. A worthy conclusion to this fine album.
Is this album really going to get them in the elite of the progscene? I don't know, it's a nice album to listen to but the offer of new music is large and there are still some real crackers among them.
To the point now Erik. As you can read in my last column, I'm going to try to apply a rating system in my reviews. For details read my column.
For me, The World as we knew it was worth 65 points (so enough for me to buy) and given the clear progress that has been made with Dreams, Myths and Machines, more than a point has been earned and 78 points means more than enough for me to purchase.
On to the 80 points because I think there is still room for improvement.
Music 78 points.
Cover 70 points, nice but not really shocking, but clearly referring to the title.