Monday, September 7, 2009

CD Review - Breathing Space, Below the Radar

Over the past three years, York's Breathing Space have developed from being a side-project of Mostly Autumn's Iain Jennings and Olivia Sparnenn to become a significant band in their own right. While some people may have feared the worst following guitarist Mark Rowen's departure from the band just before the band went into the studio, the band have not only delivered a strong album, but have managed to top 2007's excellent "Coming Up for Air".

As with the last album, Iain Jennings' production is crystal clear. Olivia Sparnenn gets better and better as a singer with some wonderful vocals throughout, and everyone else's playing as the top of their game. For the album they've drafted in Mostly Autumn's Liam Davidson to play guitars, and his more traditional rock-style playing fits perfectly. Without Mark Rowen and John Hart we may have lost the jazz-rock elements from their sound, but the album is still a lot more varied than it's predecessor. Songs ranges from the guitar-based hard rockers and emotional piano-and-vocal ballads to big prog-tinged epics. There's even a bit of the dance music elements which featured on the first album.

It's difficult to single out the high points; there's Olivia's soaring vocals on "Clear" and "The Night Takes You Home", There's the atmospheric ballad "Dusk". "Run From Yourself" combines a dance-pop rhythm with some fantastic Jon Lord-like Hammond organ playing from Iain Jennings. And the closing number "Questioning Eyes".is simply a masterpiece in the same league as Iain's Mostly Autumn classics "Carpe Diem" and "The Gap Is Too Wide"; real lump-in-the-throat stuff, with some evocative cello playing from Charlotte Scott, some superb guitar from Liam, and an emotionally powerful vocal performance from Olivia Sparnenn.

This is shaping up as a very good candidate for album of the year. It's certainly the best thing to come out of York for the past three or four years.

There are some brief sound clips on the band's website, and the album can be ordered here.

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