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Cairo: Say

It's often the way that musicians and the band they parted with simultaneously reappear after a period of rebuilding. Hence as Touchstone prepare to release a new EP, their ex-keyboard player and vocalist Rob Cottingham arrives with his new band Cairo (not to be confused with the 90s US prog act of the same name) and their debut album Say. It would have been a fair presumption that the thoroughly excellent Captain Blue (a project Cottingham created while still a member of his previous band) would become his main focus, however with Cairo, the instantly recognisable singer/keyboardist decides instead to straddle the gap between both his previous solo work and Touchstone. That's possibly not too much of a surprise and yet, the enigmatic progressive tones that hit too hard to be considered rock, yet never veer into the territory marked out as metal, land in an area that should welcome followers of both codes of prog into what has been crafted here.

Rob's band are equal to the task, singer (or at least singer when Rob isn't at the mic) Rachel Hill (Nanburn) a scintillating presence who has the ability to make her contributions vital and unforgettable without the need for glass shattering histrionics, growls or screams. Instead she sets about enhancing the music she fronts by sympathetically understanding where to add colour and depth. That she combines with Rob's voice superbly is icing on a scrumalicuous cake. The bond between guitarist James Hards' playing and Cottingham's keys is equally important, the pair already building up what feels like a telepathic link, knowing when to allow the other to swoop and soar and when to combine no passing go, no collecting 200, no messing about to go directly for the throat. "Nothing To Prove" is the prime example, an irresistible riff cutting through, keys adding splashes of colour and intrigue before both ease off, Cottingham seducing with his striking vocals, Hill ready to add to the enigmatic atmosphere. Bassist Paul Stoker also knows how to garnish the the pot, bursting through with runs and power, drummer Graham Brown driving on with a groove that shifts neatly between snare pops and hi-hat shuffles. A mid-song breakdown reminds of Galahad neatly shifting through the gears (as they did so well on the Empire's Never Last album, from which this section would sound right at home), before the themes are revisited in different guise on the equally excellent "Nothing To Lose Reprise".

Oddly the album actually begins with two tracks that feel like introductions, the short instrumental simply called "Cairo" giving way to the spoken word "Shadow's Return Prologue". With that track cutting into "Shadow's Return" itself, you could be forgiven for thinking that this excellent beginning points to a concept piece (something Rob has 'previous' for). However with the beautiful and heartfelt "Dancing The Gossamer Thread" about the tragic loss of a close friend in difficult circumstances and the superbly pitched "Katrina" a reaction to how big government neglects its people (the Hurricane Katrina disaster used as a backdrop through cutting music and expert use of sampled dialogue to shine a light on a wider issue), the topics covered are varied, if intrinsically linked through the human experience of lows and highs. Hill is quite simply splendid on this track, lulling and soft one moment, full of angst and regret the next. However with "Searching" tender and caring, "Back From The Wilderness" an atmospheric grower that latter day Fish era Marillion would have been proud of and the album's title track sliding neatly between punchy melodic rock and catchy prog, all the bases are covered and covered excellently.

Hang fire on those end of year best of lists, for what Cairo have created here is sure to have a Say in what makes the cut.

And after an initial 2016 independent release, Say is now available through Heavy Right Foot/Cherry Red records, so you really have no excuse not to rush out and get it!


Track Listing
1. CAIRO
2. SHADOW'S RETURN PROLOGUE
3. SHADOW'S RETURN
4. WIPED OUT
5. SAY
6. NOTHING TO PROVE
7. NOTHING TO PROVE REPRISE
8. KATRINA
9. SEARCHING
10. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS PART 1
11. BACK FROM THE WILDERNESS
12. DANCING THE GOSSAMER THREAD
13. KATRINA (BREATHE MIX)

Added: October 29th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Cairo online
Hits: 909
Language: english

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