For anyone wondering what keys player and vocalist Rob Cottingham would do after leaving Touchstone, the band he founded, for shores unknown, it seems he’s outdone himself. Cairo’s splendid debut is likely the finest album that the British prog veteran has made. Produced by John Mitchell, the music offers less of the metal riffage of Cottingham’s old outfit, favouring a warmer tonal range and arrangements drenched with all manner of electronics. The album divides into two parts: the first favours up-tempo rockers, the second leans towards more sombre, introspective songs. That said, throughout the record there are rises and falls in dynamics, and powerful shifts in mood and tone. Lisa Driscoll, who took over from Rachel Hill during the recordings, takes lead vocal on the urgent Wiped Out and Nothing To Prove is a belligerent neo-prog monster. Katrina, inspired by the hurricane that devastated New Orleans, has noble intentions but it’s the flattest track. Searching and Random Acts Of Kindness are more engaging among the slow tunes, and Dancing The Gossamer Thread is bookended by shimmering passages surrounding a mid-section that buzzes with energy.
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