On the face of it, a West Midlands industrial estate is not an obvious seedbed in which to germinate live debuts from a new ‘supergroup’ and wannabe prog star saplings.
It’s Kiama’s music-teaching drummer, Andy Edwards (Frost*, Magenta, Robert Plant) who’s the link between the two camps, and ‘Sir’ has tasked his students from nearby Kidderminster College to create and perform a prog epic in front of the seasoned diehards tonight.
With a continuous stream of personnel changes, including a Steven Wilson lookalike, they do a sterling job. It’s all in there – the tricky time signatures, spacey guitars and plenty of exuberant drumming. That’s followed by a spirited, frenetic mash-up, influenced by John Coltrane, Mr Bungle and Thomas The Tank Engine! These chaps will go far.
Regrettably, though, their excitable post-performance chatter within the confines of Base Studios’ restricted performance area all but drowns out Steve Lawson’s intricate bass and loop soundscapes, the multitasking Edwards accompanying him for part of the brief but barely audible set.
All noise eventually subsides when Edwards returns as one part of Kiama, the latest brainchild of prog’s workaholic, Rob Reed. They’re giving their debut album Sign Of IV a run-out before two June shows supporting Frost*. Tonight, Reed adds Magenta’s touring bassist Dan Nelson and album backing singer Tesni Jones, who tuck themselves in on an already cramped stage.
However, the band’s unique selling point is the mouth-watering pairing of guitar whizz‑kid Luke Machin (Maschine, The Tangent) and vocalist/guitarist Dylan Thompson (The Reasoning, Shadow Of The Sun). As the band’s focal points, neither disappoints. Thompson’s poetic warrior spirit manifests itself through a restless, muscular onstage presence and a soulful voice that oozes emotional power. There’s just a touch of first night nerves, but he’s in his element when introducing Muzzled, a song based on 1984 and Animal Farm by way of Animals, whose Floydian darkness casts long, eerie shadows across the now hushed studios.
Machin is Cool Hand Luke personified, his demeanour laid-back and relaxed as he coaxes a stream of silky, sultry blues licks from his trusty Strat. With his ever-growing canon of styles, plus an extraordinary fluidity and instinctive touch, this young man is maturing into the finest guitarist of this generation.
There’s a slight glitch when Reed’s finely tuned keyboards decide to seize up during Tears, but Thompson and Machin simply launch into the folkier song Go, one of the album’s bonus tracks, while the replacement is plumbed in.
Reed’s in his element, having found another new oeuvre through which to express his boundless musical chops. That extends from the anthemic To The Edge, with its cutting-edge riff, to the sexy, soulful ballad I Will Make It Up To You, which, before dumbing down, would have been a massive commercial hit.
Encoring with a full-on White Room, Kiama’s sophisticated blend of crossover classic-cum-indie band rock, laced with soul, gospel and blues, now looks like a surefire grower as much live as it is on record.