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A new US duo based in Philadelphia, Rise Twain are J.B. Beck on piano, lead and backing vocals, and the wider instrumental talents of Brett William Kull on guitars, bass, percussion, keys, and also lead/backing vocals. While this eponymously titled album is their debut under said moniker, these guys have three decades worth of experience with various acts, solo works, etc, and Beck is also an author and playwright. Now, the two of them have combined their talents to create something rather special.

Despite a degree of stylistic familiarity throughout - moments of folk, prog-rock, and a healthy dose of 70s flavoured idioms - the album's largely characterised by gentle, emotionally-driven songs that aren't easily classifiable as any one genre. Instruments and voices have been used to convey emotions rather than exercising them within any sense of adherence to compositional style. As such, much of the music here has a delightfully magical timelessness about it. The album is perhaps best filed under the genre of ‘emotional experience’, as that's precisely what it offers.

Proceedings starts strong - compositionally and emotionally - with ‘That is Love’ but the album seems to get stronger and stronger, in all kinds of compelling ways, as each new track presents its own sense of affective potency. Generally, keys, piano, bass, guitar and drums are all fairly minimalist, but they’ve been succulently layered with so much naturally crafted sonic beauty. Just take a listen to the utterly sublime ‘Prayers’, where piano accompanies vocals, and then guitars are gently introduced into the mix, but never dominating; rather, adding and enhancing the emotional inherence of the piece.

Reference points? I bet everyone will hear something different, depending on their own listening proclivities. It’s Khoma-esque in places (well, Khoma’s more mellow moments). It’s Anathema-esque, too, during some tracks… although imagine the Liverpool mob with more heart and soul; with a greater profundity of emotional sincerity, and with more breadth and depth. That’s what we have here. 'Lit Up' reminds me a little, in general vibe, to what label-mates Nick Beggs and Roger King have been doing with The Mute Gods, but with an added layer of Bowie-esque charm. There are other comparisons I could make, but that would be to take away from what Rise Twain have achieved here, which is to forge their own emotional identity through their songs and performances, without ever settling into set paradigms. Every song feels like its own entity, yet all are bound together by their profundity of affective depths, be they melancholically flavoured passages or some of the album’s more feel-good, uplifting moments.

The instrumentations are fantastic and all finely crafted emotional excursions, but it’s the vocals that are oozing sublimity throughout. Beck and Kull’s voices might be limited in terms of stylistic range (or, at least, how they’ve opted to exercise their vocal chords on this album), but their emotional breadth and depth, and the range of tonality in their singing is stunning. And, in its entirety, ‘Rise Twain’ is, in essence, a beautiful album. The unpredictable melodic and emotional shifts between different, sometimes contrasting, passages of music are where the progressive heart of the music resides, all topped off with some truly moving vocals, from both Beck and Kull. Fantastic stuff! It’s easy to understand why Inside Out snapped up this duo.
Inside Out
Review by Mark Holmes
6th Sept 2019
1) Everspring
2) Golden
3) The Range
4) Lit Up
5) Death of Summer
6) Oh This Life
7) Prayers
8) Falling Skies
9) Into a Dream
10) That is Love
"...much of the music here has a delightfully magical timelessness about it. The album is perhaps best filed under the genre of ‘emotional experience’, as that's precisely what it offers."