5/5, ‘stuff of genius’

Just when I was getting sick of putting up reviews, here comes an amazing one that I just have to post, so please excuse this further indulgence. It’s by Iain P. W. Robertson, no less, one of the best reviewers around (we talked on the phone a while back, he’s a great guy to talk to). The site is, which apparently is one of the biggest review sites in the country.

Prog-rock just got a new hero, or heroine, in Coralspin, for which melody and originality come as first nature
Review by Iain P W Robertson

…My current music library is populated by all manner of sounds, so catholic is my personal taste, but prog-rock remains my guilty pleasure and the latest debut album to join its ranks comes from the intriguingly named Coralspin. Unusually, it is a group fronted by a woman, a graduate of Leeds University’s Conservatorium. Ellie Blythe is a talented musician, being a fully-trained classical and operatic performer, who happens to be a dab hand on the keyboards.

Joined by Blake McQueen (keyboards) and Jake Simmons (guitar), with a rhythm section consisting of Steve Knightly (bass) and David English (drums), the original trio started to compose some truly exciting sounds. However, as tends to be the case with prog-rockers, there is heaps of intelligence intrinsic to the association and McQueen, as a bit of a technological wunderkind, set about building his own sound-proofed studio set-up.

Inevitably, he furnished it with a plethora of keyboards (shades of Tony Banks). However, his talents extended into also building the computers upon which the music would be recorded. Thanks to his intuitive approach, he worked extensively on raising the bar on recording standards, discovering the mastery of mixing and he learned how to produce to the most professional level.

Let’s face it, in a market over-populated by home studio recordings and on-line releases of singles, EPs and complete albums, there is little point in trying to rely on the big studios and labels for support… they are all barrelling along on a Cowell-created wave of short-termism. Coralspin’s first album is not merely a taster but is a fully-formed and eminently accomplished oeuvre, possessing an aura of commitment and competence missing from much of today’s readily disposable output and its lyricism is the stuff of genius.

Ellie’s voice is hauntingly contralto in its styling, which lends the lyrics a surprisingly familiar tonal quality. The sound is definitely authentic but it leans heavily on the Genesis song-book for inspiration, although there is nothing wrong with that in my book. While the PR blurb suggests that Kate Bush and Sandy Denny influences may lurk in there somewhere, I think that Ms Blythe manages to scythe her own appealing niche in this upper grade stage.

Honey And Lava is a brilliantly executed album of just eight different tracks that are delivered richly and smoothly. Of course, in true prog-rock form, none of them is a three-minute radio-play but, fans would not want that in any case. Yet, Coralspin manages to avoid too many ’proggy’ moments, with its unique spin on the rock scene and the lyrical progressions are almost as brilliant as the musical breaks. To cut short such free-formism would be myopic indeed and the listener is taken on a delightful ride from one cusp to the next of musical expressionism that is never less than stimulating and eminently accomplished.

Honey and Lava is a fresh take on some well-established precepts and, as a debut album, I sincerely hope that the band has enough drive to take it to the next level. According to Blake McQueen, it already has enough material to create a second and third albums and, yes, there will be the occasionally longer and more complex works to supplement the vista. There is a lot to like here and listening for the second and third occasions just enhances the proposition.

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