This Modern Hope
The Abyss is available at:
RELEASED: November, 2015
IT is good to come back to an artist who I am familiar with...
and return to Rob Payne. Being familiar with his alma mater (The Bedroom Hour) I was curious to see how his solo project compared/fared. Before I introduce the man and act in question, there are a few themes that come to mind. I have been fascinated by the issues of the solo realm, London music and atmosphere in music. Having mused (to psychotic lengths) in past reviews, it seems like the solo market is still a little unbalanced. I shall not labour the point too much; suffice to say there are few acts that have stuck in my mind this year. I think one of the issues is they (solo artists) look at the mainstream and follow examples like Ed Sheeran and James Bay etc. I have respect for those acts to an extent- although I do not like their music- and feel they have a lot of ambition and passion for their craft. It is all well and good following and being inspired by artists. When your music sounds too close to existing acts then it seems pointless endeavouring on your own career. We have heard too many acts that are just replicating others. It means the listener is not given any real originality and individuality at all. What Sheeran and Bay provide is acoustic guitar-driven Pop music that delves into love and introspection. This has been a staple of music for decades and in a time where there are all manner of possibilities- when it comes to sound and genres- there is no real excuse to stick to these well-defined and narrow confines. Those artists that take time to forge something characterful and innovative will gain the fan-base and stand out in the mind. I feel when you play in a certain way- acoustic and stick to certain themes- there is a danger you become rather dull and uninteresting after a while. I am not suggesting artists need to throw everything into the mix- and lose concentration and focus- but there is so much available to put into music. I know solo acts are alone and have a hard time of things- with no band members at their disposal- and maybe money (lack thereof) is hindering musical progression? Perhaps so, although I find there is too little imagination out there and a certain market expectation. I guess fans want to hear insights into relationships and something they can relate to. That being said, playing music that concentrates on those concerns need not be stagnant and uninspiring at all- far from it! The solo arena is showing too many examples who come to music and give nothing but a lazy shrug of the shoulders. It may seem like a tangent but it brings me to my featured artist. Being familiar with The Bedroom Hour- a London-based act with embers of Elbow who sadly disbanded this year- I know how great Rob Payne is. A superb voice with a distinct style and compositional flair, it was great investigating This Modern Hope. The ‘band’ moniker does not seem like a coincident: it is almost a message to fellow musicians and a sign that music can get better and more fascinating. Before I raise a couple more points, let me introduce my featured act:
“This Modern Hope, the new solo project from West London musician and producer Rob Payne, is ready for takeoff and poised for success. Drawing on influences such as Death Cab For Cutie, Doves and his brother's record collection, This Modern Hope's sound is classic yet fresh, switching seamlessly from up-tempo, driving rock to stirring ballads, Rob's soulful voice floating effortlessly over the melodies as the beats flow. Lyrically deep and with a heady vocal intricacy, the songs come straight from the heart and leave a lasting impression that words can't describe. With a strong musical pedigree, masses of talent and a little help from some friends, This Modern Hope's tunes are ready to be heard”.
Payne is based out of London: an area and part of the country that is offering some of music’s most fascinating examples. It is not really the London bands that are most intriguing to me right now. I am finding the solo acts out of the capital are some of this country’s finest. I have had the pleasure of reviewing some tremendous solo talent this year. From Electronica females to some great male Hip-Hop; it seems London is causing some serious waves when it comes to the solo peeps. I have speculated the reason behind this transformation- last year was quite fallow by comparison- and maybe social media has played its part more efficiently. Whatever the reason behind the revival, I have been fondly looking at the capital for solo inspiration. What is staggering me most about the solo market (not just London but everywhere) is those artists that ensure atmosphere and passion is put into the music. Too many musicians tend to put little consideration into the composition and making things interesting and detailed. Music that sticks in the mind and demands repeated listening is that which contains detail, nuance and ambition. Rob Payne is a London-based treasure that made some huge footsteps when part of The Bedroom Hour. That (sadly bygone) band put me in mind of Elbow- when it came to the vocals especially- but also when it came to compositions. Not just a band who followed the pack; lush strings and moody electronics mixed with terrifically economical riffs and something taut and tense- I was sad (as were so many others) when the band called it time. Payne is not replicating his former band in This Modern Hope. What has remained is that configuration of stunning compositions and slice-of-life lyrics. Tapping into modern concerns and romantic misadventures- with some insights into his own soul- we have an artist that wants his music to be heard and inspire. The compositions- from the songs that have been released thus far- show a young artist with a need to climb among the mainstream mass and define himself as a genuinely fresh example. The Abyss will be released on Christmas Day- perhaps the least Christmas-y release ever but something that will no doubt warm souls- it sees Payne provide something hugely atmospheric and memorable. The track Tear Me Down was unveiled earlier this year and was one of the earliest opportunities for listeners to witness This Modern Hope. That track was a confident and stunning insight into a musician with a definite agenda and special talent. I am predicting some good things in 2016 (for This Modern Hope) and would be great to hear an E.P. or album produced. What we can guarantee is a string of dates and a chance for the U.K. to hear Payne bring his music to the masses.
I have reviewed This Modern Hope before (the track Home back in April) and the best modern-day comparison will be with their most current tracks. When looking into The Abyss, one must look back at Tear Me Down. The track begins with a shimmering and fascinating introduction which sees swaying strings ache and pervade. The percussion is tight and taut as a subtle and grand piano line rouses through the mist. Wistful and yowling strings linger in the background whilst you get carried away in the waves and momentum of the foreground. Having built up quite a head of steam, our hero steps to the microphone with some angst-ridden opening sentiments: “Break off a piece of me”. Our man counts his sins and is “part of your process now”. Perhaps struggling from the wreckage of a relationship, you can sense that anger and dissatisfaction in the vocal. The vocal itself is instilled with so much passion and soul that it is often easy to overlook the lyrics’ heartache and troubles. Those anxious words melt seamlessly with the chorus; it remains lighthearted enough so the track does not get bogged-down and too bleak. What you get is a song that shows Payne in fine voice and at the top of his compositional prowess. From that Bedroom Hour-esque introduction you get the sound of a man that has new issues and agendas- funneling them through the supportive medium of music. The sweetheart at the center of Tear Me Down is desirous and lusted-for. She may not believe our man be he definitely wants her. Whatever troubles or history they have had- or whether this is a new romance- there is a definite need and cohabitation that cannot be broken. Perhaps the duo has been through the mill and there are residual feelings that refuse to die. Whatever the truth, the commitment and urgency of the vocals cannot be understated. Bits of Guy Garvey’s solo work peeks out in the mantras of Tear Me Down. You can hear shades of the Elbow front-man in Payne’s tortured and love-seeking drama. What Payne does is provided a unique insight into his world. With a meaty and mighty guitar coda ending the song (similar to its opening) and you have a song that will appeal to Indie-lovers and those which prefer their music compelling and dramatic.
The Abyss shows a different side to This Modern Hope. Whereas Tear Me Down was more lyrics-focused- and looked at that desire to get the girl- here there is more emphasis on texture and composition. As the title may suggest there are images and sentiments of mortality and space. Because of this more effort is expended to ensure that composition elicits appropriate imagery and vivacity. You get a more developed and complicated composition; the lyrics are stunning and striking; that vocal just as compelling. Both songs do different things- yet are equal in terms of quality- and show different aspects to Payne and his personality. What both songs show is a young talent with a fantastic ear for musical evocation and eventfulness. You have so much passion, nuance and wonder in every note; you can tell it was created by a man with huge appreciation and love for what he does. Distinguishing himself from his peers; each track has a different personality and contains bags of electricity and honesty. Over the course of a few months- between the releases of both tracks- you can see a little development and change. Essentially, This Modern Hope want to go in with a unique and consistent sound- so that they don’t come across as freewheelin’ and unfocused. That said, the two tracks both offer something new and separate. This bodes well for any future releases as the consistency and depth (of both tracks) is tremendous. The Abyss is a brave and daring number that shows Payne is free of fear and limits- how many musicians can promise that?
I was very excited to get my reviewing fingers on The Abyss: a song that has been garnering some very positive assessments from the online community. The opening seconds are appropriately cosmic and frightening. Some echoed and distinct electronics give you the impression of uncertainty and floating into the heavens. Perhaps you get sucked into that vivid and spacey thought process, our hero lends some softer guitar to balance the composition out. Taken it into Alternative (and safer) territory it is a perfect blend to ensure the introduction summons the biggest reaction- and evolves to create anticipation and excitement. The soft guitar-strumming sits aside from the foreground which has some yowls of guitar and something detached and machine-like. It is strange in a way that the composition shows so much emotion but could be the representation of emotionless machinery. Perhaps scarred by a relationship or just in an uncertain place; what the introduction does is gets you imagining and wondering. My thoughts regarded life’s uncertainties and the fears of stepping into the world alone. Having said goodbye to his band brothers- embarking on a solo venture- you can sense a little uncertainty and fear for sure. Maybe there is just a bleak period (in Payne) that needs to be exorcised and explained. Most modern acts are keen to dispense with the introduction as quickly as possible- radios like songs to get to the vocals quickly- so you hear few building and scenic songs around. Those musicians more concerned with quality and emotion (as opposed to airplay and hollow claims) create the best music. The Abyss has an atmosphere and beauty that is hard to describe in words. One of those songs that need to be played live- to experience its full majesty- you get so many movements, emotions and images within the space of a few seconds. When the vocal does come to play- nearly a minute into the track- the listener has already had their mind transported to somewhere fantastical and far-off. Payne arrives at the microphone with a pleasing falsetto (that puts me in mind of Noel Gallagher) containing ample warmth and intention. Something is taking him away (perhaps the abyss and life itself) although our hero is “not ready”. Unwilling to be sucked into a premature submission, that aching and yearning defence is something that gets right into the soul. Dripping with emotion, few listeners will be able to evade that haunted and soul-bruised uttering. When the opening words do come, you begin to work on your own interpretations. “I wasn’t to know” are words that indicate that our hero has been taken by surprise and may be documenting a love affair. Perhaps things have turned sour through no fault of his own; that ominous composition gives you shiver of the good kind. Payne lets his voice hover and hold- in order to get across the importance of his mindset- drifting into the cosmos. Conveying so much purity and emotion is not an easy track; our man manages to sound authoritative, natural and hugely stunning. Whereas there are troubles and contradictions amassing, it seems there is a central figure that is “there for me”. Our hero is perhaps struggling against the tide of life and has something/someone he can cling to. Whether this is a lover or loyal friend I am unsure; what is sure if that need to be anchored and find some answers and peace. Between the vocal offerings are swathes of compositional beauty. This is a song that says a lot in its lyrics (the few of them) but says more in its composition. Our hero says what he needs to say before letting his music represent the full extent of his thoughts. Like the introduction, the between-the-verses music is scintillating and dramatic; not to mention evocative. Those electronics and strings melt to create something inescapably intense and amazed. Awe-struck and drifting, the listener is left to immerse themselves in the notes and follow the music on its plight. Each of us can relate to the song’s sentiments- about loneliness and uncertainty; those forces we all struggle against- and will have our own way of dealing with those pressures. What The Abyss does is provide an outlet for us to express; a song that taps into our darker moments and provides some comfort and companionship. A song that is universal in its themes, there is a lot of beauty and tenderness to be found. Although the official release will be December 25th- and not something most of us would think of at Christmas- it is a song that provokes you to dig into your mind and reflect. A song that demands people reach out to people and help- it is a powerful and mesmeric. Our man returns to the microphone to claim his sins have dissolved and he feels the abyss. Like its sister-song (Tear Me Down) there seems to be sin-cleansing that is occurring. Whether a broken relationship- and the cheating and heartache that occurs- or some personal troubles; our man has burdens on his shoulders he is determined to eradicate. Of course it is not just Payne that brings the comfort and reflection. His band manages to evoke such a range of emotions and directions, hats go off to each of them. Whilst the percussion is strong and heartbeat; the guitar buzzes with pain, nervous energy and insistency. What strikes me about the song is the vocal itself. The scant lyrics are hugely effective in the messages they promote- our man is wrestling against life but wants to make things better- but the way they are delivered is the most impressive. Words are help and elongated to give the true essence of floating into the darkness and abyss. Whilst all my words may lead you down shadowed paths- and think the song is a depressive thing- the truth of the matter is this: The Abyss is nothing to be afraid of. What the song does is promise redemptiveness and positivity. Our hero has felt heartache and uncertainty but is determined to redeem things and start afresh. The composition is such a wonderfully rousing and atmospheric thing it will move you with its strength and passion. Most of the song is instrumental, so it is a chance to see This Modern Hope display their compositional chops. A lot of Indie/Alternative bands- when they tackle something or decide to get cinematic- often lose the plot and wander into aimlessness and banality. Payne is a seasoned musician that has/does work with some terrific musicians. Bringing his talents and insight to This Modern Hope has resulted in a stunning track that is hard to forget. By the closing notes- and the epic swathes that precede it- you continue to wander and wonder as to the song’s ending. It is clear the hero is going through change and asking questions; there may be uncertainty to the future.
Congratulations must go to Rob Payne who has penned a song that is among his finest work. His comrades in This Modern Hope- the fellow musicians and producers that have helped forge the sound- should get commendation and respect. The production is clear and polished- although not overdone or too shiny- which means the song fully comes to life. No instrument or vocal is mixed too low ensuring you get a perfect balance and can hear every component. It is vital the vocal is not faded down so that you can understand the words and hear that passion in full flight. Similarly, the composition is so impressive and domineering, you cannot relegate it to the background. The musicianship throughout The Abyss is staggering: so much time and attention has been paid to ensure that every line and note promotes fascination and self-reflection. From start to finish you get a masterful song that never relent its majesty and grandeur. Differing from Tear Me Down- a song that has more subtly and a different agenda- we have an act that is effortless no matter how big (or small) they want to be. One reviewer/commentator stated The Abyss was a cross between Doves and Pink Floyd. Whilst I have mentioned Noel Gallagher (vocals) and Elbow (composition and lyrics) there us truth is that summation. One can hear elements of Dark Side of the Moon’s cosmic and staggering ambitions. This Modern Hope summons a modern-day representation of Floyd’s grand-scale dreams and humongous compositions. Pink Floyd’s greatest moment saw them take the listener somewhere special. Few modern musicians take the trouble to pen such deep and compelling songs. Doves did/do produce music that conveys modern-day concerns through haunting and epic vocals- listen to their album Lost Souls- whilst making it accessible and populist. This Modern Hope take ‘70s Prog.-Rock with ‘90s/’00s Manchester-based Alternative to create something tremendous. A unique and stunning song, ensure you investigate This Modern Hope- and surrender to The Abyss.
With his social media numbers still growing- although scandalously short of what he deserves- This Modern Hope is an act to watch in the coming year. There are so few accomplished and memorable acts that provide something atmospheric, haunting and emotional- without it becoming heavy-handed and suffocating. There is plenty of beauty, hope and light to be heard within the music. What This Modern Hope offer is a chance to escape and reflect; get away from the stresses of life and immerse yourself in something quite spectacular. Too many musicians do not resonate in the mind and has such a slight and tedious sound. For every twee-voiced acoustic artist out there we have a musician that is willing to be different and fresh. Rob Payne amazed me during his stint with The Bedroom Hour and he sounds more assured and confident here. I know how hard the last year has been for the young musician- the band splitting and the financial and commercial pressures of getting his solo endeavor off the ground- but that grit and graft will translate into rewards and success. The coming year will be a chance for him to expand his horizons and get a new release out into the ether. An E.P. would allow the public a chance to hear This Modern Hope in full flight- whether the funds would be raised via Kickstarter is to be seen- but I for one would love to hear more from the London act. Before closing this review, it is apt to reintroduce the concerns around solo music; the potential London is showing; the importance of injecting something atmospheric into your music. Without being foreboding and dark-hued, This Modern Hope ensure their music bristles with beauty, shiver and something twilight. Modern-day sounds- when it comes to solo acts- either have very vague and generic compositions or something quite hard and heavy. Few artists go in the middle and create something symphonic, emotional and epic- well, not with much conviction or originality at least. Maybe that type of music can get you down after a while- if you immerse yourself fully to its cause- although there is plenty of redemption, beauty and positivity to be extrapolated from (this music). The Abyss is not as daunting as its title suggests alas. The song not only provides something quite memorable but it points to a musician that understands the vitality of ambition and atmosphere in the music. With London providing so many hungry and eager musicians, I was not surprised Payne decided to venture into the fray once more. A talent that has always impressed me his new music will please fans of his past life- that with The Bedroom Hour- but also pull in new followers and supports. With so many lesser musicians packing thousands of social media fans, I was staggered to see comparative few flocks towards This Modern Hope. Let’s hope this changes and Payne’s music gets the following and respect it has earned. The U.K. is lacking a little behind the U.S. when it comes to new music- the quality and diversity that they provide. I tend to find too many are concerned with chart success and following critically-approved artists rather than forge their own careers and sound. This means there is a grey mass of acts that all sound alike and are cynically designed to appeal to radio playlists and readers of Q Magazine. Those that have the balls and intelligence to create something unique- that will stand the test of time and inspire the likes of me- will have a harder road to success. Maybe the plaudits will come in years (rather than months) and they will have to escape and fight a little harder. Perhaps that gauntlet is too challenging and frightening for many, yet some are sticking it out. For new music to stand a chance of inspiring and succeeding we need to embrace those artists that are willing to make changes are expand their minds somewhat. Of course ambition and originality do not always equate to quality. With music becoming ever-more evident and popular, it is getting harder to determine which acts are going to last the course. Rob Payne’s new outfit differs from The Bedroom Hour yet contains those some atmospherics and dramatic scenes. The pristine and exhilarating vocals are in place and the music gets directly into the heart. The Abyss is a song that does not want to push people away; it beckons you in and wants to immerse you in its colours and drama. Take a listen to the song and support an artist…
WITH a lot more to say.
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