“An exciting, modern blend of contemporary jazz vibes and ambient atmospheres.”
‘Memory Lake’ is the fourth album by UK Midlands band Shards Of Reason. Following on from 2010’s ‘Satellites’ (which was inspired by various moons in the solar system), ‘Memory Lake’ is a collection of tonal paintings of the band’s favourite places…and a couple of imagined ones.
Shards have retained the same line up as featured on ‘Satellites’, namely founder and songwriter Phil Lawton along with newcomer Beth Freeman, who has provided a new dimension to the music and brought along different influences which is reflected in the new material.
Firmly consigned to ancient history now are the expansive guitar solos from the days of Brian McCarthy and Shards MkI days, replaced with more focus on the interplay between all the instruments in any given piece.
“As wonderful as Brian’s solos were on the first two albums,” explains Lawton, “there was no place for them in the new material I had in mind for the ‘Satellites’ album. Brian had decided not to continue with the band, anyway, not even to the conclusion of ‘Isolation’, but the idea of recording an album with virtually no guitar at all would have filled him with horror!”
So…after the concept albums ‘Swept Away’ and ‘Isolation’ (dealing with eco-disaster and dystopian themes respectively) and the astronomy-inspired ‘Satellites’, what lies behind ‘Memory Lake’?
“As usual, I got the idea for what became ‘Memory Lake’ during the recording process for the previous album to it” says Lawton. “I wanted to write about places I knew, places that meant something to me and places that meant something special to me and Beth.” While a couple of the places name-checked by the tracks are obvious (“Snowdon” and “Tokyo, Blurred”), the others are more oblique in their reference…even downright enigmatic.
Lawton again: “Some are street names, such as Needless Alley and Paradise Circus, both in Birmingham city centre. Others are references back to places we’ve been and how they made me feel at very specific times. They say that the two main things which fire off the most vivid memories are aromas and music…so this is a kind of reverse engineering.”
“What I didn’t want to do,” he continues, “was to limit the listener to my version of anything. ‘Photos From The Bridge’, for instance, was inspired by a dusk walk across the estuary bridge in Barmouth…but the listener is free to apply the music to his or her own bridge from memory…or just take it at face value as a piece of music.”
Lawton also takes great pains to point out that two of the cuts, namely the opener ‘This Town’ and the closing title-track, were inspired by the artwork of two friends of the band.
“’This Town’ exists purely because of the remarkable collection of photographs of the same name by our friend and photographer Dom Agius. You can see examples of this on the inside front cover and reverse of the new CD. As soon as I saw them, I knew they were worthy of a track.”
And ‘Memory Lake’?
“The title track and the title both came from Derek Busch’s stunning photo which we used for the front cover,” replies Lawton. “I fell in love with that picture the second I saw it and asked more or less immediately (a good year before the album was released) if we could use it. Thankfully, Derek was fine with it.”
‘Memory Lake’ is another instrumental album by the band, with Beth Freeman supplying the vocals when a choral requirement occurs. Both overtly jazzy and ambient, it also incorporates ethereal stylings with elements of drum and bass, whilst elsewhere fusing these with the bombast of the likes of Craig Armstrong, producing a singular, signature sound.
“It’s the fourth album and the one I’m most proud of,” says Lawton.
‘Memory Lake’ is available now as either a limited edition CD Digipak with full colour artwork (available from shards-of-reason.bandcamp.com)
or as a download from Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes and all other digital outlets.