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HFTH (HOW FAR TO HITCHIN)
Screams & Whispers
(2022 - self release - UK)
Paul Dews is an amazing artist, who not only is a brilliant canvas/hand created master, but also a musical master that has a giant and liberal library of influences, He can conjure up empathic emotions at any moment, with instant flash. A know how of initial conception to final mix, the banner he flies under 'How Far To Hitchin' (for several years now- with this 3rd release) is filled with a smooth morphing of progressive, techno pop, swirling styles and attention grabbing strips of melody, offsets, and sometimes surprise changes of all colors. The elements of art and such variety of genres, draws the open music lover to Paul's compositions each and every time. Each new recording is assumed to be even more special than the last. And you end up asking how can he go one more over the already high bar he set previously. But he does just that. Every time. Welcome to his best yet 'Screams & Whispers' (2021-2022). To make sure of no confusion, Paul decided to shorten the name to HFTH verses How Far To Hitchin. But the music is all by him though and up. With great imagination, art, and story.
I have know Paul for some years now. and had the privilege to hear his earlier works before HFTH works, as well as understand his admiration for greats such as Peter Hammill (VDGG), all 70's progressive rock giants, top of the heap pop icons, odd artists here and there, and influences that include way too many to list. That said, if I had to describe this newest project, it is a bit more consistent with styles, and although if you listen attentively, you do continue to hear his love for Peter Hammill, yet his voice is far more mellow and not so doomsday, keeping a unique quality all his own. This is where the absolute smart and attraction stays large. There is sufficient Canterbury infusions, gorgeous passages of unforgettable lines of both music and vocals, as giant as the mid period Genesis ballads, and hauntingly dreamy as that same ilk of talent. The revolving doors lay out the more gentle (and earlier) Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hogarth (solo and Marillion), Peter Gabriel, and at times rolling happily into the inventive progressive pop/rock world of Stefan Zauner (debut and 'Prism & Views'). Yet nicely placed more aggressive passages do keep the listener at attention. And not without a touch of gentle psychedelia for even further boundaries. Multiple listens are required to appreciate this fully skilled artist.
Speaking with Mr Dews, he reveled to me this as an overview; "There is a loose theme to the album which I guess is about time, the passing of time, the future, the death of our star and ultimately our planet. Nice cheery stuff". There is also an important notation at the bottom of the back art of the CD about what this album began as. Paul provided this additional info to me about that. "Preparing For Life. Originally written for a theatre piece devised and directed by my partner Emma. It was written about the death of a mother and sung by her daughters in the theatre piece. I thought it would fit in well with the theme of the album but in the context of the mother being mother earth." Other topics he tackles are specific but the music is where this review will focus.
Seven songs, and every single one of them can be easily classified as gems. The amiable tunes rippling from one to the next brings such surrender to the listener, be it casual or serious 'Screams & Whispers' is addictive, and while just enough restraint, is also baroque and significant to say the least. 'Common Rise' has a choral multiple harmony part just after the spoken word intro, that will cause you to simply lift up into the air. The ending tune 'Cherish' brings all elements together with another diamond.Important elements to take note of is although dozens of impressions gave pathway to HFTH, the fact is Paul pours his own gravy over the recipe to give the audience a specific sound of his own, each time he makes a recording happen. And since he plays all the instruments on his releases (so far) he has an instant array of choices to color the canvas. The only thing left to say at the moment is MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get the physical CD for the booklet and art, with important info. Support this artist for all his unique skills.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 5 - 22 - 2022
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