Touchstone - 'The City Sleeps'

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Touchstone - 'The City Sleeps'

Touchstone continues to go from strength to strength.

I well remember my first encounter with Touchstone; a gig in Southend when a depleted band (minus their then female lead singer) demonstrated skill and quality enough to compel me to buy their CD. I said at the time that I could see them going places and I’m pleased to have been proved right because they are now signed to a significant label and have played some high profile gigs such as the High Voltage Festival.

The promo blurb suggests the band are moving a little away from their Prog roots and in a more Melodic direction, but to my ears they have always inhabited both genres and I’m not detecting any great shift in style on this album, which carries on in fine style from the preceding ‘Wintercoast’ epic. All the ingredients that attracted me to Touchstone are still there, melody, hooks, themes, riffs and great playing. Adam Hodgson’s guitar brings a pleasing heaviness to proceedings and Rob Cottingham’s keyboards form the foundation whilst Kim Seviour and Cottingham work so well together on the vocal front. I don’t think either could carry a full album of songs on their own, but their voices sharing and combining is a treat. Their work on ‘When Shadows Fall’ is a delight on what is a superb song, which passes through several phases.

Hodgson’s to the fore on the following track, ‘These Walls’ with possibly the heaviest riff thus far on a Touchstone album. The song bounds along wonderfully and has strong hooks. Opener ‘Corridors’ is an unmistakably up-tempo Touchstone song. ‘Throw Them to the Sky’ starts slowly but builds with Hodgson chopping out a Hard Rock riff. Again, the dual vocals are wonderful. ‘Sleeping Giants’ has Cottingham taking lead vocal on a plaintive opening section. Seviour picks up the theme before they share duties as the tempo increases on the back of a lovely synth theme. This is another terrific track and an early favourite for me.

‘Good Boy Psycho’ dips into Dream Theater territory on the opening instrumental and per the title suddenly switches to a more sedate passage. Again, reflecting the title it’s the most eclectic track on offer and takes a few plays to come into its own. ‘Horizon’s’ is a lovely song and well placed after the edginess of the preceding number. It is smooth as silk with fine melodies. The middle section where it gets heavy is so well executed with Paul Moorghen’s bass being a highlight. ‘Half Moon Meadow’ probably counts as the album’s ballad and it’s a delightful one with harmonies to die for. The title track is an epic with initially big keyboard swathes and a strong guitar setting the scene. Again, it’s a track that builds and Henry Rogers’ drums stand out as the song ebbs and flows. With John Mitchell in charge of mixing it’s no surprise that the sound is wonderfully balanced and crystal clear.

Touchstone continues to go from strength to strength.

Gary Marshall

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