(13 December 2009) Panic Room, the UK band that emerged from the breakup of the first incarnation of Karnataka, has produced a stunning follow-up to 2008's debut entitled Visionary Position (feature). The Limited two-CD Edition was shipped to those that pre-ordered the album in late November.
Entitled Satellite (Firefly Music Ltd (UK) FMCD002-S, 2009), a one CD version of the eleven-track one hour album will be ultimately distributed by Voiceprint. The second CD, Little Satellite is comprised of four bonus tracks with twenty minutes of music. The Limited Edition, packaged in a two-deep super jewel box, is accompanied by a 20-page booklet (view) with complete lyrics and artwork by Amy Teslin Davies.
Fronted by vocalist extraordinaire Anne-Marie Helder (lead vocals, 6- and 12-string guitars, electric guitar, piano and keyboards), Panic Room also includes Jonathan Edwards (piano, rhodes and keyboards), Paul Davies (guitar), Gavin Griffiths (drums) and Alun Vaughan (bass). Material for the album was written by Jonathan Edwards and Anne-Marie Helder with further contributions on several tracks from the other artists.
Panic Room have enjoyed critical acclaim not only for their debut album but for their live performances in 2008 and 2009. While some of the band's original performances included Karnataka classics and several progressive rock covers, Satellite demonstrates that Panic Room have found their stride with tracks spanning a diverse range of styles but with a consistent and extremely well-produced sound.
Except for Alun Vaughan, the Panic Room lineup previously formed a critical two thirds of the original Karnataka core. Griffiths and Helder performed extensively the last 18 months with and evolving the live sound of Mostly Autumn. In addition to touring with Fish, Gavin also played drums on the [Bryan] Josh & Co release Through These Eyes.
Anne-Marie has toured extensively as a solo artist and recently sang and played on the Parade album The Fabric. She toured the UK as a solo act supporting Ultravox and also sang the duet "Raven" with John Wetton on the Wetton/Downes iCon 3 album.
Bass player Ian Jones claimed the Karnataka name and splintered two projects ultimately around Lisa Fury's vocal work, the second being called Chasing The Monsoon. Album releases expected in 2009 have been delayed until 2010. After leaving the band and studying in London, Karnataka's original lead singer Rachel Jones returned to Wales, married Magenta's former bass player Matthew Cohen and joined his band The Reasoning, emerging as a lead vocalist on the band's second album Dark Angel.
Satellite. Listeners will immediately hear the outstanding production from the album's first well honed track "Freedom To Breathe." Backing multi-layered harmonies support Anne-Marie's lead and blend well with the instrumental arrangements. The sound builds with crisp percussion, guitar and bass excursions and keyboard riffs in "Picking Up Knives." Anne-Marie's range and power are extremely well developed and shine in the recording and are never over-shadowed by the well-played instrumentals. "I am a Cat" somewhat breaks the band's typical progressive rock stride introducing a unique blend of cabaret and blues into the mix. The choruses return listeners to the familiar Panic Room sound. Paul's ripping guitar solos and the broad harmonies are outstanding.
The heartfelt ballad entitled "The Fall" features Anne-Marie's lead in top form atop light arrangements. We especially appreciated the gentle keyboard washes between the sung parts and--the substantially improved on this album--harmony vocals in the arrangement. "Sunshine" is an evocatively delivered ballad with whispery vocals and equally stunning sung parts and layered harmonies that glisten above the crisp arrangements.
A lovely piano melody introduces the accessible album standout "Into The Fire." The song perfectly combines a ballad style in the verse with upbeat rocking arrangements in the powerful chorus. Anne-Marie's lovely vocal work shines in the extremely gentle and short piano ballad "Muse." Jonathan's piano is delicately delivered, perfectly supporting the lead vocal part.
Panic Room delivers a harder edge in the rock track "Black Noise." Powerful vocal work and lush harmonies are thoroughly complemented by thick guitar and rhythm section. Jonathan's rich organ keyboard part leads the instrumental arrangement in the powerful rocker "Dark Star." Anne-Marie's vocal prowess is clearly demonstrated in the lead, sung without any supporting harmonies and mixed right in front. Backing harmonies form part of the arrangement. Ripping guitar excursions add to the drama delivered by the recording. This is going to be a wonderful live number.
We especially liked the mystical keyboard washes of "Yasumi" and stretch of the band's style into an especially rich sound. Anne-Marie's vocals are especially warm and soar above the band's arrangements. Paul's guitar excursions are somewhat set back--except in the solos--so as to not overpower the vocals or other instrumental arrangements.
While the band have opted largely for well-developed shorter tracks on this album, several songs with a running length over five minutes have been penned. The title track is the longest on the album and certainly worth the wait. A cohesive progressive rock track perfectly blending the instrumental talents of the individual members, "Satellite" is the album standout destined to become Panic Room's "Ashes Are Burning" in the tour supporting this album's release. Rich, melodic arrangements perfectly complement Anne-Marie's powerful lead vocal, soaring above the instrumentals, lush backing harmonies and individual solos.
Little Satellite. Four bonus tracks from the Satellite sessions have been pressed onto a second disc entitled Little Satellite. We understand that these are exclusive for the Limited Edition. "5th Amendment" is a cohesive and full-on progressive rock track clearly influenced by Visionary Position, Anne-Marie's voice soaring above Satellite's now-typical backing harmonies, rhythmic arrangements and Paul's expressive guitar work. "Go" is an upbeat rocker with thick guitar work. We loved the harmonies. In addition to the great guitar solo, the outstanding chorus is going to make this a crowd-pleaser in the band's forthcoming live performances.
The heartfelt ballad "The Great Divide" is sung atop a full yet gentle arrangement. In addition to Anne-Marie's tenderly delivered vocals, we especially enjoyed the lush keyboard work and subtle guitar solos during brief instrumental breaks. Jonathan's Yes-influenced progressive style keyboards in the bonus disc's standout "Sandstorms" provides a rich and thematic foundation for Anne-Marie's wide-ranging vocals. Like "Go," the track features outstanding guitar solos. "Sandstorms" is a thoroughly stunning conclusion to the two-disc set.
Satellite will be commercially released through traditional channels in January although the Limited 2xCD Edition of the album will remain available from the band directly either from their website or at the band's live performances until sold out. A stunning follow-up to their debut album, thismasterwork highlights the strengths of the individual performers and band operating as a cohesive whole and will continue to expand their audience.