Andrew Mark Lawlor, recording as Wharmton Rise, continues to best himself with each new release. On his newest offering, Earthbound, Lawlor further perfects his style, a sort of cinematic spacerock that gives a distinct wink & nod to the progressive rock artists who have clearly influenced him. Although the disc starts out somewhat too stiff and formal with “Orbital Excursion,” Lawlor immediately kicks things up on the title track. It’s looser, hipper and fuller, bolstered on soaring, wordless vocal samples. (These are used so well throughout the disc, especially on the slow burn of “Long Lost,” that I had to write to ask Lawlor if they were live or sampled.) A synth flute adds an upbeat melody along the way. This is more along the lines of what Earthbound gives you for the rest of the disc. One of the things I quite enjoy about Wharmton Rise is how Lawlor creates convincing, flat-out-rocking guitar lines with his synths. He says it lets him unleash his “David Gilmour side,” and I defy anyone hearing his work for the first time to tell me they didn’t think it was actually him flailing away at his axe. It adds a gritty rawness to the sound, slashes of glorious prog-rock savagery. Have a listen to “Straight and Narrow” to get a taste of Lawlor’s blues-rock side, or the soulful 70’s arena wail in the early stages of “Cloudburst.” My favorite track here is “Downtown Desolation,” which busts the door open proudly wearing a Tangerine Dream t-shirt, sequencers set to stun. It’s an intense track that shifts gears a couple of times without losing sight of its narrative. My best suggestion for listening to Earthbound? Take it in the car with you, crank up the volume and go–just go wherever Wharmton Rise’s excellent CD takes you. It’s a helluva trip.
Available from LAD Records.