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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Cosmograf

The Man Left in Space

Review by Alison Reijman

Cosmograf is the musical project of Robin Armstrong, a multi-talented composer, producer and musician based in southern England. He first came to the prog community’s attention through the release of the emotionally charged When Age Has Done Its Duty released in 2011 to which The Man Left in Space is the follow-up.

Space travel replaces time as the overarching theme but the allegorical story he tells here asks a simple question, “What price fame?” Through a series of beautifully crafted songs using a stellar cast of guest musicians, The Man Left in Space is a tremendously thoughtful and absorbing journey, which has shades of Bowie and 10cc as well as Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree within its sonic fabric. The cast also includes US academic and prog fan Professor Brad Birzer as the voice of Mission Control.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
How Did I Get Here?
“How Did I Get Here?” is the scene setter with Armstrong’s spoken narration interacting with the onboard computer and Mission Control over a series of soundscapes.
Aspire Achieve
This is a simple melody with acoustic guitar and Armstrong’s strong clear vocals until suddenly he hits the “lift off” button and launches into a huge megawatt guitar riff. Apart from Steve Dunn on bass, Armstrong plays all the musical parts himself to staggering effect.
The Good Earth Behind Me
“The Good Earth Behind Me” begins with the voice of Tom O’Bedlam reciting John Gillespie Magee Junior’s Second World War poem “High Flight.” Then Simon Rogers (Also Eden), who co-wrote the track, delivers a searing guitar solo before performing a great musical duet with Armstrong on keyboards.
The Vacuum That I Fly Through
This is a glorious instrumental which owes much to Pink Floyd. That said, the main guitar part is taken by Matt Stevens (The Fierce and the Dead) in a style which is heady and sublime in equal measure, giving off a real claustrophobic vibe. The stunning rhythm section is provided by Big Big Train’s Nick D’Virgilio on drums and bass player Greg Spawton along with Armstrong on keyboards and rhythm guitar. This is one of the collection’s pivotal pieces.
This Naked Endeavour
“This Naked Endeavour” begins with the conversation between President Richard Nixon and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. The moon landings are a key influence of Armstrong’s music.  A haunting piano accompaniment is then replaced with a full on rock section complete with some very searching lyrics.
We Disconnect
This starts with another conversation between Armstrong and the onboard computer, and then some spacey soundscapes take it into a different realm. It almost sounds like Soundgarden’s  “Black Hole Sun” with its doomy guitar and Armstrong beginning to sound angry. D’Virgilio is back on drums but it is the flashing guitar solo that elevates the song, the player being the brilliant young maestro Luke Machin, (The Tangent/Maschine). Machin is very much a student of the Guthrie Govan style of playing.
Beautiful Treadmill
“Beautiful Treadmill” is a straight kicking rocker which conveys both the monotony and routine of space travelling.  It is also another great vehicle for D’Virgilio’s astounding drumming and Armstrong’s keyboard/guitar dexterity.
The Man Left in Space

The title track is perhaps the most complex and clever of all the tracks with Armstrong here playing guitar, keyboards, bass and stylophone.  Katherine Thompson provides the female voice for a 10cc “I’m Not In Love” ending.

When the Air Runs Out
“When the Air Runs Out” brings it all to its melancholic, thought-provoking conclusion but it is not without its quota of sonic fireworks and special effects.  The “Voice on the Radio” is provided by Robert Ramsay (Tinyfish) narrating a “roll of honour” of those who have in some way paid the price of their  fame. It is clever, effective and above all, extremely moving.
 
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