Alex Crispin    ‘Watersending EP’  (2020)

1. Inconsi
2. Watersending
3. Effert
Alex Crispin ⋯ Keyboards, Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Luke Foster ⋯ Percussion, Drums
Joe Hollick ⋯ Guitars on 'Effert'
Recorded and Produced by Alex Crispin

The greatest musicians have many facets to their talents.  The recent output of Alex Crispin attests to this: from the haunting anthems on the last Baron LP, 'Torpor', to the blissful psychedelic prog of Diagonal's 'Arc' via several shimmering new age excursions as a solo artist.  His new EP, 'Watersending' distills these elements into a dazzling triptych of songs.

The plaintive mathematical synth at the beginning of opener 'Inconsi' usher in Crispin's yearning voice, intoning that he feels like a child again.  Indeed there is a playful languor to these recordings.  With longstanding accomplice, Luke Foster, contributing precise and understated drums, the songs meander with sophisticated purpose.  The title cut is lyrical and exotic, carried on a mercurial lyric and Foster's elegant cymbal washes. Crispin's metallophone is the quiet star of the show on it and the closer 'Effert', which conjures up the Blue Nile backed by a gamelan troupe. Joe Hollick formerly of pastoral-fuzz group Wolf People features on guitar here, his jazz-inflected phrases the perfect foil for Crispin's mournful meditations and blooming bass.

This collection demonstrates not just Crispin's eclectic taste and talent but the essential oneness of music.  For all the endless categorisations of journalists, 'Watersending' is a sound world in which psych can sit next to sophisti-pop and ambient and new age share a bed with jazz.


Alex Crispin & Nicholas Whittaker    ‘Irian Jaya’  (2020)

1. Escarpment
2. Mesa
3. Tephra
4. Equinoctial Storms 
Alex Crispin ⋯ Metallophone, Oberheim Matrix, Rhodes Electric Piano, 12-String Acoustic Guitar, Casiotone 1000p, Percussion
Nicholas Whittaker ⋯ Alto Saxophone, Percussion
Recorded and Produced by Alex Crispin

From Klaus Schulze to the ECM sound, some of the most transcendent music can seem simultaneously glacial and warm. ‘Irian Jaya’ achieves this over four spacious pieces recorded in 2016. Alex Crispin and Nick Whittaker have known each other for three decades, two of which have been spent making music together. This journey has taken them from bedroom recordings in their childhood home town, via the Brighton progressive rock band, Diagonal, and Whittaker’s guest appearances on Crispin’s Baron albums, to the latter’s studio in Nottingham where they began life as a duo.

The album's sound is singularly personal but the debts to Harold Budd, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Roach and Paul Horn are lovingly paid. Crispin plays metallophone and synthesisers, providing a bedrock for 'Irian Jaya' that is as sensitive as it is esoteric: one moment evoking the momentousness of sacred prayer bells in ‘Escarpment’, the next, toy-box hypnosis in ‘Mesa’. Whittaker’s intimate saxophone slow-waltzes above this, percolating distant cloudiness in ‘Equinoctial Storms’, and hazy, earnest lyricism in ‘Tephra’. The latter features percussion from both members alongside Crispin's 12-string guitar, in a sensuous mise en scene of tropical ambient new age jazz.


Muscle    ‘Violent Beam/Dark Quadrant’  (2019)

1. Violent Beam
2. Dark Quadrant
Alex Crispin ⋯ Drums
Daniel Pomlett ⋯ Bass
David Wileman ⋯ Electric Guitar
Recorded and Produced by Alex Crispin

Ltd Lathe Cut 7” Sold Out

Explosive space-fuzz from Diagonal members. Channelling their inner Amon Düül, this power trio explores the outer limits of heavy psychedelia across this pulsating single. Pounding drums and thudding bass anchor wailing and crunching guitar in a hypnotic collision of melody and rhythm.


Diagonal  ‘Arc’  (2019)

1. 9-Green
2. Stars Below
3. Citadel
4. Spectrum Explodes
5. Warning Flare
6. Arc
7. The Vital
8. Celestia
Alex Crispin ⋯ Organ, Electric Piano, Vocals
Luke Foster ⋯ Drums, Percussion
Ross Hossack ⋯ Synthesiser
Daniel Pomlett ⋯ Bass
Nicholas Whittaker ⋯ Alto & Soprano Saxophone, Vocals
David Wileman ⋯ Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Recorded and Produced by Alex Crispin

Purple LP ○ ‘Tip-on’ sleeve & printed insert
Sold Out

CD Digipak ○ via Bandcamp for UK
via Svart Records for EU

'Organic...lush jazz-rock...Canterbury scene prog via Talking Heads...
...ecclesiastical soul music'
'Stately post-rock with undertones of folk and jazz'MOJO
'Mood-altering...brimming with energy...immersive magic'Uncut
'A bold return...anthemic and Floydian'Prog

Less is more’ is somewhat of a cliché but just ask Diagonal whether that rings true. Seven years on from 2012’s ‘The Second Mechanism’ – the group’s second LP following their eponymous debut – they return as suddenly as they seemed to disappear, with arguably their finest effort to-date, ‘Arc’. It’s a record that maintains their effortlessly chameleonic shifts through Canterbury scene-indebted progressive rock, pulsing motorik and the spaced-out jazz expression; but where it really thrives is in its sense of spontaneity, imbibed from the quick and organic way that it came about.

After a hiatus filled with what can neatly be described as real life taking priority – families being started, relationships beginning and ending, people moved away – the shared head space for Diagonal to be able to return came naturally. Holing themselves up in Echo Zoo studios in Eastbourne on the south coast, the band came together with no expectations or even preparation. Giving themselves a week of solid writing and recording time, they’d jam together from morning until the early hours of the next one – a short, sharp period that allowed, for the first time in a while, a focus on nothing but music.

“Previously we made albums by playing and playing in a practice room to develop the final track; it took a long time and a lot of energy. We needed a break from that to get the enthusiasm back” says the band’s Saxophonist and vocalist Nick Whittaker. However, for the ‘Arc’ sessions the only pressure was their self-imposed time limit; “but it led to a really relaxed and creative atmosphere,” Nick adds. “We spent the most time together we had in years, cooked and ate together - a really great break from real life!”

The result is a record that finds the group’s band members re-connecting with each other as collaborators and people. Original bassist Dan Pomlett and organ player/vocalist Alex Crispin are both back in the fold, having departed in 2010 – and Arc is a triumphant listen on their return, one that steps back from the technical chess and at-times breathless structures of their earlier releases and instead allows the music to breathe. ‘Citadel’ stretches and exhales throughout its eight minutes of shuffling percussion, languid guitar lines (“us taking our time,” says Dan, “not feeling like lots of things have to be crammed into one song”.) Meanwhile, comparing the lilting ambient opus of seven-minute ‘The Vital’ to Talk Talk’s own minimalist later work isn’t so far off the mark. Even something more straight-up and urgent like ‘The Spectrum Explodes’, which wouldn’t sound out of place on an early 00’s Chemikal Underground release, still finds room to deviate, expand and, well, explode into a cosmos-gazing finale.

However, while Diagonal may have stripped back some of the technicality of their work to instead go with the flow, they remain an unashamedly prog band. They were proud of the term from their inception, when it was most definitely not en vogue; they’re proud of it now when stylistic expansion and musical structures are being flipped right across the popular musical spectrum, most prominently in the burgeoning UK nu-jazz scene of which – consciously or otherwise – ‘Arc’ feels at least a loose relative. Opener ‘9-Green’ is built on muscular funk backing, while ‘Stars Below’ explores the group’s folkier side - done so after guitarist David Wileman brought a 12-string guitar to the studio. It’s the open and unwavering commitment to travelling through these disparate genres that truly keep the six-piece true to their prog roots.

As for the lyrics? They’re largely thematic, the “Jon Anderson approach” as the group call it – in reference to the Yes front man – of choosing words to suit the mood rather than telling a detailed story. That said, there are messages of hope within Alex Crispin and Nicholas Whittaker’s words, and a journey of finding youth within yourself rather than searching for it elsewhere; “and of course it’s hardly surprising after being apart for so long and wondering whether another Diagonal LP was even possible there’s hope in our music” says Nick.

So it is that ‘Arc’ closes fittingly, with the band coming together on ‘Celestia’, weaving harmonies together as one once again.


Alex Crispin    ‘Escape the Dark Castle O.S.T’  (2018)

1. Freedom Is Death
2. Endless Dark
3. Cult Procession
4. The Hell Tower
5. Buried Alive
6. Your Journey Ends Here
Alex Crispin ⋯ Casio CZ-1000, Casio SK-200, Effects, Dungeon Noises
Tom Pike ⋯ Dungeon Noises
Recorded and Produced by Alex Crispin

Cassette ○ Sold Out

“Eerie drones and ambient sounds, make you instantly aware of the dark, damp dungeon around you. The threat is looming and intensely oppressing as the first song starts. Dark, long tracks, like ‘Endless Dark’ and ‘Cult Procession’ imbibe your experience with the inescapability of the situation you find yourself in. Trapped in the prison with only one thing left to do: to escape. With this soundtrack, you absolutely know how thrilling a game can be if the vibe and story are right.”– Stranger Aeons

Original Soundtrack to the game ‘Escape the Dark Castle’ published by Themeborne.