Newhaven based duo Dandelion Charm cruises high above the water on their five-track EP “Riding the Flood.” Combining folk, prog and rock, the duo which comprises of John and Clare Fowler, exquisitely blend intricate harmonies and melodies that soar, easily crossing the boundaries of folk and progressive rock. No, they are nothing like Pentangle or Fairport Convention, rather they describe themselves as a mixture of Fleetwood Mac meets Opeth and CSN meets Yes.
Clare describes that their heart felt lyrics deal with aspects of real life, things they have experienced, including fear, optimism and determination. Relationships, family and addiction are all explored on Riding the Flood. John adds in his commercial production experience plus over twenty years of song-writing to Dandelion Charm. Secret be told, there is actually a third member in the band, “Olah,” which is John’s custom-built jumbo twelve-string guitar and plays a central role in the groups sound.
Released on CD February 11, 2018, and also available as a 48kHz / 24bit download from their BandCamp page, reviewed here is the hi-res version.
As the opening track “September” unfolds, the vibrant sound of Olah picks out the acoustic guitar pattern. Instantly this hi-res recording shows its strength with wonderful clarity. Signalling the end of a hedonistic Summer, the dread of returning to work, while filled with optimism for the future, the song powerfully builds with additional parts including bass and drums. The harmonizing vocals of the duo expertily blend in the mix while the bass gently fills out the bottom. Rim shots on the snare are delightfully crisp and the kick drum solidly snaps with a full thump. The mix spreads widely across the stereo channels and is magnificently blended across the spectrum.
Moving further into the progressive relm , the title track “Riding the Flood” deeply expands into Floydian elements with plenty of charming twists. Based on observations of a train trip experienced by the duos daughter, her innocence, self-doubt, and fear all in the company of fellow travellers are poetically laid out. Note the percussion pattern that is somewhat burried in the mix which mimmicks the sound of a train running along the tracks. The fine nuances of the tingling high hat, and the depth of the snare hit lend to the mastery of these recordings. An aspect of hi-res I appreciate is the purity of the sound, which is exceptional with no unwanted distortion on this EP. Synth parts fall across the stereo field, and vocal harmonies smoothly settle in this finally crafted piece. It is the guitar solo that aids in showing off the fantastic dynamics , feeding back into a calming close.
Finding the edge of Neo-Prog and a touch of metal, the third track, “The Spark” speaks to the struggle away from addiction, crosssing between loathing and hope. I dig the harp like sound eminating from the upper regions of the guitar, sparkling with vivid brilliance. Cymbals splash and swell while Clare’s vocals are rich and distinct. Grungy guitars push the piece forward while mournful vocals emotionally speak to recovery. These are truly well arranged pieces with plenty of layers that have been expertly mixed. While I don’t have a CD on hand, I wager the hi-res version will show greater detail and I sense that the brilliance of the top end may turn a bit jagged when translated down to 44.1kHz / 16bits, yet another reason to jump on the high resolution audio wagon.
I found the mix not only spread widely, but also fell in front of the speakers, giving an additional dimensionality to the five tracks on this nearly 30 minute EP. “The Great Believer,” the fourth song, comes to terms with disappointment and detaching when learning that you have been used. I hear traces of the Alan Parson Project strewn within, emphasized by plenty of vocal orchestration. There is a directness that places some instruments very close which reveals even the tiniest of nuances, meanwhile other parts have been given a pleasurable depth which fills the stereoscape.
Closing with their epic track, “Wraith,” Dandelion Charm hits high on all cylinders. The song tells of a person’s witness to the intense fall out of child abuse. Ravaged by self-harm brought on by mental anguish and depression the protagonist seeks promise of safety through incarceration and medication. I can hear aspects of Tori Amos, Renaissance, and Rush among the intricate passages that easily flow together. The aural journey of this EP is sadly too short, yet I have been gleefully woken to the discovery of this wonderful duo.
Absolutely recommended for fans of prog-rock, especially for those with an appreciation for the infusion of acoustic instrumentation. An excellent sounding release that surely will provide an aural delight for audiophiles.