Reviews

Selected reviews of works produced by Lee Fletcher (as artist, musician, producer, arranger, engineer, writer, or any combination thereof)

Jump to specific reviews via the Index list below:

'Islands' review by Dann Chinn (Misfit City)
'Islands' review / blog by Denis Rodier (Specimen 13: Musician & Artist)
'The Cracks Within - FiWT Remixes' review by Dann Chinn (Misfit City)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by The Impaler (The Impaler Speaks)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Lee Henderson (ProgNaut)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by René Yedema (iO Pages Magazine)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Roger Trenwith (Dutch Progressive Rock Page)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Jerry Lucky (The Progressive Rock Files)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Dann Chinn (Misfit City)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Chris Jones (BBC Producer & Freelance Writer)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Vince Font (Author & Broadcaster)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Lorenzo Barbagli (Altprogcore)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Will Cruttenden (Musician & Blogger)
'Faith in Worthless Things' micro-review by Barry Cleveland (Guitar Player Magazine)
'Faith in Worthless Things' review by Uwe Brameier (Klangarten Podcast | Welle 303 Radio)
'Propeller' review by Jerry Lucky (The Progressive Rock Files)
'Propeller' review by Vince Font (Author & Broadcaster)
'Propeller' review by Chris Jones (BBC Producer & Freelance Writer)
'Propeller' review by Prog Magazine

* Last Updated 24th September 2013. Further German-language articles are currently being translated into English for inclusion here...





Islands by Fletcher | Fletcher | Reuter

Produced, arranged and mixed by Lee Fletcher. Lee also appears as a key performer.

Review by Dann Chinn | Misfit City: [http://misfitcity.org]
published September 2013

Ironically, we often record cover versions to find out – or to show – who we are.

Markus Reuter, for instance, would prefer it if other people could stop telling him who he is. Too many of them are telling him that he's obliged to be the twenty-first century's Robert Fripp. They can't get past his Frippic virtuosity on touch guitar, his past as a Fripp student, or his work with the man’s former King Crimson colleagues (in Stick Men and Tuner). They can't even get over the fact that these days he plays all of the Fripp parts in the Crimson ProjeKCt...

Ah. Well, all right, but Markus' vivid success in the sprawling latterday Crimson family shouldn't have to box in a musician as stubbornly wide-ranging as he is. Yet it does, even though you don't have to scratch him too deeply to discover that he’s not as enFrippened as he seems. When it comes to willful and wayward yet methodical 1970s virtuosi, Mike Oldfield is kernelled deeper in Markus' heart than Fripp is. Hence this unexpected and open-armed cover of a long-forgotten Oldfield song, recorded by Markus in cahoots with long-term collaborators Lee and Lisa Fletcher, and demonstrating that Markus deals with more musical colours than just 'Red' ones.

A few sketchy parallels can be drawn here. When Oldfield released the original Islands single (back in 1987, towards the uglier end of his Virgin Records contract), he wasn't entirely sure who he was. Though he'd made his name via intricate, acclaimed confections of multi-instrumental experimental rock, spatial Celtic folk and classical minimalism, by the mid-'80s Virgin had talked him into writing hit-and-miss pop songs dressed up with fat blobs of Fairlight, gated reverb and arena grease. The 'Islands' album floundered to cover both poles – a side of lengthy neoclassical fare (heavily spiced with chants, electric flourishes and whirring jazz flute) counterweighted a side of echoing pomp-rock (with straining guest singers and drums like torpid cannons). Even back then, this didn't age well, despite spawning a vapid video album in which Bonnie Tyler and Kevin Ayers (in 'Miami Vice' regalia and power-frosted hairdos) sang and jostled their way through pastel-misted virtual realities and through corny CGI blizzards of New Age totems, ducking flying Tutankhamuns as they went.

At that point Mike Oldfield was pretty lost. Though he’d only stick the situation out for one more album (before rebelling and revitalizing himself via the inspired slice-and-dice music of 'Amarok') in 1987 he seemed beached. Islands – the song – ended up a little lost as well. Uniting strands of John Donne, Celtic Big Music and Dream Academy oboe, it could have triumphed over the crash of reverb: with its lyric of loneliness unclenching it could have become one of the decade's all-join-hands power ballads. It even had Bonnie Tyler singing it, all sandpaper and yodels. What actually happened is that it floated round the middle of various European charts for a while and then sank.

In contrast to the lacquered, divided and ultimately stranded figure that Oldfield cut in the late '80s, Lee Fletcher comes to Islands knowing himself and knowing what he's doing. After a decade of quiet self-apprenticeship and networking, the Fletcher sound has blossomed into a rich pool of talented instrumentalists and instrumentation – digital blips to rattling jazz, frosty-fanged art-rock guitars to keening folk and glowing chamber music, choreographed with a mixture of precise delicacy and expansive flair. His auteur-producer take on Islands doesn't just restore the song's appeal. As a string quartet jumps from scratchy shellac recording to full live presence alongside uillean pipes and whistle – and as Markus rides happily at the centre of the song, his touch guitar chords and slithers fanning out like a nerve map – it restores the song’s lost Oldfield-ness. This could be as much rebuke as tribute. Either way, there's the feel of setting things right as well as respecting the source.

There's a little of the undulant Saharan patter of a Peter Gabriel song (reinforced by Tony Levin’s prowling spring of a bass part). There's the spirit of an Irish pub session, too (Alan Burton's pipework recalls other Oldfield moments, such as the haunted morning chills of 'Ommadawn' or Paddy Moloney's warmer dip-ins on 'Five Miles Out' and 'Amarok'). Finally, there's the third side of the Fletcher|Fletcher|Reuter team – Lisa Fletcher. Compared to Lee or to Markus, it's less clear whether she knows who she is, musically. More to the point, it's not even clear whether she thinks it's important. She's the only member of the F|F|R trio who's got form for actual impersonation (if you don't believe me, check out her startling Sinead O'Connor impression from an old series of 'Stars In Their Eyes') and for now, she's keeping up that sensuous and welcoming vocal persona with which she helmed Lee's 'Faith In Worthless Things' last year – a flushed, de-gushed and beautifully controlled Kate Bush mezzo which slips supple invisible fingers round the lyrics, caresses them, and passes on by.

It’s a low-key take compared to Bonnie's hearts-and-guts original. What matters, though, is that it works: a vocal and a sentiment that's a welling rather than a sobbing, and far better at catching the quickening thaw that's being voiced in Oldfield's lyrics. Beyond the beautiful sound, Lisa remains something of an enigma as a singer and as an adept interpreter – still playing a game of veils in which flashes of other singers, other sentiments distract our curiosity, and behind which she’s drawing out other people's words and launching them with the subtlest of spins. It makes me wonder what she'll sound like when she's singing her own songs. For now, she's transformed Islands into a shimmering welcome rather than an emotive wrack, and has kept her own mystery as she does it. No easy trick.

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Islands by Fletcher | Fletcher | Reuter

Produced, arranged and mixed by Lee Fletcher. Lee also appears as a key performer.

Review / blog by Denis Rodier | Musician & Artist @ Specimen 13: [http://www.specimen13.com]
published June 2013

Oldfield under a New Light.

Following last year's acclaimed 'Faith in Worthless Things' album, our buddies at Unsung Productions, Lee Fletcher and Markus Reuter (respectively mastering engineer and collaborator / producer of our Echosystem release, need I reiterate?) together with Lisa Fletcher, have just released a very sweet cover of the Mike Oldfield song 'Islands'.

Knowing Markus, it's really not a surprise that they have chosen one of Oldfield's songs. He comments: "Having been a lifelong fan of Mike's music – which has greatly influenced my own – it's a real pleasure for me to work on this special song in the year of his 60th birthday."

But beyond the heartfelt homage, what can be the impetus for those guys to do a cover song? Remember that these people can more than hold their own when it comes for new compositions.

Lee offers an explanation: "Mike’s original sounded quite contemporary at the time, however the arrangement and production places it firmly in 1987. We've taken a different musical approach, mixing traditional / celtic instrumentation with ethereal soundscapes and rich vocal harmonies. The heart of the song – which we all love – remains true to the original, but sonically we hope this version offers something new rather than being a straightforward facsimile."

A great song and true, it may have needed updating to make it sweeter to contemporary ears.

This made me reflect on our relationship to "cover songs" in general. After the Beatles turned pop culture inside out it seemed that the music that held the most value was the one entirely created by the artist. Being phenomenal composers themselves, they set the tone as to what should be done and they pushed their peers into a "write or be sneered at" position. While not as dramatic as the career crushing advent of talking cinema for chipmunk voiced action heroes, it certainly set a new standard. There was an added sheen to be gained by wearing the "Complete Artist" mantle and the newly acquired income from publishing was nothing to turn up your nose at.

From the audience point of view, it seemed that a cover song equated lack of inspiration, an album filler. Or as when people did a covers only album (like Bowie’s Pin Ups and Bryan Ferry’s These Foolish Things), it felt like they where either buying time between "real" albums or it was one of those end-of-contract-obligation deals.

So, wearing our pedantic music critic hat for a moment, it begs the question (thunderclap SFX, please): were cover songs ever relevant?

If you answered "no", well... then wouldn't you have to dismiss 90% of all jazz and 99% of "classical" music in one swoop? Talk about cognitive dissonance!

In other words, there's no reason why reinterpreting songs of others shouldn't be a valid artistic endeavour. Good music is good music and it needs to be played.

But back to the cool Islands cover, it's worth noting that Simon Heyworth, the co-producer Oldfield's biggest hit, Tubular Bells, has mastered this new version and on the list of stellar collaborators we can count Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, David Bowie), Tim Motzer (David Sylvian), Alan Burton (Baka Beyond), Tobias Reber (CENTROZOON), and The Quohren Quartet. Need we say more?

Well worth a closer listen in my opinion.

'Islands' is available for high quality download exclusively via Lee's Bandcamp store, and the Iapetus store.

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The Cracks Within: FiWT Remixes by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Originally produced, arranged, and mixed by Lee Fletcher. Remixes curated and mastered by Lee, who also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer.

Review by Dann Chinn | Misfit City: [http://misfitcity.org]
published March 2013

'Faith In Worthless Things' was one of 2012's surprise pleasures. Lee Fletcher's debut album was the late-blossoming distillation of years of work as engineer and confidant to assorted art-rock musicians, and of even more years absorbing influences and refining them in a budding songwriter's heart.

What emerged was a sleek, assured and finely-honed planned-patchwork of an album. It pulled in sounds from touch guitars, Uillean pipes, crunchy rhythm loops, ukeleles, powdered trumpets and silky synthesizers; it mused on betrayals, work, bewitchment and people in general; and it drew on a wide but surprising coherent blend of string-quartet chamber pop, soul and trip hop, 1970s Scott Walker, King Crimson-flavoured progressive rock, electronica and Anglo-folk.

While Lee's firm and expansive vision gave the album both shape and finish, it was also very much a group effort, achieved hand in hand with his singer wife Lisa plus the chameleonic touch guitarist/soundscaper Markus Reuter and a small battalion of interested musicians from around the world. This short album of follow-up remixes keeps that spirit, with a couple of returning collaborators and new reinventors let loose on the tracks.

Only two songs from 'Faith In Worthless Things' make it to this particular phase. There's the title track – originally a humble state-of-the-world address sung by Lisa but dispatched by Lee, people-watching at the railway station in his Devon hometown, and sampling a picture of humanity from its wandering fragments on an ordinary morning. There’s also The Inner Voice, in which Lisa soars on a rich carpet of soul-inspired smoothness; delicately and beadily picking apart matters of confidence and collaboration, while unhitching – scuffed, but quietly determined – from a dragging entanglement. The latter was the album’s obvious single, so it's interesting to see three different remixers work three different shades of pop out of it.

Of these, Brazilian proggers-turned-clubbers Worldengine offer perhaps the most satisfying reinvention – a slink-and-roll electronica take full of whispering creep, voice fuzz and closed-eye pulse beats. The smooth soul of the original is pared back in favour of odd, gently challenging chording and textures: as if Lisa's vocal line has been gently unwound from its original branch and wrapped carefully around a new one. Imagine what might happen if David Torn had as much pop clout as Madonna does, and you'll have some idea of where Worldengine take this.

Two other remixers take The Inner Voice further out, but perhaps with less originality. The mix from German DJ Ingo Vogelmann battles and switches restlessly between its whispering electronic-ambient chamber intro, heavily synthesized cyberpop and a naked acoustic strum. The onetime 4hero cohort Branwen Somatik offers a similarly morphing dance switchback – initially a slightly dubby hip-hop take with an eerie twist, then a transformation to minimally-sheathed soul-pop, finally melting away in a dubby whisper of liquefying beats.

There are no fewer than six versions of Faith In Worthless Things, including a return for Ingo Vogelmann who offers a mix replete with Orb/Jean Michel Jarre-flavoured electronica (strong on the breezy minimalism, and dappled with bits of dub and techno). Adrian Benavides has honed himself an industrial pop version full of collapsing sheet metal and drill bits. Fabio Trentini provides an ambient pop take with an art-pop tweak – part Japan (if the ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ era took precedence) and part Crafty Guitarist. Lee’s words and Lisa’s sweet-but-stately vocals sit, unfazed, in these new cradles.

Having said that, this particular song is less suited to being strapped into dance, and other approaches are preferable. Under his Hollowcreature alias, David Picking seems to realise this; he keeps and highlights the train-swish from the intro, brings Lee's own warm and pleasant guide vocals to the forefront for half of the time, and comes up with a subtly dubby version of the song's English pastoral feel. The latter quality is something which Tim Motzer appears to have picked up on too, as he moves Faith In Worthless Things into a more British progressive rock area. This he does via a number of changes – jazz vibraphone, the ghost of a hard-rock riff and eventually a build up into a Pink Floyd blaze replete with Gilmourian guitar. It seems obvious, but there’s some clever sleight-of-hand here: Lisa is metamorphosed cunningly by the new arrangement into a leathered-up rock goddess, all without a change to her vocal part.

Tobias Reber, on the other hand, manages to be both daring and successful in his own mix, taking an unexpected creative risk and pulling it off. He contributes the best of the remixes on offer, as well as the most original. His reconstructive take on the songs sees it unstitched and re-embroidered, re-folded. The song is re-imagined over an uneasy sea-roll of structure. New chording, constructed from the components of the original piece, produces a striking new perspective; a different place from which Lee, through Lisa, can watch the world and see its unsettling currents ripple past and under him.

Each remix, though, gently unbuttons 'Faith In Worthless Things' again and reminds us of that collaborative feeling which suffused it. The rolling and friction between Lee's ideas and where his accomplished collaborators took them – a journey in motion.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by The Impaler | The Impaler Speaks:
[theimpalerspeaks.com] published March 2013

Sometimes everything starts to sound the same. Groovy rock songs blend into punishing metal songs. It seems as if the face-melting solo here is no different than the one over there. This is not really the case, of course – the differences, however subtle, are there – but that's how it feels. What to do in times like this? The simple answer: turn to something remarkably different. Jazz, perhaps, or dreamy pop or beautiful ambient soundscapes or even classically tinged film scores. Cleanse the palette. Shake things up. Thanks to Lee Fletcher – a highly regarded producer, arranger, songerwriter, and mix/mastering engineer from Devon, England – it is possible to turn to all of the aforementioned not-quite-rock-n-roll genres at once by spending some quality time with his debut album as a musician, 'Faith In Worthless Things'.

The album – which features experimental German guitarist Markus Reuter and a remarkable vocalist named Lisa Fletcher – is a vast ocean of beauty waiting to be discovered, with echoes of well-known pop ala The Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush deftly dancing through a shimmering haze of New Age ambience, with colorful currents of jazz fusion and electropop sweeping through, sometimes softly and sometimes more forcefully, to keep everything moving along at just the right pace throughout the journey. I can’t help but reference the album 'Propeller' by Grice – which I recall describing in my review as post-modern prog with shades of Boards Of Canada style electronic elements – as Fletcher played a key role in its creation as producer, mixer, co-arranger, co-songwriter, and multi-instrumented musician. Like 'Propeller', 'Faith In Worthless Things' has a progressive feel and a warm heart. Instead of trying to describe the music itself, I think it is easier and more revealing to describe the overall feel or vibe of the album, which is one of comfort and safety and unexplainable, unbreakable love.

Both 'Faith In Worthless Things' and a companion collection of remixes released to benefit the MS Society are available at Fletcher's website.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Lee Henderson | ProgNaut:
[www.prognaut.com] published November 2012

Debut solo recording by UK artist who won 'Best Producer 2012' award at the (UK) South West Music Awards. As composer, producer and sound engineer wizard (his list runs long as to who he has produced and engineered for), Lee Fletcher, gives us a super nice recording! Just over 36 minutes of exotic and progressive pop in vein of Happy Rhodes (thanks to Lee’s wife on vocals, Lisa Fletcher). Other comparisons are David Sylvian, Rain Tree Crow, and an occasional somewhat abstract avant pop like Toyah Wilcox’s work on “This Fragile Moment” (he did some post production work on this very release). If you loved “Indigo Falls” by Richard Barbieri, and his wife Suzanne singing, you will love this. You also hear touches of Mark Isham and Jon Hassell. All the tunes feature Markus Reuter and a host of guests appear like Robert Fripp, Tim Motzer, Steve Bingham, and B J Cole.

Although very laid back throughout, there is a consistency and dreamy comfort that serves a wonderful welcome after a busy stressful day, or when you are sick of noise. The production is great as you’d expect, and the music is rich with a sprinkling of trumpet, bagpipes, and a larger helping of soft spine melting vocals, perfectly mixed ambient soundscape guitars, and gentle bass, pretty washes, all which make the music majestic.

All the songs have facets of loveliness and a soothing nature. It’s hard to pick favorites but ‘Miracles on Trees’ (track 7) is gorgeous with it’s entrance of field recordings (birds), and the delicate arrangement following. This one also has that otherworldly Happy Rhodes essence. You get a slightly bigger dose, although way too short, of the odd time guitar play and Frippish world joy, on ‘Until the Playtime Whistle Sounds’ (track 8). The last cut ‘Long About Now’ is a Scott Walker cover (the only song on CD not written by Fletcher or Reuter). While not remotely like Walker, the cover still has a poppy field, trippy, sweet harmonious delivery.

The meditative nature of “Faith in Worthless Things” hit the spot for this listener. The composition quality is superb, the mix is supreme, and the overall package is loveable. This is 100% excellence in every way. RECOMMENDED!

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by René Yedema | iO Pages Magazine:
[www.iopages.nl] published November 2012

(Originally published in Dutch - Kindly translated into English for this site by René Yedema).

Musician, producer, arranger, songwriter, engineer and filmmaker Lee Fletcher had a substantial role in the fine progressive pop-debut Propeller from GRICE, (reviewed in iO Pages number 109). With partly the same musicians, some of whom also played on Escapologist by female singer Tovah, he has produced his own debut Faith In Worthless Things. Whilst this recording is also tributary to acts such as Talk Talk, The Blue Nile, No-Man, Stefano Panunzi and especially David Sylvian, there are clear differences to be noted. The most important distinction is the choice of Fletcher’s wife Lisa as vocalist. Her soft as velvet voice, which was recorded in multiple layers, resembles more or less the voices of Barbara Gaskin and Sonja Kristina. Furthermore Fletcher’s compositions are for the larger part a frame for solemn poems, mostly written by himself. Because of this an ambient atmosphere dominates, which is quite logical considering the participating musicians. For instance violin-player Steve Bingham (No-Man), trumpet-player Luca Calabrese (Isildurs Bane), steel-guitar-specialist BJ Cole (Sylvian, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons) and guitarist Tim Motzer (Nine Horses, Sylvian, Pat Mastelotto) all give recognizable contributions. Additionally SiRenée (to be admired on Panunzi’s A Rose) has a prominent role in the slightly experimental, Hanne Hukkelberg-like The Number. They are accompanied by Uilleann Pipes and Low Whistle-player Alan Burton, Jacqueline Kershaw on French Horn and Markus Reuter on amongst others Touch Guitars, all known from Propeller. Special guest is Robert Fripp, who (together with Fletcher and Reuter) contributes to a triple soundscape in the instrumental The Answer. Between the opening-song Is It Me (Or Is It You?) and the closing Long About Now, composed by Scott Walker, an atmospheric landscape is painted full of soft tapped and floating guitars, gliding bass-notes, folky and classical violins and horns, ominous keyboard-sounds and that sultry, almost whispering voice. An ominous, richly produced debut from a very talented sound-artist.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Roger Trenwith | Dutch Progressive Rock Page: [http://www.dprp.net] published October 2012

Much more than just a solo album, this work includes guests of the calibre of B J Cole, Steve Bingham, Robert Fripp, to name but three. Lee is joined on most songs by his wife Lisa who sings the lead vocal, and the instrumentation is shared between Lee and Markus Reuter, running the gamut of guitars, keyboards, and lots of electronica, including something called a “Virtual Guitar”.

You may ask who is Lee Fletcher and I can tell you that he has worked with touch-guitarist Markus Reuter’s band Centrozoon in collaboration with Tim Bowness on 2003’s rather good The Scent Of Crash And Burn, and he has contributed to sundry other Centrozoon releases since then. Principally known for his production, arranging and engineering skills, Lee has also released other works with Lisa and Markus under the name [halo], as well as associations with Pat Mastelotto, Judy Dyble, Gavin Harrison and others, including O5ric, which is where I happened across him on Facebook.

This album melds styles from folk, avant-pop, contemporary ambient, pastoral prog touches, jazz and of course post-rock. Inevitable comparisons to Kate Bush cannot be avoided when any female singer employs a wistful style, as Lisa does throughout. However, the multi-tracking and real harmonies soon allow the listener to leave the baggage of any particular comparison at the door.

The lyrical themes of alienation, discovery of self, broken relationships, subservience to the system, the daily fight to preserve some dignity, parental longing and regret, are all contrasted with the gentle caress of the music. Not that it is one-paced, but the overall feeling is one of serenity despite the sometimes bleak lyrical imagery. Lee writes most of the music and nearly all the lyrics, and the closing song is a great cover of Scott Walker’s Long About Now, which Lee and Lisa treat with due respect but still manage to put their own stamp on it as it does not sound out of place with the rest of the album. This highlights the ability on show here, as no-one needs to be told of Mr Engel’s consummate writing skills.

Lyrics are a bugbear of mine as intelligent lyric writing, as here, is sadly the exception rather than the rule nowadays. Lee’s words are from the heart and full of soul, and most importantly REAL. Some so-called lyric writers would do well to learn a thing or two from this man, that’s all I’ll say on the subject. Cod philosophical mysticism this isn’t!

Jacqueline Kershaw’s French horn makes occasional appearances, such as on the dreamy title track, to great effect. Contrasted to this is the almost avant ambient confection of the next song Life On Loan where tribal drums, Chapman Stick, trumpet, and low whistle not so much battle as gently tussle to create a suitably restless atmosphere for the subject matter of subjugation to the system. Very nice indeed.

The only full instrumental on the album is The Answer, to which Robert Fripp contributes one of his ambient soundscapes and along with Luca Calabrese’s trumpet the piece washes over you leaving a warm glow. If you were expecting one of Fripp’s nerve-jangling extrapolations you’ll be disappointed, and anyway it would not have fitted the theme of the record.

Miracles On Trees as you may guess from the title is a hymn to nature, replete with birdsong, and a beautifully delicate thing it is too, quite unexpectedly developing into an almost jaunty rhythm at one point. Miracles On Trees is another charming vignette on an album full of subtle twists and turns, and this album should delight fans of no-man, Nosound, Kate Bush. With his first solo album Lee has stepped out from behind the mixing desk to reveal a burgeoning talent that deserves far wider exposure.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Jerry Lucky | The Progressive Rock Files: [http://www.jerrylucky.com] published October 2012

Fletcher is a musician, producer, composer, arranger, engineer and will be known to some for his work with guitarist Markus Reuter and in fact Reuter is all over this disc, as are the vocals from wife Lisa Fletcher. The list of special guest artists is as long as your arm and even includes Robert Fripp on one track. Unlike the more adventurous, angular work of some of his other projects, the music here has a more, arty, pastoral quality reminding me of the musical style of Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel. Lisa Fletcher’s vocals are soft and breathy and will draw you into the music, some of which borders on rock, some on arty-pop, some more jazzy and slightly experimental. The prevailing mood here is subdued, introspective, haunting and soul searching. There are times where I’m reminded of the 80’s band Swing Out Sister, and I mean that in a good way. Great musical craftsmanship, intriguing musical ideas and captivating sounds – it makes for a good listen. For some sound samples and ordering information go to: http://leefletcher.bandcamp.com/album/faith-in-worthless-things

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Dann Chinn | Misfit City: [http://misfitcity.org] published August 2012

Lee Fletcher: ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ album, 2012 (“rich and delicate”)

And he came out from behind the console, and he spread out his dreams.

If you know Lee Fletcher already, it’s probably only in passing: maybe for the handful of mannered electro-pop tracks he and his wife Lisa have put out over the past decade as [halo]. More likely, you’ll know him for his extensive work as producer/engineer with centrozoon, Markus Reuter and with assorted King Crimson spin-offs including Tuner and Stick Men: well-established as a producer and engineer out at the more technical end of art-rock, you’d expect his own current music to be stark, or detached, or both.

It’s not just the question of his choice of colleague: it’s more that people in his position are generally there to get a job done, massaging and harassing slack musicians or their work into proper performance. If they’re of the more creative ilk, they might get to tweak their charges’ output into more original shapes. If they get around to putting out albums, these are likely to be back-to-basics vanity projects or all-star galleries of guest singers and studio flair – bought by fans for the tricks and the rarities, but then left to gather dust. Generally speaking, producers’ own records aren’t supposed to be romantic, aren’t supposed to be involved. Most especially, they’re not supposed to be revealing.

Lee Fletcher clearly has other ideas, and he won’t be doing quite what you expect of him.

Starting with the surface and working in… ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ certainly has the striking richness of sound you’d expect from someone of Lee’s experience. Live strings, wind instruments and solo cameos merge seamlessly with his own intricate programming and panoramic instrumentation in a fine blend of console wizardry and warm acoustic work. Rich and delicate arrangements encompass stirring contributions by guest players from right across the musical spectrum. Among others making their marks, the album boasts broad strokes and fine detail from art-rock guitarists Tim Motzer and Robert Fripp, jazz drift (from trumpeter Luca Calabrese, double bass player Oliver Klemp and drummer Matthias Macht), and sky-curve pedal steel playing from BJ Cole. Equally memorable moments come when Uillean pipes (courtesy of Baka Beyond’s Alan Burton) and, to particular moving effect, Jacqueline Kershaw’s French horn are woven subtly into the mix, set against sonic glitch and pillowy atmospherics.

If any of this orchestrated, cross-disciplinary lushness suggests other precedents to you, you’re right. Anyone familiar with David Sylvian’s electro-acoustic songscapes in the 1980s (or who subsequently took on the likes of Jane Siberry, Caroline Lavelle or no-man, whose violinist Steve Bingham plays a prominent role here) will recognise the wellsprings and traditions from which ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ draws. Miracles On Trees (a nimble quiltwork canon of touch-guitar, pipes and vocal harmonies suggesting Kate Bush fronting King Crimson) brings in additional strands of clean New Age-y folktronica, while more neurotic, Crimsonic arpeggios are stitched through A Life On Loan. Elsewhere, you’ll find fleeting, delicately organised touches from industrial electronica and dancehall reggae (as if bled in from a wobbling radio dial) and ingredients from Lee’s recent forays into torch song (via David Lynch’s protégée Christa Bell). There’s certainly a strong debt to Scott Walker’s luxuriant orchestral pop work, made explicit via an enthusiastically dreamy cover of Long About Now.

However, much of the sonic recipe is Lee’s own spin on things – a developing and broadening sonic signature which began to unveil itself earlier in the year on GRICE’s Fletcher-produced ‘Propeller’ (which featured many of the same players and a similar production ethos). ‘Faith In Worthless Things’ is also shaped by two featured players in particular – historically, the other two beats of Lee’s musical heart. On touch guitar, Markus Reuter adds a broad catalogue of supporting instrumental parts: textured or clean, rhythmic or melodic, banked-up or solo. While integral to the album’s fabric, his playing also fades skilfully out of the foreground – although he’s constantly present, it’s as if he’s seen only in brief flashes, running through the trees, keeping pace with the sound. Meanwhile, Lisa Fletcher takes centre-stage (as she did with [halo]) to provide almost all of the album’s vocals as well as acting as Lee’s muse and interpreter. She sings even the most painstaking lyric with the cool, classical, adult sensuality of a pop diva who might at any moment slide off her long black concert dress and walk, naked and magnificent, out into the sea.

In spite of all of this sterling support, if you drill down through the music (past all of the tasteful production stylings, the guest players and the ornamentation) you’ll find a songwriter’s album underneath. While his physical voice is present only as a few murmured harmonies-cum-guide vocals dropped across a handful of tracks, Lee Fletcher’s songwriting voice entirely dominates the album. It even has its own particular hallmarks – a sophisticated way with compositional patterns which takes as much from chanson and European music as it does from Anglo-American pop; plus a yen for long, looping melodic journeys across an extended succession of chords. Lyrically he follows the earnest, philosophical musings of prog song-poets such as Peter Hammill; immersing himself in concepts or thoughts and writing his way through them with shades of classic verse, occasionally knocking frictional sparks against the constraints of the surrounding pop music.

There’s an interesting pull-and-push between this ever-so-slightly awkward lyrical grain and Lisa’s glossy-smooth vocals, just enough of a catch and grind to put a polish on the one and a depth on the other. When both Fletchers team up as writers on The Inner Voice, there’s an extra lift, bringing in the kind of hi-concept soul soar you’d have expected from Minnie Riperton or Commodores, or indeed from Janelle Monáe (if the latter’s leant over from a soul background to look into art-pop, the Fletchers seem to be leaning the other way.) The cruising, creamy melody hides some sharp barbs : the song’s partly an elegant kiss-off to a past lover or collaborator, partly a “won’t-get-fooled-again” statement of intent and new faith and intent. “You did me a great favour, in a melancholic way,” sings Lisa, in cool and assured tones. “The lesson learned and actioned for today / is to listen to the inner voice and serve that impulse well./ Have courage in conviction, break the shell.” Gracious in retreat, but along the way a polite yet lethal line of stilettos are being inserted into a turned and oblivious back (like some kind of vengeful acupuncture).

While Lee’s other lyrical concerns occasionally stretch to brooding worksong (“marching up the hill all day, fetching pails of water for the crown / Until the playtime whistle sounds, and blows your hallowed dreams away”) and wide-eyed nature worship (“the seasons are aligning/ Shedding Mother Nature’s silver skin /bringing balance to the timing”) he’s at his best when he’s drifting into the hazy realm of the personal. Part of this touches on the mutability and contradictions of love – its ability, in any given moment, to contain frailty and fears alongside strength, devotion and enrapturement. On The Number, he and collaborator SiRenée set up a picture of the start of intimacy as a phone call into the unknown: “Hello, you’ve reached the number of my secret voice / And though I asked you not to call / Your instinct made the choice… / I knew you’d call, I knew you’d love me… Stranger on the line, I’ve known you always.” Dusted by Luca Calabrese’s sprays of muted Jon Hassell-ish trumpet, SiRenée sings the words in a misty bank of close and teasing harmonies – an enigmatic telephone nymph, she spins a spell of reflected longing as if at any moment she could either become flesh or simply vanish.

At the other end of the scale, where love is sealed and secure (with spouse, friends, family or perhaps all together), there is Life’s A Long Time Short; a Markus Reuter co-write in which an encroaching chill of the knowledge of ageing and death begins to gnaw at that security. “Our time is fleeting – / a love so true is truly painful. / A hurt that’s so divine – / at once the symptom and remedy.” Against a mournful ominous French horn line and a decaying fall of twinkling, dying Reuter touch-guitar chords, the song gradually passes from innocence (“there is no end, all time descends – / the trick is not to care”) to a warning (“there is an end. / Make all amends”)while Lisa sings with a subtle and breathless sense of disquiet, like a flickering ghost. All along, Lee watches with a poignantly shifting mixture of love, devotion and horror. Caught up within the current of time, all he can do is celebrate and confirm the life and value he shares in the now, while watching the inevitable washing-away and mourning coming closer and closer: “And as you grow, / I watch in rhapsody / the miracle you are…/Inside I’m screaming.”

On other occasions, Lee looks further outside, though it’s not always a comfort. Peering at the rapacious dazzle of television and pop media on Is It Me (Or Is It You?) he gets burned for his pains, then frets and growls out a proggy sermon about the callousness of the wider world: “Such a passion for freedom and brutality… / we pillage the living, ever seeking, kiss and telling morality / besieging all senses with apathy.” It’s the album’s title track that provides him with the still point which he needs. Out at the railway station café from dawn till dusk, notepad in hand, he’s watching the universe go about its business. Rails lead away to both possibility and obscurity; travellers move from place to place, passing through crowds while wrapping themselves in solitude; and Lee is “dreaming of the perfect future / tall on tales, and short on truth.”

Here, out in the flow, he plays observer to small, everyday aggravations and hints at family disappointments spawning both small aches and broken-up little personal worlds: “children crying, mothers braying / Fathers absent once again.” Here, too, he finds his sympathy renewed, his understanding broadened: “all at one with situation – / Circumstance breeds condemnation / of our fellow man.” Encompassed by the lives and voyages of others, surrounded by the signs and signifiers of both possibility and stagnation, he comes to a quiet acceptance of human fallibility and connection – “we’re bound by time, though here alone – / many rivers run as one. / Faith to heal the cracks within, / praying for life’s worthless things.” A small and modest epiphany, it’s the heart of the album and the song that binds everything together – including Lee’s divided impulses as skilled producer, exploring songwriter and man with a heart. Affection and anger, dislocation and commonality, families and strangers, nature and the grind, all linked under a lovingly gilded arch of strings, soft voices and soundscapes.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Chris Jones | BBC Producer & Freelance Writer: [http://jonesisdying.blogspot.co.uk] published August 2012

Previously featured on this blog, Lee's forte is SOUND. Seriously, the guy has the kind of golden ears that (especially if you're like me) make you realise that you're hearing the world in a slightly different, almost LESSER way. Repeated headphone listening makes his latest album, Faith In Worthless Things, a constantly unfolding landscape, filled with detail that uncovers itself with patience. A lot of work has gone into this.

FIWT is admirable on several levels. Most important, for anyone who's considering any kind of career in music and whether you like Lee's stuff or not, is the method of distribution. FIWT was produced using the Pledgemusic system of financing releases. Via social media Fletcher called on fans and friends to pledge money for various subsequent packages, from simple downloads through to signed and limited physical iterations of the album. This had the twofold efect of cutting down marketing costs, while getting directly and effectively to his core audience. At a time where the very fabric of the music industry unravels daily it becomes an inevitability that more and more 'serious' work gets sidelined, so this seems a fabulously lithe business model to raise the cash for distribution and production costs. And interestingly, featured artist, pedal steel player to the stars, B J Cole, is doing the same thing right now.

So, having identified his core audience, who IS Fletcher aiming at here? It'd be easy - seeing as FIWT is mainly played by folk who inhabit the various circles that surround and venerate Robert Fripp (who contributes a suitably astral soundscape on The Answer), to say that this is erm... 'intelligent prog'. But there's far more at work here. No Spock's Beard monstrosities abound, instead we get a record that contains not only the requisite tricky time changes and occasional mathematical undertow, but also a healthy dose of perfect pop (mainly provided by the whispered voice of partner Lisa Fletcher) as well as folk, grittier extemporisation and even elements of nu-jazz.

At times there's a sense of an odd fit. Music like this doesn't really acknowledge such bourgeois conceits as 'genre divisions', but mainly these juxtapositions surprise, confound expectation and delight. The very elusiveness is what makes FIWT intriguing and keeps the listener coming back for more.

With a cast like this it's no wonder that things get pretty King Crimsonesque at times. Markus Reuter (recently one third of Stick Men with Crimson alumni Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto) and his touch guitar wig-outs form a major piece of this jigsaw - groaning and straining against the more polite Englishness of Lisa's voice.

It's this sense of a very Anglisised rural idyll countering the grind of Fletcher's more industrial work that gives the key. This is essentially an album that pits reality (nature, emotion, heart) against the venality and emptiness of 21st century culture. This can take us from the gorgeous delicacy of Miracles On Trees, with its chiming guitars and birdsong, to the jagged assemblage of Until The Playtime Whistle Sounds.

As such, FIWT has a rawness and honesty that's at odds with its polished outer shell, but which makes it far more worthy than 99% of what crosses my desk these days. We need to be thankful that work this beautiful still gets made.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Vince Font | Author & Broadcaster:
[http://www.vincefont.com] published August 2012

Lee Fletcher’s “Faith” is no worthless thing.

Lee Fletcher is a guy who’s been lending his engineering and producing skills to the recorded works of other musicians for years. His first solo album, Faith in Worthless Things, is proof that he belongs in the spotlight just as much as any of the artists he’s worked with.

That’s no small compliment. Especially when you consider that Fletcher’s been involved – in one way or another – with some of the best albums released in the last 10 years, including Centrozoon’s The Scent of Crash and Burn, Moonbound’s Peak of Eternal Light, Toyah’s This Fragile Moment, and Tuner’s industrial-prog masterpiece Pole. But it wasn’t until the 2011 album Propeller by singer/songwriter Grice that Fletcher really got a chance to flex his considerable in-studio muscle, acting not only as producer, mixer, and co-arranger but also adding bass, electronic percussion, soundscapes, and a whole slew of other ambience-inducing adornments.

Given the impressive result, it was only natural that Fletcher’s next move would be to emerge fully from behind the proverbial curtain to helm his own baby. The result is a collection of songs with lyrics deep enough to be considered poetry and arrangements rich enough to make George Martin pitch an envious fit. The album’s first track “Is It Me (or Is It You)?” is a perfect example of both, opening with a chorus of heartbreakingly beautiful violins and then stepping boldly into that aforementioned poetic space with lyrics that up the ante on the whole introspection angle: “There’s a face in the corner looking inwards with unseeing eyes. It knows that I’m watching, still the moment is uncompromised.”

With lyrics that heavy, it would be easy for just about any vocalist to blow their delivery and have them come across painfully pretentious. Fortunately for Fletcher, he didn’t have to look far to find the perfect person to shoulder their hefty burden – he just so happens to be married to an incredibly gifted singer, Lisa Fletcher, who manages the not inconsiderable task of anchoring the songs with solid vocal performances that toe the line between ethereal and sexy.

But Faith in Worthless Things isn’t just about ethereality and moving string arrangements. It also racks up an incredibly high badass quotient, thanks largely in part to the presence of Markus Reuter, a gifted touch guitarist who’s been tearing up stages lately as one-third of Tony Levin’s Stick Men and one-sixth of Adrian Belew’s Crimson ProjeKCt. In certain musical circles, Reuter is considered something of a god, the heir apparent to the throne still occupied by that other legendary virtuoso, Robert Fripp (who makes a guest appearance of his own, providing soundscapes for an all-too-short instrumental number called “The Answer”). Fripp factor aside, one of Fletcher’s greatest coups was Reuter’s participation on the album – and one of Fletcher’s greatest achievements as producer was in presenting a side of Reuter that few have likely heard before.

Faith in Worthless Things is a richly produced album that acts like the ultimate sonic portfolio, a sampler of the diversity of sounds and lush tapestries that Lee Fletcher is capable of creating. But that’s not all it accomplishes. At times cinematic and at other times deeply intimate, it succeeds in carving out a unique world where touch guitar and Chapman Stick can coexist in perfect harmony – and sometimes in gorgeous dissonance – with trumpet, pedal steel, and violin.

Rounding out the eclectic cast of players on Faith in Worthless Things are Matthias Macht on drums, Tim Motzer on guitars, Steve Bingham on violins, Alan Burton on uillean pipes, Luca Calabrese on trumpet, BJ Cole on pedal steel, Richie Nieto on Chapman Stick, Oliver Klemp on acoustic bass, Clint Hollinson on acoustic guitar, Jacqueline Kershaw on french horn, Chris Wong on fretless bass, and Bernhard Wostheinrich on additional keyboards. Last but certainly not least is Austrian singer SiRenee, who makes a cameo appearance providing lead vocals on “The Number.” The album, which is available in both digital download and physical CD format, is available though Fletcher’s Bandcamp page.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Lorenzo Barbagli | Altprogcore:
[http://altprogcore.blogspot.it] published August 2012

(Originally published in Italian - Kindly translated into English for this site by Lorenzo Barbagli).

Producer and musician Lee Fletcher (previously heard on Grice's first record Propeller) releases his debut solo album. Faith in a Worthless Things hosts a number of high-profile musicians such as Markus Reuter (Stick Men / The Crimson ProjeKct), Steve Bingham (No-Man), Luca Calabrese, B.J. Cole, and Fletcher’s wife Lisa on vocals, as well as Robert Fripp whose soundscapes appear on The Answer.

The musical area in which Fletcher works is one of refined pop / rock influenced by jazz and ambient, in a certain sense akin to those moods found on Propeller. The music here however is more rarefied and experimental, almost wanting to attempt a cross between the sophistication of David Sylvian and Talk Talk’s proto-post-rock. In this sense the triptych of songs A Life on Loan, The Number and The Answer create a charming and abstract flux of continuity. But inside Faith in Worthless Things we can also find spores of King Crimson’s world and all the projects that revolve around it; peculiarity that will satisfy fans and visitors to these musical latitudes.

Fletcher also shows a liking towards more direct writing as in the sensual melodies of The Inner Voice and Long About Now. A crepuscular and tasteful album which must be slowly savored and will surely grow with each new listen.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Will Cruttenden: [http://cruttenden.blogspot.co.uk] published August 2012

Lee Fletcher: octogenarian, stunt man, cyborg and father of twelve. He is none of these things. What he is though is the creator of a fabulous and surprising album, ‘Faith in Worthless Things’.

I’ve known Lee, in the electronic sense (emails, social media, musical projects, etc.), for many years and always associated him with music more in the nature of Markus Reuter’s work. Although Lee has produced a variety of artists he has somehow brought an individual vision to his own album. That might sound like an obvious thing to do but try this. Turn on the radio, listen to some pop music and tell me if you believe the artist is being true to themselves or trying to fit into a niche in an increasingly meaningless marketplace.

Lee has achieved a dream. To make an album of songs which engage the brain and the heart. He has made his own template and he has bothered to sweat the little details as much as the big ones. Most importantly, when the time came to find the right singer, he asked his wife.

Listening to ‘Faith in Worthless Things’ reminds you how pointless genre labels can be. When the violins and viola’s play at the very top of the album I was thrown and all my expectations had to be reset. Folk moves to neo-classical moves to prog/pop moves to… well, just keeps moving. The textures of the instrumentation also help keep you, the happy listener, on your toes. Trumpet, pedal steel and especially the aforementioned touch guitar of Markus Reuter all work to open up the soundscapes of this album. Lisa Fletcher’s voice is the most effective instrument of all though. It does that wonderful thing of making a lyric feel meaningful. This is the gift that separates the great singers from the ordinary.

Another thing Lee has managed to avoid is the trap of making the songs too samey, or (just as bad) leaping around from style to style so the album has no coherence. This is one of those rare collections which is bound by a vision (can you have a vision in audio?) but which doesn’t sound like ten version of the same song.

Lee is a good and talented man in a world of fame seeking ninnies and he’s done plenty of great work. But ‘Faith in Worthless Things’ is his finest achievement so far.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Micro-review by Barry Cleveland | Guitar Player Magazine: [http://www.guitarplayer.com] published September 2012

Keyboardist/programmer Fletcher enlisted an intriguing lineup for this lovely and intelligent melodic-prog outing featuring vocalist Lisa Fletcher and Touch Guitarist Markus Reuter predominantly, along with cameos from Robert Fripp, Tim Motzer, BJ Cole, and other luminaries.

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Faith in Worthless Things by Lee Fletcher (feat. Markus Reuter & Lisa Fletcher)

Produced, arranged, mixed, and mastered by Lee Fletcher. Lee also writes the majority of the material and appears as a key performer throughout.

Review by Uwe Brameier | Klangarten Podcast | Welle 303 Radio: [http://www.klangarten.de] published August 2012

(Originally published in German - Kindly translated into English for this site by Uwe Brameier).

OMG, WOW... These were the initial reactions of my musical inner voice as I listened to the first notes. This is a debut solo CD? "What the hell is this?" Every track has its own rhythm, its own structure.

Wonderful female vocals (most of these sung by Lisa Fletcher, with some additional parts by SiRenée - lovely), and every song has its own atmosphere. Not the "usual method" that you find on many debut releases ("OK this sound/style works so lets play the other tracks in the same way...") A brilliant album, wonderful, (did I mentioned this already?) If you were to ask me about my favorite track I would say all 10!

It reminds me of the "good old times" of releases by Kate Bush or Sally Oldfield, and when you have a look at the credits and see the guest musicians' names (they are also friends) you realize: this is a "who's who" of modern music that you hold in your hands:

Markus Reuter (centrozoon): Touch Guitar U8 Deluxe, acoustic guitar and additional keyboards, Bernhard Wöstheinrich (also from centrozoon): additional keyboards on 'The Answer'. Not forgetting Robert Fripp (soundscapes), Matthias Macht (drums & percussion), and Tim Motzer (guitars) just to name a few.

One of the best records of this year, and belive me I've heard a lot of stuff.

And if you are fast enough you may be able to get one of the 150 autographed copies signed by Lee, Lisa and Markus. If you are customer 151+ don't worry, 'Faith in Worthless Things' is worth every penny.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Propeller by GRICE

Produced, mixed, and co-arranged by Lee Fletcher, who also guest-features throughout in a variety of musical roles

Review by Jerry Lucky | The Progressive Rock Files:
[http://www.jerrylucky.com] published January 2013

This is the fifth CD featuring the multi-instrumentalist Grice, but it’s the first that might be labeled a solo record, although he’s hardly the only one performing on the disc. London born Grice, now resides in the Southwest of England and has pulled together quite a cast starting with his own considerable skills; Grice (lead vocals, guitars, bass, Tzouras, Kora, EBow, Virtual Vincenzo TM (digital harpsichord), percussion, guitar synth, sequencing, programming, keyboards, drum loops/samples, string, sax & horn arrangements & digital editing). The “supporting cast” includes; Lee Fletcher (bass, soundscapes, electronic percussion, treatments, extra arrangements) and seventeen others on various instruments and vocals! Musically as a starting point I’m tempted to suggest bands like Henry Fool.

Propeller features 13 somewhat personal compositions that bounce around genres such as Art Rock or Avant-Pop. Suffice to say they come across outside the norm. The overall tone is melancholic, subdued and sometimes even plaintive. Most of the music stays in the slow to mid-tempo range and yet we’re exposed to solo horn and woodwind interjections throughout, laid over top of various soundscapes that are almost invisible until you listen for them. There are many layers to the music of Grice, a mixing of genre styles including traditional pop/rock melodies with jazzy solo flourishes, some classy string arrangements with electronic foundations and then for good measure the odd bit of Celtic pipes. The title track “Propeller” [9:58] is the longest composition and is typical of one part of the Grice style; it’s relaxed and yet oozes anxiety. The slightly more aggressive “Highly Strung” [4:11] is certainly one of the hook-laden leaders of the pack, but it’s “The Cage” [3:47] with its Beatle-ish harmonies that is the melodic charmer of the set. There are some shorter almost experimental tracks in the second half but all in all Propeller is hypnotic foot taper that exudes a jazzy flair.

For me, Propeller is the perfect morning disc. Get up early, put this on and it just sounds perfect. The tunes themselves feature plenty of stylistic variety as well as musical or instrumental complexity which means it never wears out its welcome on the player. Lee Fletcher’s assistance on the arrangements is not something to miss mentioning as it adds greatly to the material’s sonic depth. Propeller is a classy set of tunes. Fans of music from artists such as Peter Gabriel, Lee Fletcher and the afore mentioned Henry Fool would do well to check this out. I like it a lot.

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Propeller by GRICE

Produced, mixed, and co-arranged by Lee Fletcher, who also guest-features throughout in a variety of musical roles

Review by Vince Font | Author & Broadcaster:
[http://www.vincefont.com] published April 2012

When I say that I think Vincent van Gogh would have loved the album Propeller by GRICE, I’m not talking out of my caboose. Sure, the guy probably would have reacted to modern music about as violently as early man to artificial light – but I’m not talking about strapping ol’ Vinnie down in an easy chair and forcing a set of Koss headphones on his bean until he taps his feet in submission. I’m talking about what he might have thought about the creative process behind the album, which in the case of Propeller is one of the critical components that makes it as good an album as it is. If you ask me, he’d have dug it.

You see, it was one of van Gogh’s greatest unrealized dreams to found an artists’ colony, a place where he envisioned kindred souls would come together and thrive in an atmosphere of unmolested creativity and brave invention. For van Gogh, the experiment ended badly and he came out the other end sans an ear. But that was then, and the internet is now – and oh, what a difference a century makes. For the scattered group of collaborators that pooled their powers to create the impressive work of sonic art called Propeller, things have turned out decidedly better.

Propeller is a beautifully synchronous collaboration between titular talent GRICE and producer/composer/arranger Lee Fletcher, who’s one of the principal players behind Unsung Productions. Unsung isn’t exactly the artists’ colony Van Gogh bled for, but it’s close to it, an international cooperative of musicians and producers and uber-talented individuals that work both in person and via remote channels on the internet, all with a shared mission to foster creativity, catch it in a bottle, then kick you in the teeth with the awe-inspiring end product. Fletcher’s other Unsung partners are Markus Reuter (a guy that’s played with so many King Crimson alumni that he might as well be named an honorary member), Fabio Trentini (producer and current bassist for legendary Italian proggers Le Orme), and a couple of musicians named Eric Morris and Adrian Benavides, whose mutual residencies in central Texas have ramped the coolness factor of the Lone Star State so high that I’ve now got two more reasons to want to make Austin my future home.

As for Fletcher, he’s much more than just a producer, and in many ways his contribution is what makes Propeller come alive beyond what I’ll call “the aural spectrum” (even though it would probably be a lot less pretentious to just say “the stuff you hear”). Whatever your semantic preference, GRICE’s Propeller is the kind of album that was designed with the intent of being seen as well as being heard. The music and vocal performances blend varied and subtle elements of 70s-era Harry Nilsson here, a dash of Jeff Buckley there, and a heaping spoonful of melodic sensibilities everywhere the ear can roam. Meanwhile, the production utilizes the eclectic instrumentation of trumpet, sax, french horn and touch guitar to create an impeccable ambiance that gives Propeller a wholly cinematic feel.

And then, of course, there’s GRICE himself – the central jigsaw piece that holds the project together and stamps it with a musical identity so unique and mature that it makes you wonder why he’s just now getting around to recording his first official album. There’s a good answer to that, of course. Apparently, he spent years paying dues fronting a couple of bands named Swanston and The Martyrs, neither of whom I’d ever heard before. But if the audio clips I found online are representative of their sound, it’s apparent that GRICE was biding his time for the right moment to break free in solo flight. The aptly named Propeller is the embodiment of that flight, a collection of well-crafted songs so deeply intimate and personal that you almost want to ask “Should I be hearing this?” Well yeah, of course you should – and since he can’t do it from wherever he is, you should also do it for van Gogh.

Propeller by GRICE is distributed by Hungersleep Records and is available in both digital and physical CD format through the Burning Shed online store. The album features guest appearances by Markus Reuter, 05Ric, B.J. Cole, Luca Calabrese, Alan Burton, Fred Ehresmann, Jacqueline Kershaw, Jerri Hart, Joe Breban, Lisa Fletcher, Jim Peters, Alexander Marchant, Ondrej Pochyly, Raphael Ravenscroft, and Steve Bingham.

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Propeller by GRICE

Produced, mixed, and co-arranged by Lee Fletcher, who also guest-features throughout in a variety of musical roles

Review by Chris Jones | BBC Producer & Freelance Writer: [http://jonesisdying.blogspot.co.uk] published April 2012

An all too brief and all too delayed response to something rather splendid which came my way a few weeks back: Propeller is a new album by vocalist (and multi-instrumentalist) GRICE, teamed with producer and arranger Lee Fletcher, and out now on Hungersleep records. It's a bit of a corker, really.

What we have here is an example of what happens when artist and producer hit that sweet spot where ambition meets the creative space that's perfect for reaching the sounds in the artist's head. Propeller has the sound of an album that's had a lengthy gestation, at least conceptually - it has the effortlessness of something that has been born out of necessity and the intricacy that signifies people who KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING.

Vocally GRICE inhabits that space that could only be described as that of the modern post-prog milieu: mixing the intensity of Mark Hollis or Tim Bowness with a Beatle-esque sweetness. In fact the harmonies are the first thing to hit the ear, a kind of warm West Coast layering, bent to the service of perfect pop. Fans of everything from CSN&Y to Jellyfish will all feel at home here, right from the first number.

Grown up arrangements lift songs while eschewing too many obvious routes, allowing the listener to safely journey between, say, the avant string abstraction of Summer Screams to a more conventional (in a Crowded House kinda way) song like The Cage without feeling any bumps. But what really brings the whole thing alive is Fletcher's production. Glimmers of dusty electronica, found sound (including birdsong at one point) and filtered fragments haunt the cracks and snapshots between the songs, spiced up by the soundscapes of Markus Reuter.

In fact, overall the duo have managed to assemble a fairly impressive cast of musicians to add the requisite fairy dust. Pedal steel legend B J Cole appears on two tracks, while elsewhere you can feel the benefit of Luca Calabrese's Hassell-esque trumpet and not least the sax of Raphael 'Baker Street' Ravenscroft. In fact it's the inclusion of Ravenscroft along with the Fender Rhodes of Fred Ehresmann which gives tracks like Broken Arrow a wonderfully jazzy vibe, not unlike some lost Island album from the early 70s. This is a good thing.

It's not all plain sailing. Lyrically the album tends to veer between cliche and rather wilful obtuseness (is that a deliberate referencing of the Beach Boys' God Only Knows at the start of the rockier Highly Strung?), while on tracks such as Let It Go, vocal performances can over-egg the straining credibility. And this reviewer always feels slightly uncomfortable when Uillean pipes are whipped out (on the title track) to signify 'yearning'. Yet these are minor gripes. When GRICE's lyrics err on the side of bitter honesty as on Broken Arrow none of this matters. The power of the material wins you over.

As a piece Propeller stands proud as an example of what can be achieved by talented people who still believe in the old fashioned notion of good songwriting, especially when teamed with sonic adventurousness of Fletcher's ilk.

In short: this is highly recommended.

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Propeller by GRICE

Produced, mixed, and co-arranged by Lee Fletcher, who also guest-features throughout in a variety of musical roles

Review by Prog Magazine: [www.progrockmag.com] published May 2012

Let's face it, the UK has long been at the forefront of art rock, and London-born multi-instrumentalist GRICE (his mum calls him Jim Peters) offers more proof here on his debut solo album. GRICE carved his name in the South West as the frontman of art rockers The Martyrs and Swanston, and his solo offering isn't just a showcase of his own talents. There's mastering from Simon Heyworth (King Crimson/Mike Oldfield), pipes from craftsman Alan Burton, violin from No-Man's Steve Bingham and there's even saxophone from Raphael Ravenscroft, he of Baker Street fame.

Propeller is a revelation, its glorious textures and instrumentation drawing the listener in as it flows seamlessly from one song to the next, never losing its intensity. There's a touch of Peter Gabriel here, and a little Beatles there and plenty of experimentation along the way.

Opener Patiently gradually unveils the rest of the album. With its varying use of wind instruments, the four-part title track is particularly breathtaking, while the mesmerising The Cage slows things down as the penultimate ditty. With Propeller GRICE has created a genuinely extraordinary slice of experimental rock.

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