Released by: Flashback Records
Release Date: 23 October 2015
Genre: Alternative Rock
Terry Bickers – Voice and Guitar
David Francolini – Drums
Christian Hayes – Guitar and Voice
Laurence O’Keefe – Bass and Voice
Robert White – Keyboards, Guitar and Voice
01. Food For Powder
02. Gardens Overflowing
04. Magnifying Glass
05. King of Mice
06. Imagine the Sharks
08. Even When Your Eyes Are Open
09. I Believe
11. Sacred Lover
The music industry today is thriving with bands reforming to relive their glory days. Limited edition reissues of classic albums, complete with tracks from the archive and other tempting extras, are released by the bucket-load. Anniversary tours tug at our heart strings, providing us with another chance to see our guitar heroes on the stage and remember times when we were younger, fitter and more attractive. Nostalgia reminds us of times in our lives and the soundtracks to those happier times are what fuel our purchasing when we buy an updated re-packaging of an album that we’ve worn thin through overplaying in the years that have passed. The songs provoke memories of meaningful events in our lives, making us smile inwardly at times or look back wistfully on things that may have been.
So what happens to an album that was recorded and never released? A collection of songs written at a moment in time far removed from where we are today? How can you judge an album based on your own musical experience without comparing it to other landmark releases, only to realise that the album you’re referring to was not known to the members of Levitation as it did not yet exist when they were composing these songs? Perhaps it is suitably fitting that ‘Meanwhile Gardens’ is released in the week when the media is bursting at the seams with references to the film “Back To The Future”: this album has arrived from the past in a musical landscape that is vastly different to the time of its inception, and all that’s missing is a battered Delorean.
Levitation wrote and recorded their second album, ‘Meanwhile Gardens’, in 1993 but it was never released following the departure of frontman, Terry Bickers, announced from the stage during a concert in May that year. Unsuccessful attempts were made by the band to continue on with a new line-up but ultimately the recording was shelved. The album is now being released some 20+ years later with the backing of the original line-up.
‘Meanwhile Gardens’ is an ambitious and sprawling psychedelic beast of an album and will undoubtedly satiate the appetites of any diehard Levitation fans who have clung to their bootlegs versions in the years since their split. The album’s presence is defined by a mass of swirling guitar lines and atmospheric vocals, driven by a backbone of solid bass lines and drum rhythms and garnished with brass and strings to suit.
‘Food For Powder’ immediately sets the benchmark for the album’s tone with a mesmerising funereal pace that allows Bickers’ haunting vocals to focus the attention of the listener whilst blending seamlessly with the relentless guitar lines. ‘Gardens Overflowing’ also explodes off the line with a frantic pace musically, contrasted with a more muted and slowly downplayed vocal monologue. This constant interchange of roles is a mark of Levitation’s signature sound, as the band members frequently change roles with a graceful and sinuous unpredictability.
“And though we decay, our thoughts remain” sings Bickers on ‘Magnifying Glass’ against a background of epic violins and crashing cymbals, in a possible tribute to the album’s delayed rebirth. ‘King of Mice’ starts with a captivating drumbeat that provides a perfect counterfoil to the hypnotic lyrical structure and minimal guitar, before the song reaches a crescendo of sound, bursting uncompromisingly from the gentle lull and retreating as quickly to leave you breathless.
‘Imagine the Sharks’ sees the vocals of Bickers drifting and weaving amidst whirling guitars and a staccato drum rhythm before gathering together with a pounding fury and urgency. ‘Even When Your Eyes Are Open’ (which originally saw the light of day when it was released as an intended ‘lead single’ in April 1993) is possibly one of the simpler and more immediate tracks, building to a crescendo of chiming guitars, frenzied drumming and layered voice samples before abruptly cutting dead.
‘I Believe’ is the album’s heavyweight track, clocking in at over 8 minutes that start gently before building to an ebb and flow of ghostly lyrics amidst the soaring melodies and string arrangements. The tempo drops halfway after the halfway mark and the resulting instrumental jam is the sound of a group of musicians that were not afraid to push the boundaries or be restrained by expectation. ‘Burrows’ is another mammoth opus that changes direction and styles more times in one track than some bands do in their entire career.
‘Meanwhile Gardens’ should have been released before many of the classic albums that now precede it, making it impossible to know whether it would have had the impact to change the lines of heredity amidst the family tree of British music. How would the album’s release have changed the evolution of Radiohead and The Verve? How would Levitation’s rise have impacted upon the success of bands such as Elbow, Editors and Puressence? Sadly, the demise of Levitation may have been the musical equivalent of an ant being stepped on by a careless time traveller and we will never know how things could have been if they had continued to evolve in the early ‘90s.
After too many wasteful years gathering dust, ‘Meanwhile Gardens’ has finally been released and is a worthwhile listen for dedicated fans and new converts alike.
Written by: Si Easton
Ratings: Si 8/10