RICHARD HASWELL – With The Changing Light (Rhubarb Music)

With The Changing LightRichard Haswell’s With The Changing Light is a great rock record (with electronica and jazzy subtitles) that holds a winning poker hand of classic sounds, yet successfully discards three of any kind, just to try something new.

This Scottish album just cuts weird new blood. It’s the mythical music of the god Janus – he of dual Roman glances. Richard Haswell absorbs the past greatness of Bowie, Springsteen, U2, Eno, Talk Talk, Nick Cave, The Talking Heads, The Psychedelic Furs, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and others (to be mentioned in good time). Then he deconstructs all the music. But, thankfully, RH reassembles the sundry parts into a fresh rock spin (aka really cool songs!) which can stand on its own modern merits.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, calls this Darwin rock because while it hums all the classic tunes, there are no retreaded tires here.

And don’t forget: Richard Haswell has also recorded music (this is his twenty-third studio album) under the names Rhubarb, G for Gnome, and White Noise.

That said, Ian Anderson (of Tull fame) sang as the start of Thick As A Brick, “Really don’t mind if you sit this one out”. But for those who wonder about creativity, or as Ralph Waldon Emerson once asked. “Whence Is The Flower?” – Robert Jourdain, in his book Music, The Brain, And Ecstasy, pretty much explains the unexplainable brand new wrinkle. He writes:

Inspiration is sometimes described as one aspect of composition that defies explanation. But when imagery is understood as a memory process, and memory as a categorization process, inspiration seems less mysterious. New categories arise naturally as the brain is challenged by new and larger perceptions. And an active mind, driven by the ever-willful frontal lobes, can force-feed the categorization mechanism by repeatedly exposing it to challenging new perceptual paradigms. Ultimately, older conceptions crumble to accommodate new and more powerful ones. The connections between memories are altered, the basis for new kinds of imagery is formed, and new ideas arise.

With The Changing Light does something like that.

But to clarify and suggest a less clinical projection, Carl Sagan in his Cosmos book (which I blush to quote!) explained the ways and means of creation (and, perhaps the before-mentioned inspiration):

Sex seems to have been invented two billion years ago. Before then, new varieties of organisms could arise only from the accumulations of random mutations…With the invention of sex, two organisms could {apparently by bumping into each other] exchange whole paragraphs, pages, and books of their DNA code…Organisms are selected to engage in sex—the ones that find it uninteresting quickly become extinct. And this is true not only of microbes of two billion years ago. We humans also have a palpable devotion to exchanging segments of DNA today.

And as The Move once said, Shazam.

Canadian rockers Rush once said, Presto.

David Bowie said, “I’m an alligator” and by the way, “I’m a mama-papa coming for you”.

You say, “Get to your point!

Well, With The Changing Light is a wonderous example of all of the above. Inherited rock ‘n’ roll DNA (mainly from the 80’s) inhabits the music’s cell nucleus, and yet, certainly by rock standards, something quite new and even unique has been created. That’s saying a lot.

The first song, ‘The Promise’, begins with a deeply grooved terrific bass and drum dance, and then vocals recall the earnest prayer of The Waterboys Mike Scott (circa This Is The Sea), while Lewis Kippen’s guitar has the solitary edge of, well, U2’s David Howell Evens—whose aka everybody knows. This is vital rock music.

And then the title track pulses with drums and sturdy bass with a cerebral guitar—until Pete Reilly’s (sort of) jazz sax colours the tune. The long intro gives way to more earnest vocals, while Thomas Urch’s Hyve touch synth hovers over this darkened late night club date of the tune.

There’s more: ‘Lost And Found’ gets acoustic with a strummed guitar, and then it explodes into a dramatic sunset that, again, echoes The Waterboys’ ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ ethos. And ‘From The Bleachers’ gets all electronica with a minimalistic vibe as a very modern Ultravox Ha!-Ha!-Ha! John Foxx vocal ascends and harmonizes with a heavenly guitar solo that recalls Floyd’s Dave Gilmore. This tune is a mantra that tingles the synapses in the brain. ‘Cheek By Jowl (Album edit)’ really pays decent tribute the synth bands and then dumps a huge human rockpile of a guitar solo that switchblades its way across the electric heartbeat throb of the song.

‘Dun Laoghaire’ gets harmonica friendly and simply floats on a bluesy vibe. No complaints.

Just an idea: WTCL has all the tough grooves of retro groups like Rival Sons, Royal Blood, or the Zep-rip off band Greta Van Fleet, but what with electronica and deep textures, it pulses (may I suggest the verb, evolves) into a higher level on (to get all cosmic!) the Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception grid – which is a mere walking distance away–as the crow flies -from (to get all un-cosmic) Guy Stevens’ own Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception–the final sound collage on (my beloved) Mott the Hoople’s brilliant Brain Capers, an album with its tough and intense vibe, also managed to cut that weird new blood.

‘Shoshone Point’ just lights another acoustic lamp that is sung against the backdrop of a chestnut-guitar fueled fire. This tune vibrates the heavens—and adds more of that synth that always circles around the moons of Saturn and dearly hopes for any sign of life. In a strange way, rock music sort of does the very same thing—while still ordering a cheeseburger and a Coke at the local drive-in.

The final song, ‘Earth Citizen’, buzzes with electric vibes, while that sax sings a jazzy humanity. The vocals sound like David Sylvan in his quietly intense moments. Yes, indeed, “We need to breathe”. With big a keyboard sun setting sound, this gets into serious progressive rock territory. The tune sings to the sad universe. It bends Einstein’s time, and it drips like Dali’s “persistent memory” into fluid motion, that perhaps, has a very necessary backbeat.

Well, while I can’t confirm With The Changing Light, has any scientific Mendelian certainty, “crumbled older perceptions”, or for that matter, tried “exchanging any DNA”, this album certainly rips its way through any rock ‘n’ roll time continuum, and like any new shimmy, it’s always (to quote Jackie Leven of Doll By Doll) “walking backwards through the snow”—only to find itself, ironically, in a brand new place–with a fist full of pretty great modern rock ‘n’ roll songs.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website:

‘With The Changing Light’: