REVIEW: THOMAS GILES – “Don’t Touch The Outside”
The assorted musical box that is progressive rock has often led artists to take creative risks in order to reach higher levels of innovation whilst releasing music that often has no limitations sonically or conceptually and most definitely are outside of genre constraints. Between The Buried and Me is a 21st century example of this approach, dazzling audiences with their skillful musicianship and constantly leaping between different genres from progressive rock, death metal, gypsy and electronic music. Despite the band’s relentless output, front man Thomas Giles began a solo side project under his own name, encapsulating all his personal musical interests by executing ideas and sounds that are contemporary and vintage all at the same time. With the imminent release of his fifth solo album ‘Don’t Touch the Outside’, Giles is once again taking us into unexpected corners of his imagination and enchanting us with his worlds of darkness and light whilst conjuring some very colorful instrumentation and sound design.
The album’s prog and singer songwriter credentials are solidified on “Church Friends” and “Incomplet” both powered by hypnotic guitar phrases and sudden shift of gears reminiscent of King Crimson and The Mars Volta. The first song released of the album “Milan” is a gorgeous ballad demonstrating Giles ability to write sentimental compositions with Kraftwerk like synthesizers. There are songs on this album that pay homage to the 80’s like “Radiate” an ambient, moody and haunting Vangelis like creation and the closing song “Exordium” with its dreamy guitar, keyboards and drum machine effects. Giles’ love of industrial music is very notable as well as the songs “ Everyone is Everywhere” a dark, spooky and rhythmically catchy as hell composition, “ Whether Moods/Panic Start” that builds up with mechanical sounds and turns into a gothic rock opus and “I Win” with its extra distorted drum patterns, horror film samples and a guest appearance from rapper Carley Coma making it the most left field song on the album. The only weak song is “Awake from Death” a very ethereal slow tune accompanied by some spoken word from Giles that ultimately feels a little out of place. If this album wasn’t eclectic enough a song like “Sway” gives the listener the kind of cabaret music that Nick Cave fans would immensely enjoy and “Mr Sunshine” is for the Faith No More/Mike Patton fan at heart. If you’re waiting for a new Fantamos or Secret Chiefs 3 album you can instead check out songs like “Take your Seats/Time Gentleman” and “1709” which both explore a symphonic avant-garde style that is famously recognizable in Hitchcock films.
Thomas Giles is clearly wearing his influences on his sleeve on ‘Don’t Touch the Outside’, his influences however happen to be musically some of the most unconventional composers and artists throughout history from the past and present. This idiosyncratic approach to writing music is to be admired in this day and age when music is often too safe and lacks imagination and innovation. Giles is a contrarian artist and they usually reside on the fridges of popular culture but after giving this album a few listens it really does translate into masterful music and is an authentic statement of art rock. Giles’ latest solo work seems to be motivated by some wise Dr Seuss’ advice “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”.