Land’s End Reviews
Our Rating: 9/10
A rather wonderful departure from your reviewer’s usual diet of indie guitars and skwehiff Americana, MAT DICKSON’S magnificently atmospheric and wholly instrumental music has now spread across three albums, the third of which – ‘Land’s End’ – completes his magical ‘Lighthouse’ trilogy.
For the uninitiated, Mat is a multi-instrumentalist based in Hampshire and also a member of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers. Over the past ten years, he has lovingly crafted his ‘Lighthouse Trilogy’, featuring ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ (1998), ‘The Keeper’s Log’ (reviewed by W&H in 2003) and now ‘Land’s End’. Unadorned masterpieces all, they are plainly a labour of love for Mat and his personal celebration of the bravery of the men who peopled the precarious rocks off the unrelenting British coasts until the advent of mechanisation finally drove them from the rocks around the turn of 1990.
‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ chose The Needles off the Hampshire coast as the basis for Dickson’s muse, while ‘The Keeper’s Log’ found him travelling north to the unforgiving Western Approaches off the Scottish coast. The self-explanatory ‘Land’s End’ now finds him coming south again and aurally describing the unpredictable ebb and sway of the tides off England’s most southerly point.
Again adorned by a beautiful painting of a lighthouse by Jonathan Dickson (this time the Longships light off the Cornish coast), ‘Land’s End’ was assembled painstakingly by Mat and his musical collaborators Pascal Baudot and Ralf Leleu and recorded over a two-year period in both Southern England and Paris. Much of the musical input is courtesy of this trio – with much of it stemming from Dickson alone – although there are again strategic layers added by further sympathetic cohorts such as drummer Will Glancy and Fiona Clifton-Welker, whose glimmering harp sends ripples in and around the melodies on tracks like the hugely evocative ‘King Arthur Canyon’.
Their patience has paid dividends, for ‘Land’s End’s is arguably the very best of the three releases. As always, the results are hugely melodic, layered and perfectly capture the feeling of the ocean’s vastness. While not easily categorisable as either a rock record or a soundtrack release as such, the opening brace of tracks like ‘Isles Of Scilly’, the gentle Celtic-infused drift of ‘Shamrock Knoll’ and the elegiac ‘Longships’ again favourably recall the likes of Mike Oldfield, Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly and Mark Knopfler’s OST-related projects.
Which isn’t to say it’s all plain sailing by any means. Often feared for its’ inherent violence as much as its’ calm straits, the unpredictability of the sea is perfectly captured on tracks like the darker ‘Seven Stones’ which opens with a foghorn sound and swirls into life around ambient keyboard textures and textural saxophone. A little later, this brooding feel is again touched upon by ‘Watching The Sky’: arguably the record’s tour-de-force where the initial lonely guitar figures are joined by Mat’s yearning E-bow and the sound is layered densely, reflecting storm clouds massing.
‘Land’s End’s other major strength is that it concludes with a sequence of three of Dickson’s finest outings to date. ‘Cape Cornwall’ finds accordion-like keyboards, drums tossed around by the spray and a hymnal feel prevailing, with seagulls crying as it winds down. The deceptive ‘Finisterre’ is built around nylon-strung guitars with a glorious Flamenco lilt and sounds perhaps a tad gentler than the cape for which it’s named and the finale – ‘Celtic Sea’ – suggests the dawning of clearer, brighter days after the storm and is arguably my favourite track here. It’s second ‘movement’ (a number of these pieces are suite-like in execution) is considerably jauntier and has elements of the Irish spirit the title suggests. It all adds up to a remarkably moving listen and a great way to wind up the windswept journey Mat Dickson has made around the British coast over the past decade.
Of course, now he’s completed his Lighthouse Trilogy, the question is: where does Mat Dickson go from here? That will no doubt be answered in the fullness of time, but for now let’s simply enjoy these gloriously shifting records for what they are. Yes, I agree, such moodily-crafted instrumental soundscapes are a long way removed from the kind of thing this writer usually enthuses about, but ‘Land’s End’ once again goes a long way in proving virtuosity doesn’t automatically equate with the death of the soul. Listen and learn.
Back when I was younger, I had several reoccurring dreams in which there was this fantastic underground subway that ran from New York to England. That dream would transport me from the mundane realities of my life in New York to the magical land of my musical heroes. If that dream had a soundtrack, it would want it be accompanied by the 2007 CD from guitarist Mat Dickson, entitled Land’s End. Dickson has released several meditative, wistful CDs in recent years, well remembered for having excellent lighthouse by the sea artwork. Sounding inspired by greats like Mike Oldfield, some of Hank Marvin’s more experimental music and guitarist John Themis, Mat Dickson is making some of the most blissful, sonically pleasing instrumental guitar music to come out of the U.K. in recent years.
This lovely CD is the third of Mat’s Lighthouse CDs from Beachcomber Music, and has a similar feel to the previous two, but with some interesting twists.
The cover of the CD case depicts a painting of Longships Lighthouse, and opens to reveal a chart inside of the South West of England, which gives the package a really nautical touch. The first track “Isles of Scilly” provides a good catchy start, and I love the foghorn blasting out at the beginning of “Seven Stones”, which portrays a vision of a desolate lightvessel bobbing about at sea. The aptly named “Wolf Rock” provides a hunting edge, almost Enya inspired perhaps, but there is definitely a sinister feel to this track. The CD has a nice ending with “Celtic Sea”, which ends on a high.
Overall a very easy to listen to CD, with a good mixture of guitar and instrumentals. Dickson describes it as ambient progressive rock: instrumental guitar music with a blend of Celtic folk.
Our recent trip to Lands End and the Isles of Scilly made it more possible to imagine, what a shame we didn’t have it to take with us!
A must for the lighthouse collector!
The Keeper’s Log Reviews
Revolving around the them of sea, sea shores, and Lighthouses, the CD is an instrumental piece with its roots firmly planted in guitar centered prog-rock, but with plenty of touches from Celtic and folk music as well.
Mat Dickson is a veteran multi instrumentalist, who’s been playing in the prog-rock scene for some time, in this album, he gives center stage to his love for the aquatic, in between his mostly guitar driven instrumental pieces he injects the sounds of the ocean, a gentle combination that manages to sooth as well as taking the listener to another sphere, seemingly transferring you into a quite British shore side.
The Fisherman’s Tune is one of the more basic tunes here, a combination of clean guitar sounds with keyboards, with some percussion added as the track progress, it serves as an atmosphere setter.
Guarding The Western Approaches is more clearly prog-rock influenced, starting off with a crisp acoustic guitar, the track builds momentum and complexity, Dickson’s talent as a guitarist is unquestionable, he brings to mind such artists as Mike Oldfield with some Robert Fripp thrown in as well, a very clear and well produced lead guitar sound accentuates his subtle melody lines.
The folk theme is mainly evident in the keyboard use, some Scottish and Irish flourishes that serve more as background than a focal point for the music.
Dickson’s prog rock is much more evident in Before The Storm, the track builds up and then uses a prog bass line, it has a Pink Floyd vibe to it, and as the track’s namesake, its has a much more turbulent atmosphere than most of the album.
An album like this combines some of prog rock’s finer moments with the soothing ambiance of quiet folk music, and Dickson certainly knows how to create memorable and melodic pieces, this is a very enjoyable album indeed.
Mat Dickson is a writer and performer of instrumental Celtic folk and atmospheric progressive rock music. His latest release, The Keeper’s Log, is inspired by and dedicated to the memory of the lighthouse keepers from the lighthouses of the Scottish coast whose past is shrouded in myth and romance, and who have no future now that automation has taken over.
This inspiring guitar music is like a breath of fresh sea air. It reflects on the calmer moods of the sea, allowing you to imagine sitting in contemplation on the rocks while listening to the waves break.
The CD opens with the gentle The Fisherman’s Tune which, although many would consider to be typical relaxation music, soon reveals strong Celtic undercurrents. And these, like the waves, wash throughout the whole album.
I’m not normally a fan of synthesizers, but this album smoothly combines that instrument and guitar, with the addition of button accordion in Mists of Time, so that it’s easy to forget what instruments are playing. Towards the end of Guarding the Western Approaches it sounds as if there are mass bagpipes in the distance – or is it just a good synthesizer effect? Before the Storm is the most upbeat track, which gradually builds from a relaxed guitar; that and Skerryvore Skies are perhaps my favourites, but it’s so difficult to decide as they’re all so good.
A great CD to relax to.
There are no lacklustre sea shanties on multi-instrumentalist Mat Dickson’s current album The Keeper’s Log. There are some first-rate spirited tunes that honor the sea and the lighthouses that guard the shores. Dickson’s previously released album The Lighthouse Keeper was dedicated to a lighthouse at the Needles on the English coastline. The Keeper’s Log is influenced by the lighthouse at Skerryvore on the west coast of Scotland. Mat has some interesting blends of Celtic and Progressive Rock that are sometimes mild and at other times lively, but all the cuts on the album are pleasurable.
Guarding The Western Approaches is a spellbinding ten-minute tune with powerful synthesizer tracks and a story-song feel. You can hear one of Her Majesty’s ships in peril in a stormy sea trying desperately to contact the shore with Morse code. Will the rescuers reach the ship in time? Or will all hands be lost? You will have to tune in to find out.
Tales of Yore is a halcyon ballad with guitar and synthesizer that looks back into the past when times were tranquil and life was simple. More than ever, we all yearn for those days again. Following it is another ballad with Celtic tones called The Mariner. This is definitely a tale of the sea and details past and present journeys from the rocky Scottish coast, far and near. Okay, it is a bit of a shanty, but it is likeable nonetheless.
Mat does some of his best and most complex work in the tune Skerryvore Skies. I think that it is the most outstanding cut of the album. It is strongly atmospheric with a memorable theme. There is a lot of history to be found in the Inner Hebrides including the visit by St. Columba and the fierce attacks by barbarous Norsemen. Back in the present day, Dickson, through his music, invites you to climb the stairs of the lighthouse and look out from the huge glass windows. You can see the magnificent beam of light stretch out over the Firth of Lorn and the dark Atlantic as it guides kith and kin back to friendly Scottish shores.
The sound of the button accordion begins the song Mists of Time, but in mid-tune atmospheric synth layers and guitar turn the mellow song into adventurous space music. Your imagination takes you on a voyage over the briny seas of earth and up into the ocean of stars. Perhaps to place where a dazzling molten sun acts as a lighthouse to guide space travelers on their own journey.
The musical career of Mat Dickson is simple. He began as a sound man in theatre where he got interested in sound effects. He traveled from his native Scotland to France where, like many musicians, he joined a rock band. His ideas for his album came as a combination of his guitar work and his coastal inspirations, the lighthouses of England and Scotland. To some, lighthouses are powerful magnets that influence the spirit.
There is a beautiful functioning lighthouse at Cape Anne in Massachusetts that draws thousands of tourists every year. I have seen it and now I know why The Keeper’s Log reflects the beauty and power of one of the last bastions of safety and security found on the shores, distant and near, the lighthouses. Mat’s progressive rock music is strong and dynamic, without the screeching guitars found on many progressive tracks. His traditional Celtic music is mellow, warm, and laced with spirit. I cannot wait for his next album.
The Lighthouse Keeper Reviews
Musicianship – 9 out of 10
As a musician, Mat Dickson is excellent. His ability to not only use conventional instruments (guitars/keyboard) but his ability to use sounds (ocean waves etc…) showcases his talent exquisitely on The Lighthouse Keeper; his initial release (which he has re-released this past year).
His gorgeous talents with the guitar, both acoustic and electric highlight his compositions. The ‘sounds’ he adds show his ear for not only creating a beautiful atmosphere that takes you to the sea and in the harbor of a lighthouse, but also makes it music in itself—you forget that they are just added sounds.
Songwriting – 9 out of 10
I believe that a well written song starts in a composer’s mind. Mat’s mind must hear several things all at once, because his creations add several different sounds/instruments to create ONE composition. The talent comes in by making these separate components actually sound pleasing to the ear. Mat then takes that a step further, by not only making it sound pleasant, but then his music creates a place in your mind.
His compositions vary in form to achieve different emotion or to represent different aspects of his central theme. From the feeling of being on the beach, to the comfort and security of the lighthouse itself, his songwriting portrays all aspects with a musical paintbrush creating a luxurious aural landscape.
Sound Quality/Professionalism – 10 out of 10
The sound quality and professionalism is excellent on this CD. When creating ambient/atmospheric music, you need a balance of main instrumental sounds and other sounds to make sure nothing will annoy or overtake a particular piece. This disc has perfect balance in that area.
Packaging – 10 out of 10
The cover art is a beautiful painted ‘seascape’ of The Needles in England. The credits speak of Jonathan Dickson – so I wonder if it was done by a family member of Mat’s. (I see that ‘art’ runs in the family if that is the case!) Also a map inside the sleeve to give a visual of the actual place that the painting is of. There are other musician credits as well as a track listing and beautiful art on the CD itself. Very lovely packaging.
Back of the Wight
From these Shores
Farewell To The Lighthouse Keeper
Dawn of Tomorrow
Overall Rating – 10 out of 10
When listening to atmospheric music, you have several different criteria as to what makes a good listening experience. First, how does it sound? Are the different components resonating well within the music? Secondly, how does it make you feel? Are you transported to a different place? Is your mood changed or altered by what you hear? And finally, does the music draw you in, or repel you? Having a love for instrumental/atmospheric music, my ear picks up on these different aspects quite easily and within a first listen a lot of times I can tell where I am being taken and I will know IF I want to go there or not!
Mat Dickson’s The Lighthouse Keeper definitely draws me in and takes me where I want to go in the atmospheric sense. It not only creates that mood within me of a restful wonderful vacation by the sea, it also pleases my musical taste for smooth guitar heartfelt keyboard runs. His music washes over you with a cleansing flow, much like the sea he writes about. Some of the individual songs remind me of an old English/Irish sound that you might hear the Irish family band Clannad do. It is both contemporary and traditional in sound—a nice balance for this style of music, so that it will appeal to a variety of listeners.
Mat Dickson is a true artist. Allow The Lighthouse Keeper to inspire you and take you to a place outside of your normal surroundings to a place of tranquil fortifying peace.
Our Rating: 8/10
Raised on the south coast of England of bilingual heritage, guitarist/ composer MAT DICKSON spent many years paying his dues on the rock circuit in England and France before returning to his on-going love affair with lighthouses and all things maritime to present his first solo album “The Lighthouse Keeper.”
Beautifully housed in a sleeve featuring a detailed Marine Chart of the area courtesy of the British Admiralty, “The Lighthouse Keeper” is basically an instrumental suite of tracks paying homage to The Needles Lighthouse and its surrounding area off the English south coast, and – while it’s a million miles from any standard pop fix – its evocative, cinematic sweep more than draws you in with repeated listens.
Stylistically, the album is definitely in the same vein as early Mike Oldfield, some of Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack work (“Local Hero” sometimes springs to mind) and also some of the unfairly-derided instrumental work available on the supposedly ‘new age’ Windham Hill label in the late 1980s. And, while it’s unusual to find your reviewer writing favourably about what could (in places) be easily pigeonholed as “Prog” (erk!), Dickson’s good at emotional content, too, so the obvious virtuosity thankfully doesn’t get in the way too much.
The tracks themselves ebb and flow like the tides themselves, and throughout the course of the album we get jubilation, sadness, serenity and the relentless pounding of the sea itself. Often, mind, it’s breathtaking to behold, such as with the exquisite acoustic picking introducing “The Citadel”; the haunting Vini Reilly-isms of “Farewell To The Lighthouse Keeper” or the first part of “Back Of The Wight”, where the evocatively forlorn guitars recall The Chameleons’ more pastoral moments. Then there’s “Light Of Hope”, which is arguably the jauntiest and most upbeat pop moment here.
If anything, Dickson keeps his most evocative piece – the Robert Fripp-style guitar overture “Dawn Of Tomorrow” – in reserve for the finale, but really you need to listen to “The Lighthouse Keeper” in its entirety to understand the scope and compositional depth at work here. Like I said before, this is from a different world and entirely removed from the scam-hungry rock’n’roll scene. It’s Mat Dickson’s work, sure, but it’s quite obvious that this work is a labour of love.
DICKSON, MAT – LAND’S END
Eine absolute Neuentdeckung für mich ist, obwohl er mit ‘Land’s End’ schon die dritte CD veröffentlicht hat, Mat Dickson. ‘Land’s End’ schließt die sogenannte ‘Lighthouse Trilogy’, die mit ‘The Keeper’s Log’ und ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’, also den 2 Vorgängern begonnen wurde. Lighthouse heißt ja auf Deutsch Leuchtturm, und wenn man eine Trilogie über Leuchttürme schreibt, kann man schon erahnen, welch schöne Musik dabei herauskommt. Mat Dickson spielt auf diesem rein instrumentalen Album praktisch alle Gitarren und Keyboards und wird nur bei ein paar Songs durch Harfe (Fiona Clifton-Welker), Saxophon (Ken Trethewey) und Drums (Will Glancy) ergänzt. Und die Musik, eine Mischung aus Celtic Folk mit Prog-Einflüssen erzählt von den sich immer wieder verändernden Stimmungen des Meeres und des Himmels um den Leuchtturm herum bei Ruhe und Sturm. Ein bißchen vergleichen kann man das mit Mike Oldfield oder auch ein bißchen Mark Knopfler bei seinem ‘Local Hero’ – Soundtrack. Eine einfach wunderschön atmosphärische CD zum dahinfließen. Mehr Infos sowie Soundsamples und natürlich die CD selbst zum Bestellen gibt es unter www.beachcombermusic.com . Unbedingt vorbeischauen und antesten. Sowas darf in keinem gut sortierten CD-Regal fehlen !!
MAT DICKSON: The Keeper’s Log
” The Keeper’s Log” ist neben “The Lighthouse Keeper” eines von zwei Alben, die Mat Dickson als Tribut an – na was wohl? – Leuchttürme und deren Wärter geschrieben hat; für alle Menschen, die sich zur Küste, zu Leuchttürmen und zum Meer hingezogen fühlen, also ganz speziell auch für mich …
“The Keeper’s Log” enthält in erster Linie melodische, ruhige Gitarrenmusik, sowohl akustisch als auch elektrisch. Es kommt vollständig ohne Gesang aus, läßt vielmehr die Emotionen, die der Komponist beim Betrachten des Meeres fühlt, durch die Musik sprechen. Mat Dickson will mit diesem Album unter anderem auch die verschiedenen Stimmungen der See und des Lichtes dort zum Ausdruck bringen: die Ruhe und den Sturm, die Wolken und den Sonnenschein, aber man spürt, dass er dem Meer keinerlei negative Assoziationen zukommen lässt. Das gesamte Album ist ausgesprochen ruhig, beruhigend und wunderschön. Dabei wird einem sofort klar, dass Mat Dickson nicht die belebten, sonnigen Strände des Südens beschreibt, sondern die einsamen, rauen des Nordens. Den Stil seiner Musik kann man grob mit einer Mischung aus Celtic Folk und atmosphärischem Art Rock umschreiben, wobei hier wie gesagt von “Rock” nur selten die Rede sein kann.
“The Keeper’s Log” ist eine Oase der Schönheit und Entspannung in dieser schnelllebigen Welt, die man hervorragend dazu nutzen kann, endlich mal wieder seinen ganz eigenen Gedanken nachzuhängen. Und zum Träumen natürlich, vorzugsweise von felsigen Brandungen und sanften Wellen …