After Welsh progressive rock band Karnataka disbanded in 2004, four members of the group – keyboardist Jonathan Edwards, drummer Gavin Griffiths, guitarist Paul Davies and backing vocalist / flautist Anne-Marie Helder – created a new band called Panic Room together with bassist Alun Vaughan.
Between 2008 and 2010 the group released two studio albums – debut “Visionary Position” and the follow-up “Satellite” before the first line-up change saw the departing Vaughan replaced by Yatim Halimi on bass guitar.
Third album “Skin” was released in 2012 with this new formation but in the following year founding member Davies left the band and was replaced for the 2013 tour dates by Pete Harwood or British rock band Morpheus Rising.
During 2013 Helder and Edwards started an acoustic side-project under the banner Luna Rossa, as which they have thus far released two studio albums.
Back in Panic Room another guitarist, session musician Adam O’Sullivan, appeared on the group’s 2014 album “Incarnate” and the associated tour dates but did not become a full-time member of the band.
Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, 2015 saw the recording and release of the band’s fifth album, the largely acoustic “Essence”, featuring new band guitarist Dave Foster.
This album features re-recordings of ten tracks from the group’s back catalogue alongside two brand new compositions.
There is nothing from last year’s outing “Incarnate”, presumably as it’s still so recent. Instead we get three a piece originally from “Visionary Position” and “Skin” plus four originally from “Satellite”.
Helder, also known for her work with Mostly Autumn since 2008, sings beautifully throughout this record. Some of the songs are broadly similar to the original “electric” counterparts whilst some and more radical in the way that the band have re-imagined them.
Of the noticeably different readings, “I Am A Cat”, “Black Noise” and “Apocalypstick” are especially successful. Foster’s guitar contributions are excellent with some lovely soloing to be heard here, and I look forward to hearing him on the band’s next album of original material.
The record sounds great, with a fabulous clear production allowing all aspects of the band members’ individual performances to shine through.
Overall, the album is wonderfully relaxed and I would say that in many ways sits perfectly between the band’s previous albums and the work of Luna Rossa, but should appeal far beyond the fanbase of either. Great stuff…
1. Promises / 2. I Am A Cat / 3. Song For Tomorrow / 4. Rain & Tears & Burgundy / 5. Apocalypstick / 6. 5th Amendment / 7. Screens / 8. Moon On The Water / 9. Denial / 10. Black Noise / 11. Firefly / 12. Satellite
1 , 3 and 7 originally from “Skin” (2012) / 2, 6, 10 and 12 originally from “Satellite” (2010) / 4 and 9 new tracks / 5, 8 and 11 originally from “Visionary Position” (2008)