27 Jan 2021
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Channeled - Album Review: I Heard Penelope Sing

25 Nov 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

I was at a gig the other night and bumped into Channeled's main man Ben Ruegg, and of course we soon started up a conversation. I introduced him to some other friends of mine and tried to think how long I had actually known him, and Ben promptly said, "Six weeks". The incredible thing is he is right, as the first time we met, and the first time I saw the band, was when they stepped in at the last minute for Outside In to support Coridian when Mikey was sick. Was that really only six weeks ago? I have seen them play twice more since then, each time getting better, and am off to see them again on Friday with Cafe Fistfight, and I have been listening to the new album for the last few weeks as well. Their music has become an important part of my life very quickly indeed.

Channeled started as a solo project for Ben, and that was how he recorded the debut album, but performing with backing tracks just did not feel right and now it is a full-blown band. I have been writing about music for more than 30 years, but must confess that while I have come across the odd music teacher in bands, I have never even heard of a band who can profess to have three! Ben is Head of Music at one school, bassist Michelle Anderton at another and guitarist Matt Garratt at another, while drummer Branden Pritchard is actually an ex-pupil of Ben’s. This album was mostly recorded by Ben before the full band came into being, with Matt co-writing and playing on two songs and Michelle playing on another three, with Ben doing everything else. What makes Channeled stand out, both on the album and in the live environment, are the multiple different styles on offer, the way the guitars interweave with each other, a wonderfully warm bass and powering drums while throughout there is incredible passion.

It is hard to really pin down the overall sound, but perhaps it is best described as power pop with heavy influences from Foo Fighters, The Strokes, and Dave Dobbyn among others. After a gentle introduction we are into the first single from the album, I Can’t Quite Put My Finger On It (which features some backing vocals from Dani), which in many ways is typical of the band’s output. The guitars are jagged from the outset, the drums are very staccato, while the bass is underpinning it all with warmth and melody. The chorus is far more dramatic and imposing, with huge sounding guitars (reminiscent of Big Country), and as the song continues one guitar peels off to provide some melodic harmonies, with the song returning time and again to a bombastic chorus. Yet just when one thinks they have sussed it all out, the bass and drums disappear, Ben is singing plaintively and then it is back in with a groove which makes everyone bounce up and down – there is no choice. There is a very strong understanding of the use of contrast and dynamics, so although there is a definite musical thread within the songs, they are also quite different to each other, and one can certainly imagine songs such as On The Flipside being played in stadia as the chorus is U2 at their finest: this is a solid anthem.

For me, the highlight is just after the midpoint of the album, with Is That Glass? which starts life with solo guitar and voice. When the rest of the band come in the guitars change, the bass is warm, the drums solid and restrained keyboards provide additional melody, yet then it is back to simple picking but before one wonders what is going on, the rest of the band are in and there is an overdriven guitar solo. This song rocks, it swings, it is passionate, and somehow, they have captured the intensity which makes this such as standout song when played in concert. From here we go into the forceful Isolation, where again there is clever use of space and missing guitars, then into Where Did It All Go Wrong?, a punkish melodic belter. Those three songs have been mainstays of recent gigs, and they are just as hard-hitting in the studio as they are onstage, not something which ever comes easily.   

Lyrically, the album deals with a lot of the internal dialogue Ben had with himself that has seen him change his mindset. From reading books from Deepak Chopra to Stephen Hawking, these different views come through in his lyrics where he discusses how technology causes people to become disconnected from reality and we can forget who we are. Ben says this is an intensely personal album about his life, and here he has combined words with the music in a manner which is incredibly powerful indeed.

Channeled had played only a few gigs together before lockdown, but they have been making up for it since as while I have seen them 3 times I have missed 2 other gigs of theirs during the same period, and they are playing again later this week! This album is essential for anyone who has managed to catch them live, and if you live in Auckland there is absolutely no excuse for not doing so, but it is also essential to anyone who enjoys modern rock with loads of edge, passion and hooks combined with some stunning anthems.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Channeled

Channeled is ready to release the new album entitled I Heard Penelope Sing.

The new album is truly a sign of the changes that have taken place in Ben’s life. Just listen to tracks like A Conversation With You, Is That Glass? or I Can’t Quite Put My Finger On It and you will know what we are talking about here. In fact, those who heard the album before it’s release were all surprised with the direction the new music went.

The name of the album is semi-inspired by his love of people not being afraid to sing their hearts out. Music is about the experience; one best shared. It's inspiring to hear others write songs and sing them because they love it. So many of us do this in our own homes.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Channeled

Releases

I Heard Penelope Sing
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Channeled
Year: 2019
Type: Album

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