Issue 2019-007: Chandelier InterReview
In the late 1980s, not a lot was going on in the world of Prog in Germany. But out of nothing there was Chandelier who made quite an impression in our little world. A cassette album and three self-released CDs later, the story was already over. Now Polish label GAD Records has re-released their first two CDs and the cassette album as a bonus CD, and is preparing a re-release of the last album as well. We found original bass player Christian Tiber (or Rombach, which is his real name) willing to answer some questions, the results of which you can read below, which is an introduction to the lengthy reviews of the first two re-issues.
Interview with Christopher Rombach
The first time I learnt of Chandelier was through a tape sent to me by a friend in Germany. He made a copy of the Fragments tape and I fell in love with the sound and melodies right away. When the band's first album, Pure, was released the music sounded less symphonic or progressive, but still very interesting. When around the time of their second album, Facing Gravity, the band was to play on a festival in Holland, I finally got to see the band live. I managed to see the band live a couple of times, and I have fond memories.
Hello Christopher, thank you very much for doing this interview. I've told you about how I came to know your music. I think it was about time the albums not only became available again, but the Fragments tape would be released properly as well, and the whole oevre would get some more attention.
Christopher Tiber or Rombach? Why did you change your name?
Tiber was just a pseudonym I used for Chandelier.
Who was involved in these remasters? On whose initiative was this?
The initiative came from Polish label GAD Records, who contacted us and asked if we'd be interested in doing reissues, since our CDs had been out of print for a long time. So Udo Lang (the guitar player) and I took on the task to delve into the archives and find whatever music, photos, etc. we could find to make these reissues worthwile.
Who are still in contact with each other? Who is still active in music?
We are all in touch with each other, just not on a very regular basis.
Udo has a small home studio where he is constantly working on music. He released a solo CD in 2009 (called No Effect and featuring Martin guesting on vocals) and since has been uploading music to various channels like Youtube (check out Udo Lang's Youtube channel) and Bandcamp.
Herry Rubarth has been playing and recording with a band called Elleven (check out the Elleven website and Bandcamp page) but they broke up just recently. Actually, Thomas Jarzina and Stephan Scholz from the Timecode line-up founded Elleven, but left before Herry joined that band.
Thomas continues to play in bands (check the Extrig info page on Backstage.pro). They disbanded in 2018, though.
I am not sure what Stephan Scholz is up to, currently.
I sometimes play with friends in cover bands etc. but haven't done any "serious" bands since Chandelier. Just like Martin, I am still an avid fan of music in general, buying records, going to concerts etc.
As a bit of a collector/completist I am so glad all tracks (and even one more than on the original release) of Fragments are used as bonus tracks. How did you decide what material to use for bonus tracks? Will Call For Life (the four-track demo recorded in 1989, more info on Bandcamp) be re-released as well?
We wanted to present Fragments as a complete album, the way it was originally released in 1988. And then we discovered one more song (Paralyzed) on the original master tapes from the same sessions. I think it was left off the album because it wouldn't fit on a C60 casette. The keyboard intro which you might remember from the song Itai on Fragments, actually belonged to Paralyzed, so now we re-edited it the way it should have been anyway.
To squeeze the songs from the Call For Life demo onto that same bonus CD just didn't seem right. It was recorded with a different line-up and with a different intention. Whereas Fragments was really supposed to be a casette album in the tradition of Seven Stories Into Eight (IQ) or Smiling At Grief (Twelfth Night), Call For Life was just a promo tape to get us gigs or a record deal.
Maybe one or two songs of Call For Life might end up on Lost And Found, the bonus CD for Timecode, we're not sure yet. It depends whether or not we will have other, more interesting material for that bonus CD. We found quite a few forgotten gems on old tapes and will now see if Eroc, our remastering engineer, can breathe back some life into these old tapes. Or I might end up uploading them on the Chandelier Blog, where I intend to put much of the stuff that doesn't make it on the CDs.
What role do you think did Chandelier play, in hindsight, considering the state of prog at the time and in Germany?
Because we were probably the first 'indie prog band' in Germany to put out a CD - and because there weren't that many bands around anyway - we quickly had a reputation for being the vanguards of that scene, "the German answer to Marillion" or whatever. But of course there were other bands, like Everon, PRWL, and many more doing their own very successful thing. And musically speaking, Chandelier was more an epigonial band - being heavily incluenced by Genesis, IQ, Marillion etc. - than an innovative band that in turn would musically influence other bands. So I guess if we had any impact at all, it was more to show other amateur bands that they could actually start their own thing, record CDs etc. and find a small but dedicated audience for it.
How do you look back at your time with Chandelier?
I look back at that period mostly with gratitude and nostalgia. Having the chance to create music with a bunch of like-minded guys, even record CDs and even more play in places like Paris or the Tivoli in Utrecht, that's pretty cool for a small band from a small place like Neuss, Germany. Now there are things that we probably should have done differently in retrospect - e.g. the song selection and booklet for our debut CD Pure were rather flawed and could easily have been much better - but all in all I'm quite happy with how things turned out.
Thank you very much for your time and information, Christian!
Thank you for your interest in the band - even 25 years after Tilburg!
Introduction To Reviews
Every so often I dig out something I haven’t listened to in ages. I settle down and get the imaginary needle spinning and relive those precious moments stored in the time. Knowing the music by heart it easily finds a way into my system, fills me with pleasure and makes me giggle inside, replenishing me to take on another adventure. I’d like to think we all have these records harvesting the same result internally. To my unexpected surprise, my ever-tickled progressive ears can relax, take a discovery break, and soothingly rest in the progressive cheerfulness of Chandelier with the recently issued delightful re-releases in the form of Pure and Facing Gravity. All made possible thanks to Chicadisk, a department of GAD Records from Poland, specializing in rediscovering the long forgotten entrancing sounds of yore, and one glance at their website might whet your appetite as well.
Completely remastered by Eroc (of Grobschnitt fame) both albums contain the original CD and each a remarkable bonus CD. The liner notes, in English and Polish, expand about the recordings and circumstances of the albums and give a lovely insight into the development of the band and their music.
With Timecode, the band's third and final album, being up for release later in 2019, this proves to be a lovely testimony in time and a welcome addition to any neo prog enthusiast. It’s also a perfect opportunity to fill in the blanks on DPRP, so without further ado, let’s Start It!
Chandelier - Pure
CD 2 (Fragments): Stone Age (6:12), The Ultimate Song (3:39), Stay (4:23), Three Falcons (6:09), The Power Of Bluff (4:23), Dedication (2:59), Lies In Paradise (7:09), Glimpse Of Home (15:46), Paralyzed (5:53), Itai (4:45)
It’s around 1986 and neo-progressive rock is in full bloom in Holland and subsequently Germany, both being their first or secondary home to many of bands in the genre. Growing up right in the middle of all of this still fills my heart with a great affection for neo-prog from those days of old. But situations changed when lots of English prog bands seized to be or fall into hard times by losing contracts or vocalists. With Grobschnitt throwing in the towel, responsible for one of my Desert Island discs in the form of Sonnentanz, neo-prog in Germany even dims to a smoulder. In those dark days there is however a light shimmering and straight out of the blue Chandelier release their iconic neo progressive album Pure, forging a new path for lots of German progressive bands to shine.
Once introduced to Chandelier through a friend in approximately 1990 I instantly fell in love with the album. It effectively made me grin from ear to ear with its sheer joy, spontaneity and comforting style of music which, looking back, ticked so many, if not all of my boxes at the time. I never gave it any thought as to what caused my affection to the album but 29 years later it is quite obvious. It beholds everything that made the 80s so beguiling. It still does and more!
The self-thought meagre production aside, Martin Eden immediately stands out for having his own charismatic voice which positions himself firmly between Peter Nicholls and Fish, setting him apart instantly. Together with a tight rhythm section in the form of Christopher Tiber on bass and Heriberth Rubarth on drums it’s the interaction between Tobias Budnowski (keyboards) and Udo Lang (guitars) colouring an immaculate blend of neo-progressiveness spurred by tantalizing melodies and melancholy moments topped off by excellent compositions.
Although Chandelier never intended to go the neo progressive way, the reasons why they were easily administered in this field are obvious. Stellar Attraction, one of the proggier tracks on the album immediately oozes IQ, fed by the demanding bass and use of keys. The up tempo parts are filled with lovely melodic guitars and vigorous keys, the exact same feeling I regularly get when listening to Egdon Heath. Not overcomplicated but thoroughly playful, with lots of detail on piano and arrangements, this poppy, somewhat AOR-styled track has a certain charm about it.
After The Day is whipped up by a firm beat on bass, once again accentuated by keyboards, and a driving rhythm giving a glimpse of Saga, especially at the break in the middle. Stay, a slow ballad should get Marillion fans up and running for this could easily have been on Fugazi with Lang stepping right into the footsteps of Steve Rothery. Jericha, my personal favorite, surpasses with an even more emotive solo still giving me goosebumps nowadays. Pure, featuring Christine Frenz on flute, is the fittingly odd one out happily reminiscent of the purest of touches of medieval folklore.
The instrumental Winterpause equals the poppy era of Grobschnitt with lots of sparkling keyboards, rhythm-guitars and smooth funky bass driven by rock whereas Cat’s Worst Grave revisits IQ and Marillion. Dictator, an up tempo rock song in vain of Saga and The Ultimate Song a nice poppy track follow, after which the album finishes on a high point with an unctuous ballad Call For Life. With each musician carefully holding back and caressing their instrument it’s the expressive, melancholic vocals of Eden in combination with light-hearted touches by Lang that provide inner peace and rest.
Through a very welcome mastering by Eroc, the album sounds surprisingly fresh and sparkling in comparison to the first version of 1990.
If not fully convinced of replacing your old worn out CD, then the bonus in the form of Fragments must.
Originally self-released on cassette in 1988, it features a slightly different line-up with Stefan K. Listier on keyboards, in 1990 to be replaced by Budnowski. Being a self-produced cassette album, the sound quality differs on several tracks and the production is sometimes flat, thin and light-weight. Thankfully though, Eroc managed to apply his magic so it all sounds nice and glistening as much as possible. Vocals by Eden, although close to what he delivers on Pure still had to gain some expressiveness, but besides that it’s a testimony of a remarkable young aspiring band writing uncomplicated catchy songs with a heavy emphasis on the keyboards, pleasantly distorted guitars and refined neo-progressiveness, with interplay between the keys and guitars already showing promise.
The six "new" tracks (the ones not re-recorded for Pure or Facing Gravity) range as to be expected from influences by Marillion and Saga with the sound of distorted guitars resembling that of Battlement by Neuschwanstein. In a way, the similarities with Genesis in atmosphere, and the sound of Opus One by Opus Est are probably more accurate descriptions. Primal forms of Itai and Glimpse Of Home, both re-recorded for Facing Gravity several years later, excellently show the birth and growth spurt of Chandelier in years to come. Paralyzed, omitted from the original tape adds an unexpected gem. The only little downside is the absence of the original artwork. Be sure to check out the website where this can be downloaded, and more! Looking back now it’s no wonder I liked it a lot then, and still do today. Highly recommended, even though the best was yet to come.
Chandelier - Facing Gravity
CD 2 (Live In Paris 1993): Start It (5:34), All My Ways (5:16), Safe (7:10), Stellar Attraction (5:37), Wash & Go (7:24), Pure (2:14), A Glimpse Of Jericha (12:52), After The Day (3:53), Half Winter… (2:16), …Half Fool (2:53), This Circling World (4:46), Cuckoo (7:46), Dictator (4:04), Mbah (5:57)
The success of Pure gave Chandelier a chance to spread their wings and travel across countries like Poland, France, Holland and the UK, be it with concerts or exposure in acknowledged progressive magazines. With the money invested on their debut album regained, they bought better gear, more expensive instruments and even hired a road crew. Circling in this prog world also meant acquainting friendships with like-minded contemporaries like Aragon, Collage and other neo-progressive rock bands, hence establishing them as front runners of German neo-prog.
The alteration of amateurs becoming semi-professionals undeniably shows on their second album Facing Gravity. Production is greatly improved adding much more layers, power and depth to the songs. Having grown from a musicians point of view they also sound more mature and confident, aided by more complex and tighter songs. Still held firmly by the same rhythm section as featured on Pure, there are plenty of small detectable upgrades. Martin Eden’s vocals sound evidently more confident exploring his range, and keyboards / guitars are in perfect balance, harmoniously adding touches of refinement to each track with brief glimpses of brilliance.
Older references like Saga and Egdon Heath become significantly less apparent and the Marillion influences of old start to shift towards a more mature Genesis / IQ atmosphere. Most intriguing ear-opening difference is Lang changing his style of playing on several occasions thereby creating a sound resembling that of Alex Lifeson (Rush) as he did on Grace Under Pressure. This maturation effectively created a whole different playing field for them, which they explored assuredly.
Start It starts of in the best Chandelier tradition with a catchy up tempo rocking vibrant rhythm and is a direct continuation of the more keyboard-oriented pop executed on Pure. The panache and strength is compelling and immediately sets the mood for the album; happiness and fun. Being Grobschnitt fans themselves obviously shows here, resulting in the overall atmosphere of the song being one of strength and comfort, fueling you from the inside in. No surprise this used to be their opening song at concerts.
Cuckoo starts of slowly with intricate neo-prog reminiscent of IQ, but once in full swing is a treat of sublime catchy prog. Imminent traces of Rush glide by, fully satisfying, and the more complex rhythmic changes on keys work deliciously with Lang’s technical display. Itai, one of their earliest tracks, can now (compared to the demo on Fragments) easily be described as having been nurtured to maximum extent, aging lovely. An almost mysterious atmosphere slowly builds up with delicate touches of haunting guitar, ultimately ending in a crescendo of epic proportions.
Safe is the rather not so safe ballad showing the growth in confidence of each member just perfectly. Very moving, this is the perfect accompaniment for a candlelight dinner with someone dear to you, cuddling close together. Just let the spine-chilling guitars and becalming music do its work, feeding you both shivering quivers and successfully drenching you into blissful intimacy.
A Glimpse Of Home has had the exact same warm nurturing as Itai received and has now fully bloomed, giving off juicy flows of sumptuous nectar. This epic track easily stands the test of time with gracious progressive rock in Optima Forma. Lots of twist and turns, sophisticated rhythms and complex underlying themes occur, glued together by highly emotive vocals and remarkable inventive breaks on both drums and profound bass. The orchestral middle section, reminiscent of Egdon Heath, flows seamlessly into beautiful delicate mid-seventies Grobschnitt and ends with Lang, already on top form, closing the song with luscious solos.
No time to recover, for we fly straight into poppy prog once again with All My Ways, guested by Toni Moff Mollo (Grobschnitt) on vocals. A short and sweet catchy song with obvious references. Whenever Toni was present he joined in at concerts. This Circling World has the same drive and poppy approach, but there the buck stops. I can’t help it but have to conclude this is a hybrid form of Chandelier and Rush which I adore and really stands out to me. Wash & Go continuously flows in best Genesis tradition and is highlighted by a Firth Of Fifth-styled, Hackett-like guitar solo selling Germany right on the Mark. Enchanted we are left dwelling to reflect on the acoustic and mesmerizing sounds of Autumn, an intricate and caressing end to an outstanding neo-progressive footprint.
Accompanying this re-release is a secondary disc with a live registration recorded at Club “143”, in Paris, France on the 24th of April 1993. With a solid and strong set-list it is clear that at that particular moment in time Chandelier where at the top of their game. Luckily some of these precious moments are finally shown light of day. Never intended for an official release, the sound quality is still very good, mainly through the effect of Eroc and his mastering skills. With his wizardry he can probably turn shabby basements into concert halls.
The instruments can be heard individually and the overall sound and atmosphere feel authentic. The balance as to which instrument is on the foreground sometimes alternates but closing your eyes puts you right in the middle of reliving a Chandelier concert, a pleasure I have had for three times, and once on this same tour. Oh, happy days! Especially nice is the fact that each musician is perfectly capable in recreating a sound and mood close to the original albums with a veracious delivery. The inclusion of the then unreleased Half Winter..., ...Half Fool and Mbah makes this a wonderful addition to any neo-prog collection.
One last dwindling thought on this heart-warming, miraculously fulfilling re-release, is whether something might stir up one day because of this. Who knows? Stranger things have happened recently with the resurrection of illustrious names from the UK like Multi-Story, Liaison, and Tamarisk, just to name a few. Maybe Germany is next again? Perchance to dream...