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Articles Home » 2013 Articles » Sparklands - 2013 Tomocyclus
Sparklands - 2013 Tomocyclus

ARTIST: Sparklands
ALBUM: Tomocyclus
LABEL: Avenue Of Allies
SERIAL: 13-05-0053
YEAR: 2013


LINEUP: Thomas Riekerk - lead and backing vocals * Robert `Ty' Riekerk - acoustic, electric guitars, keyboards * Simon Gitsels - synthesizers, keyboards * Minco Eggersman - drums, percussion, synthesizers, keyboards * Martijn Groeneveld - synthesizers, keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Game * 02 Skyline * 03 Joanne * 04 Oasis * 05 Shattered Dream * 06 Afterlife * 07 State of Mind * 08 The Feeling Has Gone * 09 Sparklands Instrumental * 10 Let Sparks Fly * 11 Lost in Space and Time * 12 Let It Out * 13 Open Your Eyes * 14 Tomocyclus



Surely an interesting AOR proposition from Avenue Of Allies. This Dutch outfit which is essentially the solo project from Thomas Riekerk, are to my ears far more of a genuine and purists contender for AOR than recent reviewee and labelmates The Theander Expression. Sparklands are clinical in their delivery, both modern sounding and keeping true to the ideal attributes that make up an AOR band within the context of 2013. What is not so clear is the meaning behind the album title 'Tomocyclus'. There's no real definition of the word on, however because of its Latin origins (tomo means 'a cut', cyclus possibly means 'round' or 'circular') we can then make assumptions to its reference. Maybe referring to a physical LP, CD perhaps? Something round like a cake being cut? Intrigue yes, but we'll leave it at that. Musically, I think for many of the regulars here, Sparklands have the ability to infiltrate your playlists leading up to its official release next week (Sept 20).

The Songs
None of the band members are familiar to me, but the good thing is that nearly all of them apart from singer Thomas Riekerk have listed keyboards and synthesizers in their playing arsenal. I don't think I've seen so many synths on an album lineup since the 80's! Whoa! So, with that scene set, we now know what to expect, and the opening tune 'The Game' (which you would have seen on our main page for a few week now) is an example of their hi-tech brand of AOR last seen on some of those German albums from the late 80's a la Craaft, Karo and Balanx. 'Skyline' is as archetypal AOR as it gets. The keyboard parts are velvet, a big chorus too. Sparklands don't give me any impression that they are Dutch. Their sound is very neutral. And just as I write that, 'Joanne' fuses a bit of fellow Dutchman Ralph van Manen along with a hint of Toto; the latter especially due to the song's rolling rhythm heard on songs like 'Africa' and 'Mushunga'. I really liked the emphasis and prominence given to the rhythm guitars on 'Oasis'. Keys are also close by, but this one chugs on through. 'Shattered Dream' is restrained to acoustic levels only, melody friendly, with a sing-a-long quality. 'Afterlife' is all about a poppy style of AOR, no mention of dead Egyptian Pharoahs, and a zippy keyboard solo as an after-thought! 'State Of Mind' is gorgeous stuff, very smooth and mild, like a nice bourbon going down the hatch. It always helps to have a go-to chorus; this song has it. When listening to 'The Feeling Has Gone', there was a hint of Newman in the mix. That can only b a good thing, as Steve's latest CD 'Siren' was pretty good. 'Sparklands' is a gentle and hearthelt instrumental operating on a slow shuffle beat. It reminds me of some of the stuff that Street Talk used to do. Beautiful. 'Let Sparks Fly' is a current reminder of the missing in action Heartland, and why Chris Ousey needs to get back on the horse. In the meantime, it's clear that Riekerk and Sparklands can fill the void. 'Lost In Space And Time' was one track that didn't quite appeal. Thomas' vocals on the verses was sung in a lower register. Any lower and he could've disappeared through the floor. A mid-paced tempo effort, 'Let It Out' could've benefitted from a sense of urgency, instead it is left to drift in mid-space. Only the guitar solo elevates it to a level where it should've been in the first place. Sparklands operate in dreamy mode on 'Open Your Eyes', smooth guitar melodies, layered with synth and some Rhodes as well. The title track is the finale for the album, but I'm none the wiser as the meaning behind 'Tomocyclus'. An acoustic ballad, and pleasant it is too, though the songtitle is never mentioned in the lyrics. It has a sailors/nautical theme, the mouth whistling adds a nice touch.

In Summary
All in all, this is very reasonable first attempt by these Flying Dutchmen. There is definite class within these songs. A bucketload of keyboards which always appeals to me. However, I would've liked to have heard more dynamics in the arrangements, especially some searing guitar solos, and for the whole thing to have the tempo operating at the same level as the opening track. Also, Thomas' vocals needs to be pitched up a semi-tone or two, which would've made the album a bit brighter vocally. One other thing.. at 14 tracks, this is a very long album, and as such, I had to listen to this over several sessions. Having so many tracks does not have the desired effect chaps. Keep it shorter next time, for attention sakes. As it is, the keys and synths tend to be more prominent so the whole question of balance, particularly in this genre needs to be reviewed. So at the end of the day, I'm left pondering and wondering.. what does 'Tomocyclus' mean? That is the $64,000 question..

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#1 | gdazegod on October 20 2013 12:24:45
I finally found out what 'Tomocyclus' means. Apparently it was the name of the Riekerk family boat.
#2 | jeffrey343 on September 18 2014 04:27:09
This is pretty decent, but I don't put this up there with The Theander Expression album, which got the same rating from George. I agree that the vocals don't work as well as one would like. They're OK, but Reikerk isn't singing in the same league here as the guys on the similar albums that have been highly regarded. This is a pick and choose album for me, with more than a few tunes (particularly the slower stuff) that don't do much for me.
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