UK artist John Irvine and his band released the album “The Starships Are Gathering” through fledgling label Head in the Door Records back in January 2024. This is the sixth studio production by Irvine since The John Irvine Band was launched back in 2011, and it is an instrumental production.

This latest studio production by Irvine is the second album in a row that follows a science fiction based conceptual story, where the story is told in words on the album cover while the music conveys the moods and feelings explored in the story itself. Which, I guess, is a bit of a novel way to go about the art of telling a story. That this is a science fiction tale do come across rather well in the music too I should add, with the keyboards in particular having an active role in contributing with sounds that comes with associations towards matters of a futuristic and otherworldly nature.

This is an album that ebb and flow quite a bit too, with some songs revolving around a harder or firmer foundation, others have a stronger focus on more atmospheric laden landscapes, with quite a few songs also making good use of an ebb and flow approach to matters such as pace, overall sound and intensity.

While jazzrock is a description generally given to the landscapes explored by this artist and this band, it is an inviting and welcoming journey into this progressive rock tradition we are given here. The rhythm department in particular provides some nice expressive features, and Irvine’s contributions on bass, guitars and keyboards also come with a fine array of more creative and expressive instrument details. But they are delivered in a more subtle manner than what one will typically find among jazz bands and jazzrock bands, and the impression I get is that the overall mood, atmosphere and general melody of the compositions are given clear and dominant roles while the more expressive and virtuous details by and large have little bit more of a secondary and supporting role throughout. At least in some ways I’d say that this is a jazzrock album that should have a fairly good appeal also among people that normally wouldn’t find artists described in this manner to be interesting.

The mix and production is excellent throughout this album, highlighting and emphasizing the different moods and atmospheres in a well executed manner. The powerful sections are not overtly powerful, the elegant passages retains nerve and tension, and we get quite a few sections that manage to create a firm and tight sound and mood without making use of harder sounding effects or dramatic impact moments to create nerve and tension. All of which, at least for my taste in music, are positive aspects that merits praise.

Being an instrumental production and making use of traits from the jazzrock legacy may limit the overall appeal of this album somewhat, but for those who tend to enjoy material made within such a framework and find futuristic sounding landscapes to be generally interesting, this well made and elegant production by The John Irvine Band is most certainly worth lending an ear too. I do believe I have described the earlier albums I have encountered by this artist as being solid, high quality productions, and with “The Starships Are Gathering” I can confirm that this is the case also for this most recent production released under The John Irvine Band moniker.

Rating: 8/10