“Empty Circles and Grains of Sand” is a single release from an upcoming debut EP from British progressive rock artist Dominic Sanderson. Recorded and mixed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanderson contributes an impressive level of musicianship similar to that of Steven Wilson in this track which includes him performing every instrument, writing and arranging the entire piece.
This nearly 13 minute epic starts off slow and sweet with gentle synth layers and drones. An atmosphere of dreariness is established, giving a sense of mystery. Just before the two minute mark, a confident and bold electric guitar pierces into the song in a style similar to that of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour or even Steve Rothery of Marillion. Shortly after, a bass synthesizer and a riser leads us into the next part of the song, where the action begins.
Drums, electric bass, and rhythm guitar enter the song which builds tension and excitement that segues right into lead synth and guitar lines that are bursting with originality and musical flavour. Sandersons guitar playing lacks no skill in providing the lead melodic element that never fails to capture attention. A rhythmically synchronized passage carries the listener into yet another contrasting and captivating section.
Acoustic guitar, vocals and mellotron-like synths greatly define this section three in a fashion reminiscent of Steven Wilson and King Crimson. Added vocal harmonies add yet another layer of depth into the music, even musically referencing the likes of Gentle Giant on the line “make your choice, make it now”. The repetitive acoustic guitar motif and dramatic lyrics provide a strong foundation that builds momentum to yet another change to the songs form. Drums and bass blast back into the action along with another verse of lyrics sung by interesting and thoughtful melodies. All instruments soon drop out except synthesizer, harking back to the song’s introduction, indicating more variation in form, dynamics, and harmony. Polyphonic vocal melodies singing songs title distinctly along with the full gamut of instruments previously heard, and as a result, a dense texture of instruments and melodies is carefully created. A syncopated bass line marks the start of yet another section change.
Progressively layers are added in a canon style, then climaxing dynamically with an explosive organ line another with harmonized guitar and bass motifs harkening the steller and air-tight musicianship of that similar to King Crimson; more impressively, every part is written and played by Sanderson alone! After a series of complex synchronized melodic and rhythmic lines, the song’s intensity recedes into soft and contemplative mellotron and keyboard melodies. The piercing electric guitar, as heard earlier in the beginning of the track, boldly returns along with the title lyric harmonies, thus ending the song in a satisfying and full circle nature. The song concludes with the haunting repetition of the line “empty circles and grains of sand”, leaving the listener in shock at the utter brilliance of a carefully written and arranged epic composed by one sole individual.
All in all, Sanderson provides a well crafted progressive rock epic that goes through leaps and bounds, leaving any admirer of prog well satisfied and hopefully a long time fan. For his first ever solo release, Dom excellently asserts his musical excellence and versatility, beginning his recorded music career with such strong momentum to which I can’t wait to see what he produces next.
Written by Nik MacDonald
You can listen to Dominic’s music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud at: