Malabar Coast is a unique work of epic proportions and startling originality from English newcomer Nick Franks. A concept album loosely based on Joseph Conrad's classic adventure novel Lord Jim, the six sections follow the main events of the story, while summoning forth the emotional currents and soul-searching intensity experienced by Conrad's hero. Franks uses massed synthesizers to draw the listener into a world steaming with high drama, grand adventure and passion. Crashing chords, breathy drones, chiming sequencers, discordant synthesizer punctuations, vocal fragments and pizzicato strings are driven along on half the pieces by the high-powered drumming of Nick's brother Tim. Tablas are also used to good effect on a couple of cuts: adding to the full-throttle seafaring bravado of the opening track, "Lord Jim," and lending an additional touch of exotica to the tropical ambience of "Patusan/Jewel." On "Treachery" ominous percussive keyboard effects provide a setting for some raging electric guitar -- played by guest-musician Peter Gallagher in the wild safari style pioneered by Adrian Belew -- while Tim's drums crash and thunder with a liberating ferocity. Malabar Coast simply does not work as background music; it demands your full attention and leaves you breathless from its sheer emotional force and daring incandescent originality.