Curved Air Records [Release date 04.11.16] 2-CD
Volume 2 of a continuing series bring together a “then and now” of one of our treasured prog/psych bands. The first disc accommodates 1990s recordings with Francis Monkman on guitar and which evolved out of impromptu jams with drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa, Mike Gore (guitar) and Rob Martin (bass).
‘Curved Space’ is strong on echoplex, repeated passages, and ambient noodling. At times, evoking a nihilistic games soundtrack, (‘Baghdad Café’) at other times background music in a health spa (‘Sea Of Tranquility’). An insight to unbridled musicianship, certainly, but the untamed and unstructured nature – and not least the variety of moods created – is both a blessing and a curse. Only on the 14 minute ‘Rose’ does the conceit really come alive with Monkman’s infectious synth rhythm loop underpinning a distorted guitar wig-out.
If you’ve ever seen current Curved Air live you will be impressed with their musicianship and an album without Sonja Kristina may therefore tempt the taste buds.
The main difference on the second disc – ‘Infinity’ – is that Kirby Gregory put his guitar parts down to a backing track supplied by his fellow band-mates Robert Norton and Pilkington-Miksa so it’s not exactly spontaneous although done in one take. The feel, therefore, is organic and not over-played.
With no clear direction but only their own good taste and judgment as a marker, the overall flavour is fusion but at times the motifs reflect their prog peers Focus (‘Elevation’) or Peter Bardens (‘Labryrinth’) whilst on ‘Expansions’ the keyboard textures evoke Lonnie Liston-Smith. And ‘Aphelion’ evokes memories of the long jam featuring Peter Banks and Jan Akkerman on the former’s 1973 solo album.
This all begs the question. What if other bands stepped away from Pro-Tools and let their creativity run rampant? It would be as refreshing as it would be revealing. ***
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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