Album review: NICK FLETCHER – The Cloud Of Unknowing

NICK FLETCHER - The Cloud Of Unknowing

Rough Draft Audio [Release date 02.09.22]

Nick Fletcher’s latest album is a departure from the previously reviewed ‘Cycles Of Behaviour’  It gives free rein to his jazz rock tendencies whereas its predecessor added a bit more prog in the mix, perhaps also influenced by his work in the John Hackett Band.

Of course on that previous album, we noted that Nick’s inner Allan Holdsworth was channelled and that’s certainly the case here.  The opener lives up to its title ‘Out Of The Maelstrom’ as intense a piece of jazz rock as you are likely to encounter.  Keys are supplied throughout by Caroline Bonnett who also produced.

The album is a concept of sorts, and the focal piece is the 23 minute ‘Scenes From The Subconscious Mind’ which includes the vocal ‘The Cloud Of Unknowing Part 2′ sung by Stuart Barbour which is reprised in a slightly different form for the end song ‘The Paradox Part 1′.  There is a bit of Jeff Beck in the title track reminding me of ‘Diamond Dust’ (Blow By Blow).

To these ears Fletcher sometimes plays too many notes and doesn’t leave enough space to let the music really breathe.  This is especially important as the support (from Bonnett, Dave Bainbridge, Tim Harries and Russ Wilson) is exemplary.

The only real respite is the piece ‘Arcadia’ where Fletcher displays his other great passion, classical guitar.

My guess is that ‘The Cloud Of Unknowing’ is a home spun recording and compiled from the various musicians remotely.  Whilst this is typical of many offerings these days, and we have to live with it,  an intense piece like ‘Pandemonium’ does reveal sonic shortcomings especially in the drum department.  Maybe the hi-res 24-bit download fares better.

Fans of Nick Fletcher, including I understand the great Steve Hackett, will really appreciate this.   It’s technically proficient in the guitar department and if ‘Cycles Of Behaviour’ was “polite and predictable” Fletcher’s latest excursion is “intense and intriguing”.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

Album review (Cycles Of Behaviour, 2021)

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