Cascading piano rolls and recorded voice invoking the whole universe, violin strains sweetly layered across this. So begins this delightful album and opening track The Philomath, when suddenly just under two minutes in, a prog-rock burst erupts and then settles into electronic scratches/pulses and percussive other. The voice later speaks of cosmic evolution, but I am more enamoured by the musical evolution within the song, an eclecticism that will pervade the whole album with a rich sense of connectivity where one might expect it to be disjointed – the jazz sax and rhythms that interject in this track seemingly quite a natural progression, the piano rolls tying it all together.
SHUT THAT GOD-DAMNED THING OFF! is part of the next song’s story rather than any urge to the music, a line from Bukowski’s fine poem The Soldier, His Wife and the Bum, and I am more comfortable with spoken word poetry within instrumental surrounds than any other, but that is simple preference. This song The Vagrant is another excellent amalgam of the beautiful with piano and violin [acoustic and synthesised] and the raucous crescendo that ironically follows the third verse,
anyhow, I never went to another live concert
and that night I listened to the radio very
quietly, my ear pressed to the
At this song’s end there is a sudden sax flurry that immediately segues into next Halley’s Comet, echoes of Van der Graaf, and the poem intoned here is HC by Stanley Kunitz, a poem of childhood terror and yearning for a missing father. The next Isostasy – which is of course the equilibrium that exists between parts of the earth’s crust, which behaves as if it consists of blocks floating on the underlying mantle, rising if material [such as an ice cap] is removed and sinking if material is deposited - and the music here is again eclectic, though the violin sweeps fill rousingly.
Composer and performer Sam Morgan has drawn together his musical soundscapes and external poetry/narratives that are ultimately quite beautiful in their merging, those spacerock/progrock/jazz/classical injections allowing the contrasts to establish their creative edge so that it isn’t just some picturesque, ambient surround. Sixth track Papuan Prayer embeds its chant movingly, and this adds a further eclecticism to the mix.
Other contributors to the album are Grace Marsell, Carl Segan and Richard Feynman, and other poems used are: John Betjeman’s lush Youth and Age on Beaulieu River, Adrian Henri’s Death in the Suburbs, and Jean Binta Breeze’s Earth Cries so that a sense of place with its importance, both as physical reality and memories evoked, become a core theme to the album’s preoccupation.
This album can be – and is encouraged to be – downloaded for free here. I paid a fiver because that seems only fair, though having said this it is still a ridiculous bargain for such a fine album. I’ll post a YouTube video next if you want a taste, but I definitely recommend a download and a rewarding listen.