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Elegant Simplicity (UK) - 1998 - "Purity and Despair" ("Proximity")


*****+

1.  When Darkness Falls 13:50
2.  The Quantum of Solace 14:12
3.  Tranquility and Drift 19:40
4.  Aching Desire 12:00
5.  Purity and Despair 7:48

Total playing time: 67 min

Steven McCabe - guitars & keyboards; flute; mandolin
Peter Douglas - drums/percussion
Gilbert Ross - bass

As for me, this is (a) very pleasant discovery, because all I've read earlier about this band-project (now I know it!), does correspond to reality far not always (seems to mirror reality). Steven McCabe (bandleader, composer, lyricist, producer, engineer, owner of (with) his own label "Proximity", etc,etc) describes his own (delete this word) creation as "Underground Melodic Progressive Rock". I agree with him absolutely, and I would add the word "Original" (read "chief key" review on Ozrics' "Strangeitudes"). However, in Steven's discography you will find works with a compositional potential that is more than simply "Melodic Progressive Rock".

The album.

1. Opening track When Darkness Falls contains all "the main" ingredients, which are necessary to create conceptual all-instrumental masterpiece of Classic (Symphonic) Art Rock. To be honest, on the whole, music here is not dark or gloomy. Among the varied themes light and life-assserting moods play the prominent role. style! During these 14 minutes of playing I have found about 10 different themes, not counting the arrangements. Lots of beautiful melodies, quite complex "construction" of musical structures. Excellent bright keyboard, guitar and flute solos. The Darkness has fallen into the brightness of very impressive and... really light performance...

2. The Quantum of Solace structurally is a big step forward from the forms of the first track. It contains much more themes, which are extremely varied. Fast keyboard based pieces consist mainly of quite virtuostic speedy synthesizer solos. For the first time I hear excellent passages of classical acoustic guitar, not counting several original electric guitar solos. The rhythm-section is a bit monotonous (as always here) -- for this kind of music. These complex, varied and powerful structures we hear on Quantum really need the help of masters with the technical level of Bruford/Levin, as an example.

3. Tranquility and Drift is not such powerful composition as the previous one, but as for the number of varied themes and arrangements, there are lots of them on this track again. Epic dramatic pieces first begin with speedy episodes with fast and virtuostic electric and acoustic (!) guitar solos, then shift to more quiet, "philosophic" realm with some wonderful piano solos, lots of magic flute and "mysterious" synthesizer arrangements. The only composition, where rhythm-section works quite interesting. Lots of diverse percussives.. Nearer to the end several nice interplays between flute and acoustic guitar add to the overall sound's crown a few real progressive gems. Hypnotic and simultaneosly very beautiful music The most varied and profound composition on the album. Many really philosophic musical ideas.

4. Aching Desire begins very gently with a few accessible yet really unique piano chords; the following theme is more rhythmical. As well as in all other compositions, music is full of light sorrow. The basic mood of the theme support by exceptionally original interplays between riffing and soloing electric guitars. Some solos are simply incredibly virtuostic, some arrangements of this powerful theme are really fantastic. The next moving is piano/flute/guitar gentle interplays, supported by original synthesizer "flashes". The basic theme is in constant development, and often we hear very unexpected arrangements instead of "pragmatic".

5. Purity and Despire in the beginning sounds like the music from the "old" 70s, however the further development has returned this impression to the typical 90s' realm with modern synthesizers and powerful guitar chords. Basic Rock theme periodically turns to more quiet spaces with flute as prominent instrument, though, on the whole, this composition is the most powerful and "rockish". Extremely virtuostic organ, synthesizer and flute solos over all composition creates a unique atmosphere of constant musical development. Purity and Despire quite unexpectedly is completed with nice short flute/piano (only) interplay.

Summary. "The Snow Goose Part Two", no less. Though, of course, there are absolutely no compositional parallels between both these works. "Purity and Despair" is an incredibly original album, full of bright innovations in arrangement. However, stylistically this is the work of all-instrumental Classic Symphonic Art Rock, and Steve McCabe's album has impressed me more than any others I have heard in this genre since the 23 years standing "The Snow Goose" by Camel. Highly recommended for all the lovers of moderately complex epic instrumental symphonic Rock. And of course, all of those who love "The Snow Goose" will love "Purity and Despair" immediately after they listened to it and... for ever.

VM. December 20, 1999


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