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Tracklist: 1. Time to Breath 6:06 2. Stars On the Water 5:47 3. A Crack In the Ice 17:58 4. Architect of Light 16:39 5. Capillary Attraction 23:55 All music & lyrics: by S. McCabe. Arrangements: by S. McCabe. Line-up: Steven McCabe - electric, acoustic, & bass guitars; piano, Hammond, Mellotron, synthesizers; flute (+ electric mandolin - on track 3) Christopher Knight - drums Ken Senior - vocals Guest musicians: Emily Jackson - contrabassoon (on 5) Joseph Dawson - violin (on 3) Produced, engineered, & mastered: by S. McCabe at "Propinquilty" studios, UK, - from 12.10.2001 to 24.02.2002.
Prologue. The 'progressive' activity of Steven McCabe is truly amazing. It's a real phenomenon on today's scene of the genre. His band (vehicle, to be precise), Elegant Simplicity, is the only contemporary progressive outfit, the creation of which is wonderfully stable - by all means. The band was formed in 1991and, since then, it released fourteen studio albums, any of which is of a good quality, at least. Furthermore, beginning with the second half of the 1990s, the creation of Elegant Simplicity is marked with only excellent albums and masterpieces. By the way, there are neither compilations nor even collections of 'rare and unreleased tracks' in the band's discography.
The Album. So, "Architect of Light" is the fourteenth album by Elegant Simplicity. Certainly, the music that is presented here is distinctly original which is typical for Steven McCabe, who is the only mastermind behind the band. In that way, all the comparisons that I am going to use in this review can be regarded as only relative, not comparative (i.e. commensurable). All five of the tracks of this 70-minute album are, on the whole, of a unified stylistic concept, which represents nothing else but a true, hard-edged and intriguing, Classic Symphonic Art-Rock (of a new millennium, I'd say). To be precise, these five tracks differ from each other only in the quantity of vocals that are featured on them. There are tiny vocal episodes in the very beginning of Time to Breath (track 1) and in the very end of Capillary Attraction (5). Both of them, though, are separated from the real beginning of the album's opening track and the end of its closing track by pauses. So in fact, both of the said tracks are the instrumental pieces. All three of the remaining tracks, Stars On the Water, A Crack In the Ice, and Architect of Light (2, 3, & 4), are songs, the lyrics of which are linked among themselves by the united conception representing a view on the divine intent that is present in everyone's life. (In other words, "Architect of Light" is in every respect a concept album.) Ken Senior's vocals on this album are very warm and, often, touching. However, the vocal parts cover no more than one fifth of the length of each of the long songs on the album, A Crack In the Ice and Architect of Life, and about one third of Stars On the Water. This, kind of a compressed, vocal style is really my cup of tea. It doesn't contain any refrains, repeats, etc, and all the words that had to be sung are inseparable of the compact and, at the same time, complete and integral lyrics. Well, it's time to describe the instrumental arrangements of this album. First, it should already be obvious that here, they're more than merely large-scaled. Having listened and reviewed the first pre-production version of this album, which consisted only of three incomplete tracks, I could guess that compositionally, "Architect of Light" should be the most complex and interesting album by Elegant Simplicity. However, I didn't expect that this album would show how broad and: just great are Steven McCabe's real capabilities as the multi-instrumentalist. There are only a few of the 'guest' solos of violin on A Crack In the Ice (3) and contrabassoon on Capillary Attraction (5). In other words, Steven McCabe alone performed almost all of the instrumental parts of the album. Of course, I didn't forget Christopher Knight's excellent, diverse and intricate drumming throughout the album. However, everyone knows what are the soloing instruments, the parts of which form the basic structures of any musical work. Steven looks like an amazingly virtuosi and tasteful multi-instrumentalist on "Architect of Light". I'd even say that presently, Steven alone combines within himself the mastery of such experienced and established musicians as the keyboard player Erik Norlander (of Rocket Scientists), guitarist Jim Matheos (of Fates Warning), bassist John Jowitt (of IQ), and flautist Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull). Can you imagine the joint performance of these musical acrobats, done mostly up-tempo and in the vein of the "Thick As a Brick" album (Jethro Tull, 1972), for example? If so, then you have a general idea what most of the instrumental arrangements, featured on "Architect of Light", are about. Only Stars On the Water (3) has, overall, more or less quiet textures where there are not as many of the unexpected convulsions and outbursts as on each of the other tracks on the album. This composition, in its turn, combines within itself the grand monumentality of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and the intricate fluidity of Eloy's "Silent Cries & Mighty Echoes". Finally, I'd like to remind you that I look at all of these comparisons through a prism of Elegant Simplicity's distinct originality.
Summary. In my honest opinion, "Architect of Light" is the band's best album to date. Really, only a few hours ago I was sure that last year's "Palindrome" is Elegant Simplicity's hour of triumph, a peak that the band won't be able to reach once again. Fortunately, it turned out to be that the creative development of Steven McCabe is truly continuous which is a very rare case today. Although it should be clear for anyone that Elegant Simplicity is one of the best Symphonic Rock bands of contemporary Progressive Music movement, it remains one of the most underrated bands of that genre. It seems that the Classic Art Rock Society, the headquarters of which is located in English, just advisedly ignores the power of Elegant Simplicity. Otherwise, its annual publications of the Symphonic Art-Rock bands, albums, and musicians, awarded "the best", would not have looked that monotonous from year to year.
VM. July 5, 2002
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