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(53 min, Proximity)
TRACK LIST: 1. Daylight Pain 6:34 2. In Passing 17:22 3. Illuminated Heartbeat 9:19 4. Nowhere Left to Run 20:19 LINEUP: Steven McCabe - guitars, bass; keyboards Christopher Knight - drums With: Stephen Lyons - narration (4)
Prolusion. ELEGANT SIMPLICITY (ES hereinafter) is one of the most prolific bands on the contemporary Prog scene in the UK. The outfit's history dates from 1991, and during the succeeding fourteen years they launched 18 full-length studio albums, most of them being remarkable. Released some three months ago, "Nowhere Left to Run" is their brand new CD.
Analysis. As you can gather from the track list and the lineup above, this 53+-minute recording consists of four instrumental compositions, two of which, Daylight Pain and Illuminated Heartbeat are moderately long, and the other two, In Passing and the title track, are each a kind of sidelong epic. The shorter creations have much in common between them, displaying the trademark ES sound - still strikingly original and instantly recognizable, yet with a slightly larger amount of 'spacey' textures that can be found on the band's previous outing, "Studies in Heartbreak". Perhaps unintentionally, but nevertheless, during the last few years the group have little by little absorbed symphonic Space Rock emanations, which have been so harmoniously assimilated into their original Art-Rock substance that the changes were barely audible until now. Well, now their music seems to have shaped an outline that is equally representative of both genres. Besides, another principal component of their style, progressive Hard Rock, has undergone some further transformations too, more and more often reminding me now of Space Metal. No, I haven't deviated from my comment on the shorter tracks - I've just disclosed their stylistic essence (meaning in the previous two sentences). Regardless of their many changes in direction, mood and tempo, both Daylight Pain and Illuminated Heartbeat retain their intensity and dynamism almost throughout, as well as a fine balance between melody and eclecticism. Some returns to a previously plowed furrow can be found on each, but since these include only some of the most memorable themes, they sound unobtrusive, for the most part totally justifying themselves. Eloy's "Time to Turn" could have served as a relative point of comparison if that album had featured such a skilled and resourceful guitar player as Steven McCabe. The compositional conception that Steven sets out in the first of the two monstrously long pieces, In Passing, strikes me for its imposing grandness and unique expression. This is a genuine suite with a highly polymorphous architecture and is in every respect the most diverse and compelling work here, abundant in dynamic transitions. On the stylistic level, there are all the aforesaid genres plus quasi Jazz-Fusion, the music most often appearing as one complex conglomerate of those ingredients. Besides, there are numerous composed and improvised acoustic guitar solos, all being mind-blowing both in design and delivery, particularly those related to Jazz-Fusion. The emotional palette varies in mood, now being dramatically strained or even pronouncedly dark, now uplifting, and so on, a feature typical of the entire work. All in all, In Passing is a brilliant, very exciting thing, even though one of its episodes sounds very much like Pink Floyd. However, the resemblance disappears like a morning mist in the air as soon as Steven switches over 'from' fluid to rapid solos. The title track is also notable for a very wide use of acoustic guitar, but its overall construction is different from that of the other epic. During the first eleven minutes, the music is reminiscent of that on the shorter pieces, but while its development is somewhat unhurried, compared to those two, there are still enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. Most of the tune's second half is reflective symphonic Space Rock with the keyboards, acoustic guitar and bass finding themselves in an endless interaction with each other, at times to the powerful drums.
Conclusion. With this their new CD, "Nowhere Left to Run", ES have once again just proven that they're not only one of the most prolific English bands, but also one of the most creatively dedicated ones, always looking for something new in their work. If Symphonic Prog-meets-Space Rock is part of your musical horizon, but you are still unacquainted with ES, it's the time to do just that.
VM: November 3, 2006
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