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(42:01, 'It’s Twilight Time')
TRACK LIST: 1. Jaunt to Dreamland 3:16 2. Water Pumps from Cloudland 4:08 3. Soothing Stars 4:11 4. Evelyn’s Glen 4:04 5. Oblivion’s Poppied Slope 4:48 6. Pictures of Delight 4:27 7. Audrey 4:53 8. Bell Weather 4:21 9. Venus for Everyone 4:26 10. Apparently 3:27 LINEUP: John Orsi – drums, percussion; keyboards; vocals Karen Orsi – guitars Manny Silva – guitars Mike Marando – guitars
Prolusion. KNITTING BY TWILIGHT (KBT from now on) is a music-and-art collective formed in 1994 by musicians/composers John Orsi (an extremely accomplished percussionist and the only constant member of the outfit) and Michael Watson. Over the years, the project has expanded and come to feature a number of guest musicians, notably guitarists Manny Silva and Mike Marando. “An Evening out of Town” is Knitting By Twilight’s fourth release on the independent label It’s Twilight Time, based in Providence, Rhode Island (USA) – incidentally, the home town of great horror writer HP Lovecraft.
Analysis. Unlike so many other recent releases, “An Evening out of Town” is only 42 minutes long – which, especially given the kind of music it showcases, is the perfect running time, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the music without any need for extra padding. The 10 tracks, all around the 4-minute mark, give the impression of being pieces of a larger musical mosaic, though at the same time each of them can stand on its own. Depending on the listener, the music can come across as monotonous or else as haunting and mysterious, something to be enjoyed at the close of the day, that twilight hour mentioned in the band’s name. The very titles are suggestive of peace, quiet and sleep, though I would refrain from calling KBT’s music soporific. Some of the more structured tracks on the album can be vaguely reminiscent of Ozric Tentacles, though not as rambling, or even of Dead Can Dance or David Sylvian’s solo output – sophisticated, evocative mood music with some exotic, world-music spicing. Other tracks, however, are decidedly on the sparse, experimental side and may therefore not be everyone’s cup of tea – especially as regards those who like their music to have some ‘bite’ and have no time or patience for subtleties. As John Orsi has been the only constant presence since the project’s inception, it is not surprising to find out that he plays most of the instruments on the album. The majority of the tracks are a veritable aural feast for lovers of every kind of percussion, while the three other musicians provide some intriguing guitar effects (such as Karen Orsi’s ‘sleepy bird’s guitar’ on Bell Weather). Interestingly, most of the tracks seem to have a sort of multilayered structure in which one instrument is pushed to the forefront, while the others (generally the keyboards) provide a steady background, and the occasional vocals (in the shape of chants or whispers) seem to float to the surface from a great distance. Water Pumps from Cloudland, a strongly percussive offering that reminded me of Dead Can Dance’s later albums, is the only track that features a brief snippet of actual singing. While the first three tracks, with their ethnic drum patterns and regular, almost repetitive structure, are undoubtedly the most ‘conventional’, the tone of the album becomes increasingly more experimental and atmospheric, culminating with such tracks as Oblivion’s Poppied Slope - a loosely structured, free-form percussive jaunt held together by droning synths – the haunting, keyboard-led Audrey, and the aforementioned Bell Weather, a gorgeous, peaceful piece oddly reminiscent of the sound of wind chimes. Keyboards are mainly used to create spacey soundscapes over which John Orsi’s impressive array of percussion is left free to emote – much in the way of Pink Floyd circa “A Saucerful of Secrets”, though they occasionally take centre stage, as in the case of Venus for Everyone, the last ‘official’ track, whose middle section may bring to mind the likes of Vangelis. Now, on the basis of this review, it would be easy to dismiss “An Evening Out of Town” as a slightly more upscale version of new-age/ambient music, meant to be unobtrusive and fade into the background – and indeed this is the impression it can leave at first listening. However, this is an album that needs to be actually listened to in order to appreciate its many nuances and moods, as well as the top-notch performances of all the musicians involved.
Conclusion. A beautiful album, full of light and shade and shifting, dreamlike atmospheres, “An Evening Out of Town” is highly recommended to everyone with an interest in contemporary classical/chamber music, as well as to lovers of electronic/ambient and world music - while devotees of the more ‘conventional’ forms of prog might find it somewhat heavy going. In any case, more adventurous, open-minded prog fans will find this album a rewarding listening experience.
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