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The Neil Campbell Collective - 2008 - "Particle Theory"

(42:08, ‘Neil Campbell’)



1.  Particle Theory-I 7:44 
2.  More Particles 4:58 
3.  Aria 3:42
4.  517 3:13
5.  The Line 7:58
6.  The List 3:21
7.  Angels & Aeroplanes 4:14 
8.  Particle Theory-II 6:52


Neil Campbell – guitars; pianos, synthesizers
Nicole Collarbone – cello 
Mark Brocklesby – drums
Dan Owens – bass
Stan Ambrose – Celtic harp (5, 8)
Jeff Jepson – vocals (1, 5, 7)
Anne Taft – soprano (7, 8)
Alex Welford – horn (1)

Prolusion. THE NEIL CAMPBELL COLLECTIVE is an English band, hailing from the rock music capital of the planet, Liverpool, the native town of The Beatles. Released last February, “Particle Theory” is a successor to their debut CD “3 O'clock Sky” from three years ago.

Analysis. Although the collective announces in the press that the “Particle Theory” is marked with a totally different, much more experimental, approach compared to its predecessor, personally I would only partly agree with this assertion. In my view, what the band covers here is fairly much the same terrain explored on “3 O'clock Sky”, offering us more fine and melodically pronounced material, that is to say a crossover between true progressive rock and intelligent pop music with a certain acoustic as well as some chamber quality to it, which, though, this time around is often joined by elements of classical Minimalist music, those being indeed new to their sound. “Elements” mean there are a variation of flacky sonic patterns to be found on most of the seven tracks here, yet none such as, say, the genuinely multi-layered ones that typify the work of Terry Riley (who pioneered the genre in the early ‘60s and brought it to perfection on his milestone creation “In C” in 1964), which is a virtue in the end, indicating that the ensemble doesn’t follow strictly in the genius’ footsteps: far from it. Please take note of this remark and don’t pay much attention to any other reference points you’ll ever meet with in this writing, since all those are also implicit, the level of this act’s identity being noticeably higher than that of most of their homeland's progressive rock contemporaries. Of the five tracks that best of all suit the above definition, Particle Theory-I, Particle Theory-II, Aria, 517 and The Line, the first two can at times be fairly heavy, while the others are often ‘airy’ instead, but nevertheless all are filled with a distinct sense of drama and are generally built up in a similar manner, overall representing a well-balanced mix of electric and acoustic fabrics. The more dynamic moves are followed by more gentle ones, often with only piano, classical guitar, cello and cymbals in the arrangement, and so on, displaying quite a simple, yet very effective, approach that works well throughout each of the pieces. As for the shades of distinction between the compositions, the one with the number of 517 as its title stands out for several Flamenco-stylized acoustic guitar leads; The Line contains some real singing, Particle Theory-I and Particle Theory-II (which take the opposite positions in the track list) both have vocalizations in places, while Aria is the richest in atmospherically-transparent textures. The disc opener, however, is somewhat more repetitive than the others, and the horn player (see lineup above on wish) could have been more inventive there and elaborated some improvisations instead of delivering brief chords – in unison with guitar and bass riffs, exclusively. But then the final piece features quite a few different thematic as well as soloing lines and is the winner to a progressive mind. All in all, this is accessible, yet elegant, warm, deeply beautiful and tasty music, somewhat reminiscent of the instrumental pieces by The Alan Parsons Project and Camel (from the first half of the ‘80s in both cases) with bits of classic Renaissance and early Electric Light Orchestra. Unlike most of those, however, these compositions reveal all their essence gradually and not all at once, and what at first hearing may come across as mere background will later on turn out into inventive minimalist layers, the short piece The List, which combines cello and synthesizer passages with, well, something of a clearly textural nature, being probably the best place to start to comprehend the matter. Angels & Aeroplanes is a mellow, yet fairly mesmerizing, ballad with a couple of instrumental chamber-like intermezzos. In the final analysis, only the second track, More Particles, is useless, since it’s made up predominantly of monotonous synthesizer drones and pointless effects. The band apparently added it so as to have a full-length CD, but the result is bad: the makeweight actually breaks up the integrity of the recording’s compositionally-stylistic palette.

Conclusion. This release is recommended to those who find my reviews to be trustworthy and like the idea that runs all through this particular one. Only omit the last-named piece when listening to this disc.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 3, 2008
The Rating Room

Related Links:

The Neil Campbell Collective


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