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(50:34, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. A Promise Worth Making 6:02 2. The River Lethe 4:02 3. Heaven in Your Eyes 4:13 4. Ombres 4:28 5. Life in the Shadows 5:40 6. The Twilight Beckons Me 5:17 7. The Fall of Uqbar 4:40 8. Angel Eyes Part 1 3:31 9. The Young Man and the Mirror 5:30 10. The Last Night 2:34 11. The Breeze, the Ocean, the Rain 4:37 LINEUP: Rick Miller – vocals; keyboards; bass Kane Miller – violin; guitars Barry Haggarty – guitars Will – drums Sarah Young – flute Mateusz Swoboda – cello
Prolusion. Canadian artist, composer and musician Rick MILLER has been releasing music since the 80's, but started recording his particular brand of progressive rock in 2003. "In the Shadows" is his sixth art rock excursion to date, and was issued by the Russian label MALS Records in early 2011.
Analysis. Rick Miller is one of a number of artists who have explored a narrow but popular corner of the art rock universe extensively: the dark, brooding and melancholic landscapes Pink Floyd visited on their gentler late-70's musical journeys. A common denominator for music made with that approach is an emphasis on accessible melodies, subtly contrasting instrumental motifs and a general focus on moods and atmospheres. Initially "In the Shadows" appears to be a direct continuation of this sound, style and approach. A few compositions make this disc reveal itself as a creation of a slightly different manner. While the mournful, emotional crying guitar soloing appears occasionally as a reminder of this, the contrasting motifs and brooding atmospheres of Miller's past excursions evaporate pretty soon this time around, replaced by music arguably even more accessible in scope: gentle, unobtrusive and timeless ballads. Dampened wandering acoustic guitar motifs are the foundation of choice, although the piano gets to shine on occasion too. Fragile vocals and soft spoken lyrics are another key element, while flute, violin and cello make occasional visits to supplement the main arrangement with careful details. The flute more often than not is played in a manner that evokes associations towards folk music, and slowly, in wavelike motions, a dampened symphonic backdrop as a frequent backdrop. Music that brings to mind the more accessible of the pioneers of progressive rock, bands and artists for which the term pop art first was used back in the 60's: Where challenging features and hard-to-perform instrumental details are pushed aside for subtle harmonic pleasures of the more beautiful kind. It's a type of music more difficult to master than one may think, and where the main challenge is to avoid compositions coming to a standstill. Nerve and momentum are difficult to maintain, and often with a need to craft singular and strong moods to maintain a level of interest. To me the end result on this occasion is generally good; a few weaker excursions as I regard it, but also a few that manage to make an impression beyond the nice and pleasant. The most intriguing of the latter is The Fall of Uobar, where dampened rhythms, flute and violin bring some Arabian-inspired motifs to the front, the exotic sounds being a perfect match for this kind of music.
Conclusion. "In the Shadows" is arguably Rick Miller's most accessible album to date, featuring compositions of a straight-forward and ballad-oriented nature, with gentle symphonic backdrops and fragile instrumental details as essential building blocks. Not an album for those who have a need for challenging escapades, but those who have a taste for timeless and beautiful music inspired by the earliest pioneers of symphonic progressive rock should find this disc to be a charming acquaintance, especially those fond of smooth, melodic and most of all gentle music.
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