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(62:28, ‘Glowing Sky Records’)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Voyage 2:14 2. The Sunstone 5:31 3. The Siren's Spell 4:17 4. The Storm 4:50 5. A Hundred Years On 8:04 6. Sun Mad 6:58 7. Digging Up the Past 5:45 8. The Quake 5:42 9. Gaze 7:42 10. Endgame 4:07 11. Back to the Sea 7:18 LINEUP: Anonymous – vocals; guitars, mandolin, bass; keyboards, percussion With: Michael Wilk – Hammond C. Francis – vocals Ann Caren – vocals Kurt Fowler – cello Davis Brooks – violin, viola Plus: Principal Orchestra (featuring 9 chamber musicians) &: Several additional chamber musicians
Prolusion. The US project THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE first appeared back in 2009, the creative vehicle of a composer and musician who stays anonymous from the very beginning of his activity in this field of art. He does, however, state on his website that he has more than 30 years of experience in music and has numerous awards to his name, including more than 20 Ascap awards! "The Sunstone" is the fifth studio album by the project, and was released through ‘its’ own label Glowing Sky Records.
Analysis. If anything is easy to presume following an inspection of this album, then it is that The Psychedelic Ensemble’s main man does have some experience in the creation and performance of classical academic music. Orchestral arrangements and progressive rock aren't all that unusual companions, but the manner in which these have been blended together here showcases the strengths of a composer well aware of both forms and actually writing the music with the orchestral score in mind. We're treated to a liberal array of sequences with orchestral details on a lesser or greater scale supplementing the progressive rock backbone here, but also more or less standalone orchestral features seguing over to a blend of both or over to more purebred progressive rock oriented passages. The music is beautiful, impressive, carefully composed and flawlessly executed. While the orchestral arrangements are a defining trait of this production it isn't a dominant one however, as it is the blend and the standalone progressive rock-oriented parts that are firmly in the limelight. But this detail is one that does elevate the listener experience quite a bit, and thus merits a mention. Otherwise this is a rock solid specimen of symphonic progressive rock. The atmospheric parts that are slightly reminiscent of Camel and a couple of dips into territories closer to Jethro Tull are two deviations from the norm, which are well developed compositions, mainly alternating between elegant, gliding movements and harder, more dramatic sections where keyboards, organ and guitar take turns in delivering dominant, dramatic and what appears to be fairly technically challenging escapades. Calm lead vocals by a male and a female lead vocalist add depth to the story told, and both are natural presences thriving in these landscapes. For further variation a touch of jazz-fusion appears here and there too, mainly by way of drums and piano. I guess one could describe plenty of details on this album, at length, but personally I really see no reason for that. Those who fancy an album of symphonic progressive rock with close ties to classical symphonic music don't get too many productions aimed towards them, and this album will be an automatic one to check by those who aren't already aware of it. A solid album through and through, and a CD I'd describe as timeless in mood, spirit and atmosphere.
Conclusion. High quality symphonic progressive rock with a quality inclusion of orchestral classical music is what The Psychedelic Ensemble provides us with on "The Sunstone". That this is a conceptual creation can perhaps be regarded as a bonus feature. Those who love and cherish this style of music, executed in high quality on all levels, can safely regard this album as one to place on the list of CDs that merit a check, to say the least. All the albums by this anonymous genius, released under the moniker of The Psychedelic Ensemble, take high positions in our personal yearly progressive rock charts (choose years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015 to see them there).
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 22, 2016
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