Virgin 1990 / Esoteric 2017
Large-scale yet intimate tapestry where classical thinking embraces progressive tendencies.
Even though it’s strange to refer to this artist as a former guitarist for the band he helped form four decades ago, it’s also impossible to underestimate that ensemble’s role in Anthony Phillips‘ genesis as a composer: if anything, they exposed his limitations as a musician Ant always wanted to be – and eventually, after solid study and practice, became. “Slow Dance” can be considered a pinnacle of Phillips’ odyssey, because the two-suite has every strand the veteran had been adding to his creative DNA on the way there, from rock-tinctured strum and synthesized soundscapes to symphonic passages. By using wind instruments and strings to sculpt a peculiar, epic perspective of unhurried movement, the Englishman landed on a masterpiece that’s mesmerizing in its scope which, paradoxically, never feels too grand – given the perpetual flux of melodies and moods.
With ebb and flow, wobbling waves wash over watercolor vista which would elusively spring to another dimension – a DVD in this deluxe edition takes the picture to a full surround – while the different parts’ dynamics keep a focus on the piece’s development. Its romantic glimmer getting dense to reveal a proper, percussion-driven dance, there are flickering shadows of “Swan Lake” and “Ommadawn” yet these are nothing more than, again, reference points for aficionados who delve too deep into the sometimes nebulous delight and are afraid to surface. Still, the flamenco swirl of a “No Way Out” fragment is where cinematic spirituality kicks in and leads all the themes towards a solemn finale that could amount to a voiceless oratorio if only the drift didn’t get dissolved in the initial aquarelle.
Entranced by the beauty of it, the awestruck listener may miss many a detail this multi-layered tapestry consists of, so, enhancing an aural outlook, Disc 2 – “Slow Dance Vignettes” – highlights the suite’s various sections by separating them from the whole and bringing most remarkable elements, in remixed form, to the fore. What with Phillips’ valiant attempt to compress the album into a single, which didn’t pan out due to the label’s stance but was realized for a greater impact, here’s an impressive singling out of the strokes that would be woven in the record’s fabric, albeit more pop-oriented numbers such as “A Slower Dance” or a demo for “Touch Me Deeply” add previously unseen touches to the entire experience.
More so, this experience is fluctuating all the time, and every new spin of “Slow Dance” displays new reflections of what seemingly wasn’t there before. It’s a neverending wonder, a creation for all seasons to be bewitched.