Chris Gill and Katrina Gill 2020
When contemporary alchemies replace the unexplained, British seer looks back at tradition and casts it into the future.
Despite its name implying collective effort, Chris Gill has kept his ensemble’s setup minimal for almost two decades, yet the scope of “Petrichor” demanded the idiom to be expanded. So, by incorporating a couple of art-rock veterans into the band’s ranks to elevate his vision and, thus, allowing them more creative agency than any guest cameo could, the artist refreshed its sonic outlook as to introduce a new dimension to the formula which may bear unpredictable fruit now. Not for nothing the album’s title means the pleasant scent emanating from dry ground after the first rain, and not for nothing Gill is raising a vibrant question on the record’s titular cut: “How cruel are these days, to strip me of my senses?” Here, sensuality will serve as a self-defense against life’s adversities, with immensely deep melodies a remedy for sadness in times like ours.
It’s also a sort of homecoming for Chris whose aural travels have finally led him back to English folk – steeped in prog presently- so though the electronica-tinctured flight of “Larkspur” could be a hypnotically pulsating vestige of 2019’s “Svengali” where Gill harnessed Eastern patterns, and instrumental “Tupelo” takes its harmonic rumble to a western screening, “Daughter Of The Moor” dips the listener into the grey, if utterly arresting, wonder of rural panorama. As Matthew Corry’s cautiously impassioned vocals are spurred by Jon Camp’s roaring bass, Robert Webb’s ivories add exotic weave to the mantra, but the leader’s liquid licks break the beguiling tick-tock that’s propelling this composition towards, in the writer’s words, copacetic infinity to chase away any traces of apathy and paves the way to the record’s deliberately understated grand finale.
Only imploring “Begin, begin, begin to see the end” and arranging the solemn space doesn’t prevent the first piece from offering a larger vista, letting the slo-mo playfulness of “The Craft” in and revealing the ensemble’s melodic magic in full. As a result, the sub-aquatic sway of “Merlin” – flowing from glimmering guitar wails to gargantuan riffs to romantic strum – is simply irresistible, and the dramatic decay of “Witchfinder” draws one in to stun most delicately, with voice trailing off and effervescent interplay unfurling another mesmeric tapestry. That’s the finely embroidered cloth the album’s rain-washed title track was made of – sprawling from the ancient past into the cosmic future, while synthesizers meander between acoustic chords and traditional motifs turn electric.
Immensely impressive, “Petrichor” brings on a multilayered rapture which is open to interpretation – giving a fresh meaning with each spin. A delightfully enigmatic masterpiece.