Cherry Red 2016
Observing rainbow in peripheral vision, art-rock veterans uncover voiceless spectrum.
Not CURVED AIR per se, these two albums, bundled together as a second installment of the band’s "Rarities" series, can be seen as Alpha and Omega of the their method. Fusion has always been a major part of it, but the players’ classical influences and Sonja Kristina’s vocal front used to overshadow jazz leanings of instrumentalists that came to the fore during two jam sessions which distill the band’s crystalline sonics in their initial and current states.
Both anchored by Florian Pilkington-Miksa’s drums, first set was laid down in 1991 and partially released before now, and the second is a 2016 one. Original members Francis Monkman and Rob Martin are behind the sharper focus of the former, and Kirby Gregory and Robert Norton shape nebulae on the latter, their link creating a curious continuity of what’s never destined to become a song. If “Playin’ Away” seems to lift a veil off the game, there’s actual movement in this piece’s ivories-toned undercurrent, whereas “Celestial Dance” is intangibly static in the flow and ebb of Norton’s keyboards. Dramatic “Free Tibet” may seem logical in its anger, but the recent “Elevation” is where the same blues foundation gets romantic flourishes and a pinch of reggae for good measure.
The flamenco cosmos of “Sol Y Sombra” is overwhelming on a deeper emotional level, and while Monkman’s spaced-out riffs drive “Towards Tomorrow” into a heavy hope, “Towards Infinity” dissolves a heated rhythmic crusade of Eastern-patterned melodic flurries in a carousel of cold shards. They conceptually feed into “Labyrinth” – full of progressively unexpected twists and turns, and alluringly glacial – that’s as irresistible as “Rose” is in its funky rave, yet “Aphelion” is a slow exploration of the genre’s bottom end, and “Megalith” a magnificent attempt to harness a Moog power to shift the mood on to glory.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how many of these cuts could inform CURVED AIR catalogue, although they’re just as beguiling on their own.