Prog rock prime movers have their improvs pasted onto fresh canvas to cross over from the past to the future.
When, in August 2010, former CRIMSON violinist and ex-YES guitarist commanded their strings to go where fantasy beckoned, the veterans envisioned a few-hours foray into freedom, and recording an album didn’t loom on the David Cross and Peter Banks’ agenda. That’s why it took about a decade to finish “Crossover” – with Cross and his co-producer Tony Lowe honoring the memory of Banks and asking the various members of both bands to help flesh out the skeletal sketches – and turn them into instrumental tour de force.
The result is rather otherworldly, as signaled by “Laughing Strange” that coils and unravels in delicate spasms allowing the players to try on various sonic grimaces and let the listener lap up, alternately, wet dream and dry humor – only to be straightened once the fluctuating strands of the classically tinctured title track descended towards darkness. Still, whisked into view with a rustle of Jeremy Stacey’s cymbals, “Rock To A Hard Place” rolls on a riff sharp enough to shred stereo panorama to tasty slices whose tunefulness has a folk flavor that Geoff Downes‘ ivories elevate above the vestiges of funk which Banks was very fond of before Cross’ filigree frills reveal an almost unbearable poignancy for cosmic effects to take away and bring back in exotically transparent form.
It’s also a perfect vehicle for “Upshift” to begin a spaced-out drift and see Tony Kaye’s Hammond anchor this flight, while Oliver Wakeman‘s Moog and piano pour vibrancy into the solemn soaring, and if David’s aural paintings add suspense to the vista opening in “The Smile Frequency” where rhythm can never remain constant, Peter’s fingers navigate an adventurous course in “The Work Within” where rags of raga are flaunted among chirps and chimes. They set the scene for “Missing Time” and inform the celestial flow with a concept feel that may not have been part of original design, yet there’s a dynamic which is difficult to resist, even though “Plasma Drive” seems intangible until Pat Mastelotto’s synthetic drums propel this elegy to the edge of hard rock – referencing the record’s starting point.
Predictably experimental but unexpectedly easy on the ear, “Crossover” has a lot of thrills tightly woven into its fabric, of which more and more details will be displayed with every new spin.