Gull 1974 / Esoteric 2018
Out of this world, retrofuturistic fairy tale from British band who mapped out a make-believe of highest caliber to briefly inhabit it and fade away.
It seemed to be a strange ensemble from an onlooker’s point of view, a duo of magnificent abilities, the architects of edifices so brittle they felt liable to fall and evaporate – only they didn’t. SEVENTH WAVE emerged on the art-rock scene in a quantum leap from SECOND HAND, because keyboard player Ken Elliott and drummer Kieran O’Connor had come a long way from psychedelia of “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” to arrive at this point. The pair’s new group aimed at dazzling the listener through meticulousness rather than weirdness; that’s why incredible attention to sonic detail applied to the album is rivaled by its intricate cover which could be pored over for hours on the old vinyl – yet the recording sounds like the retro-styled LP was beamed from the future.
Caught in such a timewarp and remaining fresh, “Things To Come” can’t cease to amaze from the beginning, once a lucidly reflective, steel-and-glass fragility of “Sky Scraper” has unfolded into a multitude of ivory-laden layers where piano strokes stitch together majestic sheets of orchestral opulence. The more startling in this setting is the almost grotesque, high-pitched choir introduced in “Metropolis” to paint a city’s hectic, carnival-like wonder whose folk tincture, vivacious vibes and thunderous effects create a celebratory atmosphere which will find even more symphonic realization in “Festival” with its percussive variety and depth. But for all the falsetto fun on offer, “Eversolightly” – an explicitly operetta piece – appears to be deadly serious, balancing drama with euphoria, as does the brief and brisk title track.
It should come as no surprise that there’s rock ‘n’ roll blended into the backdrop, especially after “Fail To See” melded rhythm-and-blues vocals with baroque instrumental discipline in quite an exquisite, if ultimately hilarious, way. Still, the sci-fi bossa nova behind “Communication Skyways” is as exciting as any cinematic chase, a quote from “The Star-Spangled Banner” locating the overall picture in our world, before “1999 ½” takes Fellini’s sort of surrealism to optimistic flight back in the U.S.S.R. – as signaled by familiar beat and engines’ roar. “Smog, Fog And Sunset” may try and emulate a string quartet of a cosmic stripe, yet “Intercity Water Rat” and “Escalator” are a distillation of purely artificial sounds and solemn organ which amount to much more than simple contextual vignettes, leading up to a jubilant polyphony “Old Dog Song” – a somewhat spaced-out hymn to the very mundane matter of love.
So while”Premonition” – which was supposed to lend the album its title until an H. G. Wells phrase justified the time-travel concept and allowed the duo to make “Dance Of The Eloi” the record’s rapturous finale – taps into abstract dynamics to fathom alternative dimensions, the entire album is deliciously precise. Perhaps, those things are bound to come any day soon, so it’s best to have a map ready.