World End 2019
Not so little night music from British quartet who want the quiet to linger on.
Nowadays, when prog rock artists are prone to pretending that stasis is haste, it’s gratifying to see an ensemble embracing a certain time to make a moment last – and turn this moment into momentum. The time in question, as suggests the title of “Nocturne” – a third outing of this Caledonia-to-Cornwall group – is the night time, which, of course, is the right time, even though there’s the recommendation to “listen to the album in the dark, and preferably alone” because sharing something so deliciously intimate, if quietly grandiose, doesn’t come easy, and attention to detail may be too precious to lose. And details in such an aural spectacular are aplenty, from the beginning to the fall of finale.
Starting the record off, “As Darkness Falls” – theatrical, rather than cinematic, yet never artificial – cuts the silence with a sinister guitar riff whose tone is softened once fretless bass notes are scattered underneath, so when organ and drums pad out this heavy roll, there’s no return from what’s frightening and welcoming at the same time, in a fugue way. It would take the orchestral wave to ebb away before Ally Carter’s six strings mingle with synthesizers, and the more intricate penumbra is revealed, whence a piano-led pastorale of a three-part “Moonlight” should emerge to unfold a pale tapestry of dramatic, demonic raptures which must be haunted by the ghosts of Beethoven and Bach.
But the presence of sax and Tree Stewart’s deliberately deadpan delivery gives “In The Dead Of The Night” a romantic gravity, David Greenaway and Tom Jackson’s groove grounding the piece’s dirge-like, jazzy flight only to elevate its somewhat humorous horror. Still, the genuine splendor is concealed in the depth of “The Child Within” where vocals are sweetly solemn, and instruments measure the sparse despair, this nightmarish dread any listener experienced at some point of their life. Which is why the 20-minute span of this epic doesn’t seem encompassing enough to feel the full filigree of the ensemble’s interplay, especially when the foursome start to rock on both cosmic and down-to-earth levels, to round off “Nocturne” with a sense of awe and render the album as wondrous as only a near-masterpiece can be.