Worrying about the world, British trio wear a burning heart on their sleeve but the band are in danger of losing their identity.
There’s been no half-measures for Mike Hyder in the last decade, the singer’s expansive turmoil reflected in his collective’s "Audio Verite / Deceptive Blends" from 2009 and a solo venture "Wood & Steel" which arrived ten years later, yet while those efforts thrived on duality without drawing a definitive dividing line between their two discs, “Global Warning / The Good Earth” ostensibly consists of two self-contained albums. Joined by subject and structure – a series of suites interspersed with instrumental snippets and musique concrète to signpost turns in the mood – albeit drastically different in their all-encompassing approach, the short but epic latter may be much more personal and the hour-long former more general, each is is treatise on what’s going on around us.
Always partial to an inside joke – their previous discs’ labels reminded of Atlantic, and these ones are based on Harvest to stress the albums’ progressive nature – the trio might have taken it to the limit now by quoting, in both arrangements and tunes, quite a few rock classics, such as the ever-ominous “Stormbringer” and “The Needle And The Damage Done” whereas the references to “Space Oddity” and “Flowers In The Rain” are subtler. Still, the neurotic shadows of “Kashmir” in “Fate Of Nations” and ghosts of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” in “Winter’s End” immensely intensify the musicians’ message, and there’s always a twist which makes the narrative truly original. Bookended with a deep drone to create an ambience and immerse the listener in spiritual existence, the first album embraces elements – earth, water, fire and air – that are prone to pollution and destruction, yet it shares a seasons theme with the second record, stitching Hammond-helped heavy wigouts and ethereal, elegiac ballads into a concept tapestry.
For all the abstract intent on offer, the contagious assault of “This Heat” is irresistible and the enchanting psychedelia of “For The Birds” will be impossible to shake off, although it’s the acoustic lace of the brief “Bare Trees” that hits really hard, providing a delicate contrast to the raucous “The Animal’s Right” and building a link to “Spring’s Beginning” whose multidimensional wobble feels mesmeric before raga motifs drive “Summer’s Joy” to the edge of drama. With David Hart’s woodwind and Dom Lash’s keyboards wrapping it all in memorable orchestrations on the folk-tinctured likes of “In The Clouds” and Hyder’s guitar painting the stately vista of “Autumn’s Reflection” in blue, the 100-odd minutes of music which were laid down sporadically over 13 years display many colors – all of them pale, because an individual’s joie de vivre can’t save the planet and restore natural wonders, yet it can plant and nurture hope.
“On good days you reap the comfort of the seeds you sowed”: here’s a line to nicely summarize this album. As an homage to players’ heroes, it works beautifully; as a work in its own right, it’s as difficult a puzzle as it gets – yet it’s enjoyable, albeit sad, anyway.