Viral Discs & Downloads 2014
Virgin Records co-founder and “Tubular Bells” co-producer returns to the realm of winged creatures for a new twist on all things celestial.
Tom Newman’s credentials as Mike Oldfield’s regular soundbender are impeccable, although there’s much more entries in the veteran’s folk-flecked CV including HATFIELD And The NORTH’s richly textured debut, all of which somehow eclipses his solo oeuvre. But, after a long sabbatical on this front, Newman is back – backed by the Richard Branson-approved label he formed with Paul Brett of SAGE fame – with an album that is a sequel of sorts to 1977’s “Faerie Symphony” in terms of both mythological and musical content. Played entirely by Tom, the devil’s dozen of instrumental vignettes turns the titular entities’ serene existence on its head by burdening the heavenly host with the mortals’ lot, and such a paradoxical approach informs pieces like “Raphael’s Bicycle” whose weird situation unfolds against a rarefied, rustic backdrop, that FAIRPORTS could deliver with Terry Riley at the helm, or “The Light Brown Hen” where Gallic accordion rules the baroque game.
Strange beauty fills the air here, opener “Welcome To Angelica” combining European Renaissance and Chinese court dance, “Tuesday For Mortals” flirting in slow-motion with the harp, and “Raphael’s Sarabande” carefully hanging its crystal notes around the echoey soundscape, while “Gabriel Triste” reclines on a multi-layered web of guitar and violin strings. Twangy, if delicate, and vibrant, it perfectly befits a trouble in paradise, whereas the wondrous drone of “Michael’s Conflict” with its organ-oiled acoustic strum and the trance-like “Angel Freeway” are given a sensual percussive undertow. Yet “Knock Down Ginger” turns it into a highly cinematic experience, suspense oozing out of the faux-brass passages before the space synthesizers of “Calling The Fallen” blow a hymnal anthem, so it’s not “Dies Irae” as the quiet chime of “Lucifer’s Grief” suggests, and “Etude Du Je Ne Sais Quoi” brings the bliss to a close. The secrets aren’t revealed, then, but the thrill of it all is worth the flight skywards.