Blue Gentian 2018
Perfumed pop from Massachusetts ensemble who rein in ambition in favor of ambience that reigns supreme to embrace grace.
The lushness of scope has been an indelible attribute of BAT’s decade-long existence, but a certain level of intimacy was out of the trio’s grasp – until now. This album is perfectly introspective to be able to achieve exactly that, as Alan Williams’ music and the arrangements his fellow conspirators, bassist Greg Porter and guitarist Darleen Wilson, plus friends, swathe it in create an alluring aural aroma and bring on a sense, or scent, of quiet awe. Still, being awestruck would not the be the feeling to get from “Signs And Wonders” because nuances are what makes it irresistible.
There’s a tenderly insistent strum propelling “Waterfall” – which, placed at the record’s start, seems to reflect a singer-songwriter state of soul – to deceptive idyll, yet the album doesn’t take long to transform pastel painting into bright piñata and soar on six-string wings towards duskier skies. It will plant orchestra-enhanced specters in the listener’s mind along the way that will come back in “My Ghost” – an eerily rippling serenade to romantic alien in one’s psyche – only worry doesn’t really belong here, and “Arms Around Me” is as mellifluously anxious and soothing, in equal measure, as only a dark reverie can be.
Sometimes these songs sound as though an nth generation of a shoegazing lot suddenly, if slowly, lifted their heads and encountered the beauty of the world. Such a discovery may result in disenchantment, which is why the slumber-like glimmer of “The Logical Song” – previously boisterous tune turned into acoustic ballad and seasoned with sparse strings to be merged with “Within You, Without You” – projects not a joke; just the smile of a man reminiscing about simpler times. Perhaps, it’s one of the countenances which lighten the gloom in “Smiles Of A Summer Night” and stumble rather energetically through dynamically shifting, brass-splashed Latino-tinctured landscape.
But first “All Sadness To Come” has to offer a bittersweet caress, suggesting tragedy yet avoiding tears, while tentative bossa nova that underscores the title track blooms into something much, much larger, classically inspired and wrapping Williams’ voice in a soft rumble – a driving force of “Wont Let It Go” whose Morricone-esque twang must deliver a genuine adventure. And whereas “Extraordinary” should be a serene epitome of the entire album, a translucent walk of “Kehena Shuffle” proposes playful jazz interlude before full-on symphonic waves elevate “Study In Blue” to a true drama. As for nuances, they become even more on the accompanying Blu-ray… if there’s a need for abundance of charms. “Signs And Wonders” is a precious milestone.