Open Sky 2022
Measuring distance between lovers’ souls, British art-rock maven bridges the gap in time and space.
Pre-pandemic, living used to be eventful for Dave Bainbridge who, post-IONA, divided his time between recording and performing with STRAWBS, LIFESIGNS and Sally Minnear – and then the English multi-instrumentalist had to stop in his tracks, not only permitted to tour but also to cross the Pond and stay with his fiancée – marrying the lady later, during the laying down of “To The Far Away” – so the longing which fills the veteran’s fourth solo offering is apparent, as is its 70-minute span. Still, while other albums of such length usually suffer from fluff, there’s nothing superficial here, with not a note wasted in vain – quite the contrary: its emotional depth feels profound, nigh on unfathomable, albeit perfectly captured by Lynn Caldwell’s lyrics that, when needed, turn to Irish for a stronger phonetic impact.
Yet, of course, music is a primary force of nature on this platter, floating into focus on the sound of waves in “Sea Gazer” to see acoustic strum get charged and changed to electric lines, which slowly soar over a calm-before-the-storm hum, and gripping the listener’s heart once a vigorous vocalese and Troy Donockley’s Uilleann pipes give fresh wings to Bainbridge’s tired flight. Further on, spoken word and whistles take spellbinding folksy choirs of the organ-grounded “Girl And The Magical Sky” and heavy riffs of “Clear Skies” beyond the horizon, but beauty and anguish interweave in the instrumental “Rain And Sun” where piano ripples create a ladder for Dave’s guitar to climb higher and higher. The rise will peak on the romantica of “Ghost Light” that’s epically translucent, if persistent, in its outpouring of love via six-string strands and in its letting Sally Minnear’s voice multiply and flutter against Frank van Essen’s thunderous drums, with Jon Poole’s bass creating a springboard for Bainbridge’s ivories and fret runs towards a new dawn.
Referencing the “Victoria & Abdul” movie a few times, the album finds the softest spot of Dave’s balladry in the Iain Hornal-sung “To Gain The Ocean” and allows the piece’s pastel-hued, Celtic panorama to be channeled into the brief wordless gorgeousness of “As Night Falls” and “Fells Point” that are almost orchestral in their dynamic scope, into the viola-and-violin-lined “Infinitude (Region Of The Stars)” and, finally, into the punchy vibrancy of the platter’s titular anthem. And though synthesizers tunnel “Speed Your Journey” into progressive tropes, the symphonic uplift of “Something Astonishing” brings this record to cathartic close. Here’s “The Far Away” everyone can relate to – a wondrous part of our existence.