Veteran players alchemically marry rock, classical and avant-garde tropes to create hymns to a season of exquisite sadness.
It’s been a long time since David Cross and Andrew Keeling first recorded and toured together, and it turns out 2009’s “English Sun” wasn’t to become their only album: that opus’ summery mist is flowing into the fall mystery of the duo’s sophomore effort – started around the time of their debut and brought to fruition more than a decade later. Defined as “electric chamber music” and reaching far beyond pastorales such characteristic may suggest, the passages and images offered by “October Is Marigold” seem much more vigorous than your typical new-age, although a few numbers on display aren’t devoid of ethereality.
There’s a “Marigold” theme running, with wondrous variations, across the record, hanging on Keeling’s fragile piano chords and expanding the soundscape through Cross’ elastic strings that fathom the bottom end of autumnal despair by probing the all possible vectors his bow can point to, while other pieces explore elegy from different melodic angles. If the album’s multifaceted titular epic evokes the mesmeric Bartókesque freedom the former performer delved into previously to let the latter artist pour Mellotron magic into it, the musique concrète of “Kingfisher” finds Andrew’s flute in a forest habitat contrasting the urban wail of David’s violin and morphing its drift into a folksy tune. But if “Strong As A Mountain Lion” thrives on arresting abstractness, allowing KING CRIMSON aficionados to recall the fiddler’s golden days, “Ever Nearer” lets reeds lead the listener towards guilty pleasures of the Far East, with guitar riffs as a behind-the-scenes guide.
Once there, “The Spiking Darts That Were Trees” feels as though Satie dreamed of being Bach and delivered his “Gymnopédies” on church organ, with stained-glass-shattering solemnity, and then sent a series of spacey vibes via this vitrage – otherworldly yet tangible – until the flight of the bumblebee blows cosmic cobwebs away. However, the album’s funereal finale “The Dark Edge Of Desire and Marigold 4” takes strum to another extreme and weaves psychedelic tragedy out of processed strings to open fantastic pastures to everyone wishing to get lost in the realm of falling leaves and withering colors. Escapism is rarely so alluring in its aural aspect.