With gold through their eyes and bow over the bridge, intrepid virtuoso leads his squadron to celestial delights.
Illogical if often just, accusing progressive rock veterans of unwillingness to experiment as fiercely as they did in their prime is rarely productive, and David Cross‘s been too busy over the past decade to concern himself with such nonsense anyway. Although the violinist’s last solo effort did have a whiff of artificiality, rather than of artfulness, about it, his string of duo opuses – including "Cold Sky Blue" with Seán Quinn, "Another Day" with David Jackson, and of course, "Starless Starlight" with Robert Fripp which circled back to the albums that rolled out a stellar path for Cross – showed David’s still-undiminished desire to venture beyond the obvious while retaining his crimson-colored roots. Here’s, perhaps, the reason why “Ice Blue, Silver Sky” finds the English musician harnessing the ensemble force to follow 2016’s "Sign Of The Crow" by reimagining a few original cuts and a couple of classics, all woven into the record’s context now.
And the context is very much cinematic, projecting each of the players’ personalities on a wide screen where snippets of dialogue pepper and intersperse various dramatic scenes, song-shaped yet instrumentally unpredictable, albeit exquisite throughout – beginning from the opening thunderpeal of “Nurse Insane” which lets out effects-laden a cappella harmonies and riff-prodded heavy metal assault, to the final fadeout of the symphonic “Starless” which gave this platter its title and turned into an expansive epic by Cross’ current collective. As Mick Paul’s bass and Steve Roberts’ drums drive the leader’s passages and singer Jinian Wilde’s guitar figures to delirium, resisting their attack and not getting arrested by their verve become a futile exercise, and when the warbler’s flute and voice form the delicate vibe of the reggae-tinged, momentum-accumulating “Calamity” and the sprawling, slowly burning “Exiles” – the latter, acoustically transmogrified from initial chamber intent into a cosmic rave, not only a prominent part "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" that made David a star but also a titular number of his friends-infested offering of yore – strands of disturbed bliss wrap around the listener’s psyche ever so tight.
And then there are two fresh pieces: the majestic “Nowhere” and the histrionic “Karma Gain” which marry effervescent pop agenda to unhinged flights of soul-sprinkled fantasy – both facilitated by the aforementioned Jackson’s sax and whistle – before the folksy “Over Your Shoulder” sees David and Mick revisit their "Closer Than Skin" fervor from the perspective of older gentlemen who look at the world’s affairs under a different angle. It’s a captivating panorama – best observed from the sky, indeed, because, in the “as above, so below” formula, it’s heavenly and earthly at the same time… in other words, it’s timeless.