Magical Thinker 2017

Higher and higher, prog-pop purveyors turn routine into a journey of a lifetime.


Skyscraper Souls

“Can we escape our own mind games?”: this question from the title track of Geoff Downes and Chris Braide’s third joint venture is a key to it. With a power of three in motion, Roger Dean’s artwork may send a wrong message when one’s about to assess the album’s progressive qualities, but it’s also quite right on many a level. As the duo’s landscapes are propelled from the somewhat static "Pictures Of You" to the memory-lane-scaling "Suburban Ghosts" and beyond, another dimension is opening to the artists’ world. An entire 3D-panorama they’re aiming for will arrive in time, though, yet the linearity of DBA’s concepts took on an image of a train as a vehicle for observations, and it makes sense that the songs here feature fellow passengers who add colorful details to the rich melodies emanating from the main men’s minds.

It’s all about rising – if not to the challenge set by the duo’s first efforts, then to the point of no return, which is why erstwhile specters appear so full of life on the stately “Prelude” and come out triumphant on “Finale” – having explored the listener’s psyche along the way. Getting there requires a dip into the fusion-tinctured, multi-layered “Skin Deep” where Marc Almond’s guest spot places the art of pop on the collective’s sleeve, as well as the spiritual of “Darker Times” that’s sprinkled with Andy Partridge’s stardust but, for all its celestial bent, this trip is very much down-to-earth.

The epic titular suite – given, alongside several other numbers, a narrative for a cinematic effect – could be the record’s centerpiece, only it’s not that. Arriving early on the album and elevated by Kate Pierson’s backing vocals, the “Skyscraper Souls” suite sets the stage for the flurry of kaleidoscopic, if Rorschach test-meaningful, fractals and seems to sound familiar to the little ensemble’s followers. Still, there’s no repetition, and such a”more-of-the-same” attitude, very palpable in “Lighthouse” and in a few more finely textured passages, is the irresistible link holding the group’s oeuvre together, as for the most part Braide and Downes’ ivories create complex, although ethereal, towers. They connect baroque elegance to contemporary folk on the cold “Glacier Girl” and on the pastoral “Tomorrow” where David Longdon’s voice and flute complement magic mood, but the warm riffs that carry “Angel On Your Shoulder” bring hymnal kind of groove into the mix.

Dancing towards the higher ground, DBA delivered their most profound statement – transitional in its nature yet seizing the day.


December 28, 2017

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