Coronavirus-enforced burst of creativity from in-the-moment masters results in purest sensory rapture.
Here’s an album that could have never existed if not for circumstances which made its appearance inevitable. Surprisingly, it’s the first Gary Husband and Markus Reuters’ joint effort, despite the two roaming a vast common ground, but their hour didn’t strike until STICK MEN’s tour of Japan in March 2020 was cut short after a single show due to Covid-19, and the pair – the group member and the guest – got stuck in Tokyo. Telepathy kicked in, so a studio would be booked, posthaste, for a few hours, and “Music Of Our Times” is what came out of that live session: a record of rare beauty and anti-otherworldly presence.
It’s all about feelings in this existential space. That’s why opener “Colour Of Sorrow” is sparse yet intense, transparent yet deeply touching, with dew of Husband’s ivories painting pointillist pictures over delicate, barely-there passages of Reuter’s strings, which occasional percussive sounds seem to intrude on – organically, though, without the slightest violation of the piece’s gloomy tranquility – before cymbals dissolve the dark strands and allow lyrical splashes of synths in. Still, murk doesn’t belong here, and the tautological title of “Across The Azure Blue” will resolve in a romantic trip towards passionate peaks, as Gary’s keyboards embrace both acoustic and electric aspects of venturing into the great unknown where the process means much more than the final destination, and Markus’ exquisite licks run like lacy ripples on the number’s solemn surface to reveal frilly effects.
Yet frivolous it isn’t. Dedicated to Allan Holdsworth, “White Horses” must be the most in-your-face composition on display, simultaneously palpable and ephemeral, full of love and grief, as crystalline piano chords are offset with lingering notes which, when peeled from fretboard, flutter against the subliminally charged backdrop until they get split into minuscule sonic particles. Only logical, then, that “A Veiled Path” flows as an almost orchestral piece, the players’ minimal setting, splashed by electronic waves, projecting sharp emotions while unhurriedly marrying sadness to spiritual uplift.
In line with the record’s on-the-fly provenance, its titular track is bringing on a multilayered storm of post-Satie aural mysticism whose low-end lays the ground for well-concealed urgency so typical for current events, whereas higher level reaches for celestial bliss, casting aside the album’s abstractness. “Illuminated Heart” may be its tuneful apex, because the performers finally let go of ethereality in favor of more muscular approach, and trad-jazz specters lurk behind the melodic front, this hidden rootsiness tethering their music not only to our era but also to eternity. A masterpiece.