Three decades since the start of a solo route, British six-stringer hits his stride.
Being a musician’s musician doesn’t make one famous, and peers’ respect can’t boost one’s profile as effectively as mass appeal: Nick Fletcher must know this too well. For years, he’s been laying down classical numbers and shaping his own pieces as symphonic suites, yet it wasn’t until Nick paired his talent with the art of John Hackett – whom the guitarist played in a band and a duo situations – that Fletcher’s melodies came to light. Finally fully electrified, albeit not forgetting the mastery of acoustic approach, he’s coming forward on “Cycles Of Behaviour” as a progressive force of formidable presence.
There’s a tangible sense of freedom in the rather fierce fusion of the album’s titular cut, opening it with refined swagger, as Fletcher’s muscular riffs, bolstered by Dave Bainbridge’s organ, let romantic strum and Hackett’s flute to the fore before a series of brief six-string solos, all slightly varying in style, take the listener on a trip through the array of moods – or bearings if you prefer. But this is not a purely instrumental effort, and John’s vocals join Nick’s figures on a few songs the two co-penned, the lightweight harmonies of “Heat Is Rising” swaying the deceptively repetitive blues as befits a summery track where sun and storm meet in melodic skies, and guitar curlicues easily turn into heavier licks and bass throb offsets Fletcher’s filigree, only to see “Hope In Your Eyes” cool the drift and allow vibrant balladry and tight twang fill the woodwind-warmed air.
Contrasting it, “Tyrant And Knave” roars and rages and paints captivating menace all over the bulging Hammond passages which little by little release tension and see Nick’s axe transform into tuneful quill, yet the quasi-orchestral “Desolation Sound” and the gloriously funky of “Annexation” bookend the folksy translucency that permeates “Interconnected” and renders voices and reeds as aquarelle details diluting the otherwise streamlined ensemble performance. This is when the magnificent finale “Philosopher King” flows in on the slider-polished fretboard and unfolds as a prog-rock-embroidered theater backdrop where each musician has a prominent part, Fletcher’s flight leading his flock towards breathtaking, sweet vertigo-inducing climax. Once there, the cycles may begin anew – with new adventures in tow.