Rough Draft 2023
Sheffield musician delves into antique subjects of a curricular stage to rock their foundation.
Ever since Nick Fletcher fully embraced the progressive rock idiom as a principal path of his career, the guitarist has been logically going from strength to strength, displaying his talents as composer and performer on a series of albums that arrive on a yearly basis to signal a fresh concept – or, rather, musical theme – which inspired this artist. A successor to "The Cloud Of Unknowing" whose idea was the exploration of ignorance, the “Quadrivium” suite – a proper one, with prelude, scenes and denouement – and concentrates on the ancient view of four arts – arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy – but sees and presents them as a title-dictated whole, while highlighting different aspects of it all and effectively making such a sum amount to the British player’s magnum opus. There’s classically subdued grandeur in his stylistically varied, yet melodically united, pieces to render the platter more than simply impressive.
And there’s a masterful sculpting of momentum, with “A Wave On The Ocean Of Eternity” lapping unhurriedly only to expand its amplitude to engulf the listener in a delicate tsunami of sound, as Fletcher’s dynamic lines hang in the air before gradually soaring higher and higher. Still, he’s not losing sight of the ground where the sitar-like, anxiously droning vignettes of “The Journey To Varanasi” unravel their enchanting raga motifs and allow the fretboard to suffer sweet shredding – moving towards the thunderous “Overture To The Cosmos” which finds Dave Bainbridge’s ivories and Anika Nilles’ drums bolster Nick’s hard-rocking filigree. However, the diaphanous, fusion-scented “Riding The Event Horizon” seems no less adventurous, even though this ballad’s acoustic lace is soft and jazzy piano is merry enough to kick the leader’s six strings into the next gear. Otherwise, he wouldn’t reach the two-part twangy-if-fluid edifice of “Ziggurat Of Dreams” which hosts the insistent cymbals-crested splashes of “The Fifth Parallel” – an aural swirl with Tim Harries’ bass bobbing alongside Nick’s harmonic assault – and the upbeat “Aphelion” that reveals quite a few riffs under its jovial, constantly shifting surface.
It’s at this point that “The Helix” opens into new existential planes for the instrumental panoramas to become deeper and brighter, and elegantly abstract, and enchant everyone searching for the perfect chord in their life – and is eager to dance to the, in turns, Latino-tinged and Arabica-flavored groove of “To The Stars We Shall Return” – on the way to the album’s finale “Standing On The Edge Of Time” which soothes the heat of the preceding tunes by drowning guitar in a solemn quietude. The four arts were rarely as arresting as here, on Nick Fletcher’s creative apex – his temporary zenith, because another idea may already be already looming around the bend.