Esoteric Antenna 2014
Down and out the memory lane and the imagination recesses, a voyage of the ivories-playing acolyte sees the reunion of old friends and new connections being forged.
Falling more often than not in the shadow of his peers, Nick Magnus might not left his imprint on THE ENID he was part of in the early ’70s but he was also an integral part of Steve Hackett‘s band’s sound and fancy by the end of that, and half of the next, decade, although the keyboardist’s brilliance is best seen on his own albums. Here, passing his initials onto the “mnemonics” template and Dick Foster’s richly detailed lyrics, the veteran weaves a tapestry of memorable melodies in the classic art rock vein, while warm glow shines from every nook and cranny of this magnetic suite. It’s no coincidence, then, that the only piece sung by Magnus himself is the funky “Headcase” with its clavinet and Moog, while most of the pieces on display swirl around to fall into the temporal-themed puzzle.
There’s a Cheshire cat smile behind most of it, “Eminent Victorians” running a funny slideshow of great Brits of the past – measured in different musical genres, although some of those are more Wooster-favored jive and Gallic waltz than English courtesy – and bringing back Magnus with Hackett and their vocal foil Pete Hicks, whereas Tim Bowness’ soft singing and Rob Townsend’s sunny reeds in “Broken” bemoan the fate of Humpty Dumpty and other victims of the years’ passage. Elsewhere, “Kombat Kid” finds RE-GENESIS’ Tony Patterson in the current nightmare of video games addiction painted by Nick’s belligerent keyboards that marry march to Medieval romanticism, yet in opener “Time” the same voice floats between the riff-filled reefs in a hymnal rage of sweet miasma that rises from the organs-and-synth orchestra. Such a spiritual ascension takes a further flight with Kate Faber’s operatic soprano stripping the titular twist from “Memory” in favor of helium-light lyrical fantasia of oratorio scope and with choir behind Steve’s soaring guitar line in “Shadowland” before James Reeves’ leads “Entropy” to a hopeful close.
“N’Monix” is a quintessential prog opus but Nick Magnus isn’t constrained, nor obsessed, with stylistic notions and, striving for pure beauty, reaches it with rare elegance.