From Discworld onto a plastic disc, international progressive team count out time for miracles to happen.
As any novice in Unseen University knows, octarine is the color of magic, and as any fan of Dyanne Potter Voegtlin can confirm her music is also full of sorcery – even without the American artiste attending Hogwarts. However, she and her POTTER’S DAUGHTER colleague Jan Christiana, who’s a Vögtlin too, decided to set their ensemble aside for the time being and transmogrify the set-up of follow-up to "Casually Containing Rage" – the single’s successor which involved two hi-tech players: Simon Phillips and Guthrie Govan, coming over from England – into a new collective. As a result, true to its premise, OCTARINE SKY’s debut “Close To Nearby” is instilled with elusive elements yet open enough to reveal a different dimension where wonders abound.
Still, if the freshly discovered space might be of Phillips’ doing – one should never underestimate a great drummer’s ability to expand the scope of performance – the album’s concept must be Voegtlin’s mindchild, as it’s her piano that drives it all and it’s her humor that titled a few tracks by their place in the record’s running order. Of course, the elegant, but brisk and bass-prodded, opener “One” – which is, conforming to the numeral theme, based on the first movement of Ginastera’s “Piano Sonata #1” – serves as a tribute to ELP, the heavy “5” signals the change in the naming convention on an aural level, as Govan’s werewolf-like six strings lead synthesizers’ riff and siren-esque vocalese to the bottom of the orchestral sea, and the insistent “VII” shifts the paradigm even further to return to the recital format and drench the ivories and skins interplay in tectonic dynamics before Guthrie’s wild electric licks kick in again.
Between all these stormy pieces lie much gentler tunes. While the tender “Rosewind” finds Dyanne sing about someone more romantic than, albeit as adventurous as, Rincewind, her voice and fingers fluttering only to firmly grip a heart, and Jan’s guitar spicing up her harmonies with Eastern motifs, the pairing of “Night Sky” and “Into the Dream” has jazzy unpredictability about its instrumental filigree, and “The Mask” offers acoustic lace and elastic organ to feed one’s soul, until a snippet of spoken word turns the world around with belligerent pop agenda. As though to contrast such delicate moves, the Poe-inspired “Midnight” rides a bluesy figure for Voegtlin’s lines to counterbalance the heft by letting mesmeric “Nevermore!” reverberate at the end of each chorus and allowing Simon’s thunder and lightning to rage on.
It’s impossible to stop at this point, so “Hold” that soars on the wings of Amit Chatterjee’s fluid fretboard wizardry and Dyanne’s folk-infused polyphony and becomes a chant imploring the listener to linger on – if not here, then close to nearby. The album is too charming to leave octarine sky too soon.