SOLSTICE – Prophecy

Esoteric Antenna 2013

It’s this time of the year: reaching out for the heart of the sunrise, British progsters reap the harvest.

SOLSTICE - Prophecy

SOLSTICE – Prophecy

During this band’s hiatus that lasted more than a decade – twice longer than their first sabbatical which saw the ensemble away at the turn of the ’90s – and ended with an invigorating “Spirit” in 2010, a lot of false prophets cropped up in the space between art rock and folk, so the return of Andy Glass’ coterie was akin to an advent. The second album by the same line-up – fully incorporating his other group, 3STICKS – might be the their definitive work. Based on a loose environmental concept connected to the currently popular Native Americans’ prognoses, five pieces come breathtakingly beautiful, although full of air, and, devoid of youthful pretense, touch on the four elements; that’s why “Earthsong” from SOLSTICE’s 1984’s debut appears here in Steven Wilson’s remix alongside two other “Silent Dance” tracks.

“Prophecy” flows in quietly, too, Emma Brown’s distant voice embraced by a hazy strum, yet the slow burn of “Eyes Of Fire” gets hotter once vocal harmonies hug its melody and Glass’ guitar soars higher and higher through the slightly bluesy clouds of clear sound. The gale blows into “West Wind” – heavy, anxious in its Eastern (what a sonic pun!) rise but jubilant on the orchestral level, but it’s all down-home in “Keepers Of The Truth” where Jenny Newman’s violin spins a simpler vibe. More rustic pleasures unfold in the fiddle unison with Steve McDaniel’s organ and the six-string riff before the reel hits a rocky bottom and synthesizers bend the drift closer to fusion, and the polyphony intensifies anew.

The epic of “Warriors” captures such fervency with a textured precision, snatching it from somber piano chords and shifting a cosmic funk into hectic interplay. The delicate assault resolves into the mid-tempo spank of Robin Phillips’ bass under enchanting balladry to break down the middle into a torrid interplay, shot with the choral injections, and float back to the surface. Down again, “Black Water” pours klezmer into the instrumental swirl and falls into classical concerto moves, yet this leaves the initial promise somewhat unfulfilled, and that’s where the bonuses come into play reconnecting the prophesied future with the band’s past in a full-circle scenario. It’s a cyclic thing, so true to the ensemble’s name, and it looks like they’re in for the long haul now.

****4/5

March 17, 2014

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