SPIRITS BURNING & CLEARLIGHT – The Roadmap In Your Head

Gonzo 2016

SPIRITS BURNING & CLEARLIGHT - The Roadmap In Your Head

SPIRITS BURNING & CLEARLIGHT –
The Roadmap In Your Head

Second trip by American art-rock traveler and French prog impressionist chart mental routes into the unknown that’s always out there near us.

For each of these collectives, it’s always been about concepts and the looseness thereof, yet if Don Falcone’s SB tend to intensify their spaced-out extravaganza, Cyrille Verdeaux’s CL focus on ethereality, and though one would assume there’s no common factor to them, the two musicians find a rendezvous point for the second time here. If 2013’s “Healthy Music In Large Doses“ showed a certain restraint in its stylistic crosshair, “The Roadmap In Your Head“ finds the fellow travelers in the company of kindred souls, including members of GONG and HAWKWIND, who help bring the album’s ideas home.

There’s folk vibe to this strange tapestry, where Verdeaux’s cosmic keyboards give the overall subtly absurdist context a crystalline focus, made painfully transparent on the title track by Daevid Allen’s ethereal guitars and Judy Dyble’s autoharp, as Mike Howlett’s bobbing bass and Falcone’s percussion spice it all up with nebulous nervousness. Yet, taken to “The Birth Of Belief” for a more chamber, piano-encrusted experience, the anxious throb is pacified when Ian East’s sax starts to soar, while Theo Travis’ reeds and Kavus Torabi’s six strings go for celestial swing in “Coffee For Coltrane” to shake ‘em all down to the thunder of Albert Bouchard’s drums and organ. So however alien the likes of “Sun Sculptor & The Electrobilities” may sound within their synthetic matrix, a silky natural thread is running through the entire album, sitar and Bridget Wishart’s velvet voice making “Isolation In 10 80” a life-affirming mantra.

It opens a magnificent panorama in the epic “Fuel For The Gods” to let Falcone’s Eastern rhythms and Verdeaux’s Western elegy-to-jazz meet in the shadow of William Kopecky’s low-toned glide and the light of Harry Williamson’s exquisite strum, whereas “Early Evening Rain” is unfolded into a Morricone-esque romantic vista for Nik Turner’s flute to paint upon, although it’s “Black Squirrel At The Root Of The Staircase” that’s the epitome of the project’s progressive intent. It’s there that the instruments do the talking, or storytelling, yet “Déjà Vu” – adorned with Didier Malherbe’s brass nostalgia – is wonderfully retrograde in the piece’s echoing of an "Impressionist Symphony" ripple.

This constant shift informs the record with infinite motion and populates a titular route with riveting traffic. Whether it’s real or imaginary, doesn’t really matter, because the movement towards rendezvous is where the action is, and one would find it hard to resist entering the fray.

****

May 28, 2017

Category(s): Reviews
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