Purple Pyramid 2020

The Hollow Lands

Nearing their quarter-century anniversary, international space crew reach the core of a Multiverse without intending to stop.

Don Falcone’s project has long crossed the line between collaboration with stellar guests – the kindred specters the band’s name seemed to beckon from the start – and proper ensemble whose members are allowed to contribute creative ideas, rather than blindly follow the captain’s commands, and sometimes drive the entire vehicle, and this album cements his alliance with Michael Moorcock, a logical result of HAWKWIND and BLUE ÖYSTER CULT alumni’s appearances on the collective’s records. Both groups’ DNA left sonic imprint on SPIRITS BURNING but, 25 years down the line, such familiarity doesn’t affect any of it in terms of the team trying to sound progressive, which renders the pieces on offer here varied and, thus, riveting. 2018’s "An Alien Heat" proved to be more than a one-off attempt of adapting the English author’s novel for aural (and sometimes oral) form, and “The Hollow Lands” – the second part of “The Dancers at the End of Time” trilogy – should expand the sci-fi world with regards to story and style by taking the listener from the End to the Center of a Multiverse and beyond the obvious.

There’s no game of egos on this saga, given tuneful life by Falcone’s ivories and Moorcock’s lyrics as well as significant multi-instrumental and compositional input from Albert Bouchard, yet now the combinations of talent produce arresting results, and the presence of Eric Bloom as a narrator on a few numbers and Buck Dharma whose voice and axe are at the fore of the folk-infused opening cut “To Hollow Lands” inform the album with certain gravitas, while Joe Bouchard’s voice and Bridget Wishart’s electronic horn steer the histrionic “Playing At Ships” with its pseudo-medieval dance. They all play for the song, though, which is why the boisterous “Dance Through Time” and soft “Warm Snow Peaks” that Michael himself delivers with much authority while Adrian Shaw and Chas Cronk’s respective basses anchor to the groove might be the most interesting tracks on display, while William Kopecky’s elastic strings propel the wordless panorama of “A Haze Of Crimson Light” towards romantic catharsis.

Even with melody tied to spoken word on “A Conversation With H.G. Wells” where Harvey Bainbridge’s synthesizers and Dead Fred’s violin rule the den, the drift wouldn’t lose the sense of adventure, but the quadripartite dialogue turns “Awful Dilemma” into a cosmic opera, and “We May Yet Be Saved” featuring Andy Shernoff into a riff-laden vaudevillian drama. Still, it’s “Memorable Night At Café Royal” that thrives on theatrical urgency and solemnity, before Richie Castellano leads “To The Time Machine, At Last” to AOR apex and “Make A Fire” bring the record to a finale on a wave of glorious polyphony… To a temporary finale, of course, because there’s no doubt SB’s next endeavor will be “The End Of All Songs”: progressing like this, the collective must ship the trilogy last chapter as their definitive statement.


March 16, 2021

Category(s): Reviews
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