Posts Tagged epic

Album Appreciation: Relayer by Yes

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Progressive rockers Yes’ 1974 release Relayer was one of the first albums that opened my ears to what was possible in music. Pretty difficult to overstate the importance of that – especially to an impressionable teenager.

This was in the mid-70s. I didn’t know anything about Yes and hadn’t heard a single note. I was fascinated by Roger Dean’s amazing cover and bought Relayer partly for that, and partly out of curiosity to learn what these guys were about. Of course, seeing only three song titles on the back cover really piqued my curiosity.

I was blown away at once, listened to Relayer many, many times, and naturally dove into the rest of the classic Yes catalog. On my commute this morning, I heard Relayer for the first time in at least 25 years, and was almost in tears of joy. I had never forgotten it; it was just one of those things that drift out of your life somehow…

Some of those things we come back to, and find that their attraction has been lost. Relayer has lost nothing for me over time; it’s still incredible.

Gates of Delirium is one of the handful of absolute Yes masterpieces. Epic in scope, prodigious in moods, brilliantly executed, with passages of intense power and sublime beauty. It has always blown me away. This is what music is supposed to do. I began to know it then, and that conviction has only grown over the years.

Sound Chaser has the strongest fusion elements and bears the largest stamp of Patrick Moraz’ input – though the band was already well down the fusion path, as composition and arrangement for Relayer was well underway before he came on board. The three-way interplay (not to say flat-out battle) between Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Moraz just explodes all through this track, and Howe’s solo section is a gem.

To Be Over closes on a more mellow note, slowing to a pastoral and dreamy – but somehow still well-grounded – vibe. It fully embodies the opening line “We go sailing down the calming stream.” Beautifully done.

This was Patrick Moraz’ only album with Yes. Rick Wakeman is surely Yes’ Keyboardist of Destiny, but it’s tantalizing to try to imagine where Yes would have gone if they’d stuck with Moraz for a few more albums. The possibilities were surely unlimited. The next album with Wakeman, 1977’s Going for the One, was definitely another masterpiece, but Moraz’ departure closed off a path of exciting possibilities.

Yes’ best work remains a huge influence on what I do, and I expect that to be heard in my work going forward. Thanks, guys!

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Album Review: Scáth M’anam by I’ve Lost

Album cover: Scáth M'anam by I've LostGuitarist Bobby Jones, who records as I’ve Lost, has just released Scáth M’anam, his first album on the Relaxed Machinery label. It follows Dissociative Fugue, a two-piece EP released on the Feedback Loop netlabel last year.

Scáth M’anam is a Gaelic phrase which can translate as “shadow of my soul”. Bobby hearkened to his Irish roots for the title, and manages to make an ambient electric guitar sound a bit like Gaelic music at times. He skillfully evokes a windswept, storm-battered Irish shore – a counterpart, external shadow.

As he usually does, Bobby recorded his guitar live, in single takes, The range of guitar textures is astonishing, by turns childlike and industrial, wistful and seething. The album is a piece of both personal introspection and epic ambition. These shadows are rich with such paradoxes.

The album is made up of two pieces. I Wish I Could Fly is an 8-part epic journey running over 71 minutes.

It begins with wind and waves, birds and a quiet drone. We hear, as if echoing in a seaside cave, ethereal, wraith-like tones (almost resembling voices) – haunted, imploring, insatiable. There’s a sense of endless space, flying over a raging ocean, or in a vast half-submerged cave. The next section features a simple, plaintive melody – perhaps mourning and remembering, but wishing to forget.

Guitar textures range from classic, mostly clean-sounding strummed chords, to turbo-charged EBow, to an overdriven, mechanical buzz.

In the third section, plucked notes sounding like a low-passed steel drum echo-dance into space, building in volume as the storm grows; startling chords crash like waves on the rocky shore and scatter to mist.

In the fifth, over an EBow loop like a slow violin/cello duet, the guitar sings a seaside lament that flies away over the waves.

The sixth section is an airy, ghostly song, with Bobby tapping or strumming the muted strings for a percussive effect, suggesting shackles, a desire to escape – or transcend. A far-away voice-like part joins in, singing, angelic but wounded.

In the final section, the overdriven guitar, fleeting, ephemeral, ghostly, fades into background. Another picking part takes over, with the effect of bringing us back to the stark present, out of the dream. We are where we are, despite all aspirations and regrets. One powerful, savage, roaring chord intercedes; the shadow remains ever-present, and gets the final word.

The second piece, Ghosts on the Wind, is like a coda. A few mostly-clean, picked notes – short phrases that tail off and scatter. We can’t fly, but the ghosts still do, and they’re all around us.

Throughout the album, the colors are muted, shades of gray. Some days it rains outside, and some days it rains in the heart. This is perfect music for such rainy, windy days. At times it reminds me of ambient-phase vidnaObmana – a very high compliment in my universe.

Bobby’s music is fearless in its quest for deep meaning, and heart-baring in its honesty. This is another fine release for the Relaxed Machinery label – highly recommended!

Scáth M’anam is available for download at CD Baby. It will soon be available on CDR from Hypnos and in FLAC format from AD21 Music.

Wallpaper for Scáth M'anam by I've Lost

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