Customer Review

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mike Oldfield's second best album, 18 Oct 2009
This review is from: Incantations (Audio CD)
I really don't know why but I feel like you can't listen to Incantations once and voice your opinion. It is almost like travelling to some exotic vacation spot far away. Even when you are already there it still takes you a couple of days before you really get there. Not only because inside your mind often you have not quite left your own place yet, but it just takes some time to get to feel the culture, the language, to figure out nature. Listening to Incantations is a very similar experience for me. When I travel there I am prepared to stay in for at least a full day, otherwise I don't see a point. If you think such requirement is ridiculous and you would not be interested in such exercise I have a feeling that you will not like this music either. However, if you do listen to this album on repeat for a day you will know exactly what I mean and will most likely chose to extend your experience. It is truly magical in a way.

Mike Oldfield became famous at the age of 20 after the release of his record breaking Tubular Bells created by rock instruments applied in a classical format. I guess his timing was perfect and revolutionary, allowing him to expand the horizons of the exploding progressive rock. To be very honest I liked Tubular Bells but not as much as the following it 1974 album, Hergest Ridge. However, in 1975 after the death of his mother Mike had created a piece of music so special that 35 years and thousands of albums later Ommadawn still is and always will be one of my most favorite albums. Perhaps the fact that I like listening to progressive rock as much as I like listening to ambient, electronic, world, modern classical and ambient jazz music makes me feel that way about that magical, tribal, acoustic, electronic masterpiece. Then, after that powerful release Mike Oldfield waited three years prior to releasing this album, Incantations in 1978. It was a long wait well worth it for many of us.

Incantations are constructed of 4 length-wise fairly even parts of close to 20 minute each. Strength-wise I think that first and last parts are the best and the second is the weakest one. If you find it problematic getting through some of this music you might as well just play part 4 for a while. That is where all plots Mike develops throughout this amazing mathematical equation of a creation come to completion in a spectacular interchangeable way. Structurally Incantations are quite an architectural achievement. I will let Mike explain: `I wanted to have some magical things in there, so I decided to try using real instruments where I could, real strings and a real flute in the beginning. I'd never orchestrated my own string section, so I thought I'd give it a try. I had a string section of about eighteen players and had them in my studio. With that in place I set about working on this really complicated musical sequence. It went sequentially through every key in the musical scale. It was a Frere Jacques kind of round, but the longest anybody had ever written as far as I know. The whole thing was really complicated. If you listen to it carefully, you realize that it is two parts that cross over and take about two minutes to get round. By some fluke I found the right notes to start the second part, twenty-five and three quarter bars in, all with different time signatures in each bar. Later I got Pierre Moerlen (of Gong) and his brother Benoit to play it, with two interlocking vibraphones. With this magical mood that I wanted to capture, I decided on the title Incantations quite early. The original plan was to get some real incantations; magic spells and chants, rather than making them up.' You get the idea. Mike Oldfield was in charge of his project completely consumed by it and could afford to do it right. This music came out of a real battlefield and it came in stages. He got it started and when the first part was ready he played it to his record company executives who came to the meeting already thinking about switching gear and jumping on the punk rock wagon exploding at the moment. They did not like the music which they thought was bad for their image at the time. That realization was a huge blow to Mike and the reason why I think the second part of Incantations was such a struggle to him.

Spiritually Incantations are extremely intriguing and as powerful as Ommadawn is. Ommadawn is like a scream of the 21 year old boy jumping into the waterfall of tremendous loss and mental breakdown noticing that the beauty of his creation keeps him floating safe from harm. Now, 3 years later a 24 year old man is fighting a battle with the demons surrounding his own self. Mike Oldfield approached this creative moment from many different planes. He listened to a lot of religious music at the time but he also was in need of getting himself drunk to sleep every night. This music is not just titled Incantations. This was Mike's real incantation at the time. And now it is with us.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Jun 2011 16:22:47 BDT
hippyshirl says:
I love Incantations, was pleased to see a delux version on it's way and thought i'd read this review, which would have made me purchase it! i can see/tell you are a fan, so from one fan to another, well done!

Posted on 18 Jul 2011 16:58:01 BDT
Very in-depth an enjoyable review Deven. Loved reading Oldfield's words there too, one can't help but wonder what would have heppened if Virgin had given him the proper support he deserved on it. Anyway, it's still one of his best and definetely, as you say, a world within itself.

As you like Incantations and Ommadawn maybe you'd like to listen to an album called Mohribold by an emerging artist called Andrew Taylor, very much in that multi-instrumental, prog-ambient style. It's not Amazon but you can hear it at andrewtaylor.bandcamp.com/album/mohribold
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