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A Million Universes Contained Within
on 26 July 2011
On the first day God created heaven and earth. What he did not create, so far as I know, is this fantastic collection of blues-rock-funk fusion tracks, courtesy of David Sylvian, Robert Fripp, and their team. (I should point out that I came to this album as a David Sylvian fan.)
Many of the tracks here open as brash, syncopated rockers, with guitars like rhythmic static. But then often the mood over time subtlety changes and new vistas open out. For here we have music hidden within an outer shell. The shell is the hard rock edge, whose lyrics no longer possess as much the literary or aesthetic merit of Sylvian's previous works; instead he sings now of more direct and down-to-earth matters, less suggestive of deeper realities. Those inner realities instead are made manifest - as far as they can be made manifest - within the track's inner instrumental workings, the composition of which develop in a fully-confident way the collaborative work learned by Sylvian from his mentor, Holger Czukay.
Take track three, `Firepower': After its initial warm-up, Fripp leads with a lyrical and warping guitar line. A sudden by subtle break commences a creative weave of immense beauty, gaining depth and power through incessant rhythm and by the sustained lines of Fripp's inspired guitar work. It's a complex weft, like a silken Turkish carpet, a recognisable work of art in its own right but containing within itself a million different universes.
Or take the track five, `20th Century Dreaming': Sylvian intones, "As the river runs, tumbles and turns, you know you shouldn't stay or play the game again. But it could be different this time. You may win", words exhibiting the yearning of millions. But the music's depth conveys their subtle tension as we sink helplessly deeper and deeper into the dream.
The odd man out on this collection is the final piece, composed by Fripp. It's a reflective piece, an edifice of immense beauty, but would perhaps have been better heard in a transcription for orchestra in the meditative style of Arvo Part.
This is an astounding album. The sound quality is top-notch and the percussion especially superb throughout.