Saturday, 9 January 2010

Trail Records

I've been haunted by a song this week, a thing of great beauty that captured my attention and my imagination, 'These Old Bones' by Seattle-based trance rockers Sky Cries Mary, a track from their new compilation album Space Between The Drops on Trail Records. Now, this is a band I really should have been aware of before, because reading about them on their website they've been around since the late 1980s and have ten albums and EPs listed on their discography. They describe their music as a "soundtrack of dream-vision compositions, seamlessly interwoven tapestry of rhythm, lyric and melody."

Firstly though, a note about Trail Records; co-founder Alex Tsalikhin dropped me a note and kindly sent over the label's latest releases and it seems to me as though they are building an eclectic catalogue of albums from across the globe - aside from the two releases I'll be reviewing in this posting, they have an album from Russian band Vespero (regular blog followers might remember I’ve previously written up another of their releases), which is now fully sold-out, and another from Ukrainian world-fusion musicians Kiuila, whilst their next project, I believe, is from San Francisco improvisational space-rockers Beyond-o-Matic.

Let’s talk about Sky Cries Mary, though. Space Between The Drops is a intimate collection of trance and ambient sounds with Anisa Romero's wistfully elegant vocals painting a delicate picture across hazy, blissful music that absolutely transports you out of the mundane and into their silky-smooth dreamscapes. 'These Old Bones' has both a world-weary edge and a juxtaposing optimistic lilt to it, a gentle guitar-based song with Anisa and her husband Roderick providing their trademark contrasting dual lead vocals - the light of Anisa's voice set-off against Roderick's grittier and deeper intoning. 'Missing' is a gorgeous ambient wash with Anisa emerging from the early morning mist of the soundtrack, again off-set against contrasting vocals, both with their aching ghostly implore of 'how long have I been missing?', before this ten-minute opus moves into an up-tempo Eastern European air in its guitar work that continues to accentuate the vivid sense of loss in the vocals.

'Four AM' is another extended trance movement, with Gilmour-esque guitar work rippling through the ether of the synths; 'Gliding', with Roderick coming more to the fore, a more strident rock track that still has the delicate beauty of their music shimmering underneath it. This is a terrific collection.

The other release that I've been listening to from Trail Records is a reissue from Turkish spacerock band Siddhartha entitled Trip To Innerself, recently nominated for two Progawards (Best Foreign Album and Best Artwork). Now, reading other reviews that have appeared of this release, it becomes apparent that Siddharta themselves disbanded back in 2001, while the music we hear on this album was laid down over a decade ago, so whilst it's easy to get really excited about uncovering the substantial career of Sky Cries Mary with a decent-size back catalogue to go exploring, enthusiasm for Siddhartha comes at a price - that there's no more where this came from apparently.

That's a massive shame, since this is another really strong release - what little silver discs of joy Trail Records have uncovered for their list! Trip To Innerself is a bit Pink Floyd, a bit Porcupine Tree and a smidge of Huw Lloyd-Langton era Hawkwind - it's smart, dynamic, trippy and exciting spacey stuff with some Eastern leanings and a bit of good old blanga (and for those not 'in the know', 'blanga' is any track that you can 'blanga, blanga, blanga' along to - hence Hawkwind's 'Born To Go' is its epitome).

Having invoked the Gods of spacerock then, lets also note that the range of material here is diverse. 'Baroque', with its delicate string arrangement living somewhere between an English folk tune and an Oriental aria does what the title suggests, at least in its early moments before it takes the themes it’s based on and rocks them up a bit for want of a better expression. ‘Nervous Breakdown’ starts off reminiscent of Pink Floyd circa Dark Side of the Moon before becoming more free-flowing and improvisational, again there are some Hawkwind comparisons to be made here but there’s also a feeling of brightness that oozes out of this wide-ranging track. Overall, it’s a well-named album of atmospheric and introspective music that’s absorbing and which repays repeated listening.


Joolz said...

Hi - you have the wrong URL for Siddhartha - it should be ... nice to see Sky Cries Mary get a mention as they've done some good stuff over the years. Regards. Joolz

Ian Abrahams said...

Hi Joolz,
Yes, you're quite correct - apologies all! URL fixed.