(All Album Reviews by avestin)
Conquest of the listeners
Have you ever heard an album where talent is oozing from every track on it?
This is one such album. Not only talent in playing, but also talent in composing accessible instrumental, melodic and sophisticated progressive rock made up of electric and classic-acoustic components.
Fantastic scent of classical trained musicians playing progressive rock. This is evident in several aspects:
- Instrumentation – alongside the rock instrumentation, there are a violin, cello, flute, harp, harp, oboe, English horn, bassoon, French horn and clarinet.
- The way they play – reminiscing at times a chamber ensemble
- Finally, they borrow and adapt tunes from Elgar and Purcell.
I am still not sure whether they should have used a different sound to their electric guitar, as it is quite harsh and is a big contrast to the rest of their sound; but that is probably intentional as this contradiction brings out the qualities of their sound. This tension between the new (electric guitar and the rest of the rock repertoire) and the classic (all other instruments mentioned above and the style of playing) is a great way to build up the album, integrate both sounds and approaches into one coherent voice that makes up the sound of Oaksenham.
The music is precise, punctuate and effective; free form is not to be found here too much. It is also quite rhythmic in most parts. In the second track, Water Spark, there is a splendid part played by the keyboards, which is so warm and catchy and such that it makes me want to move to the rhythm. In their sound I hear rock, folk, classical (chamber) and some jazzy influences. The instrumental tracks travel through all of these with ease and subtlety. Nothing sounds forced or out of context. Every not is accounted for, nothing is left to chance (or so it seems and sounds).
The sound is crystal clear. Every note, every move is heard well and so easy to discern. From this clarity the listener can appreciate how well they play, how accurate their timing and playing is and above all, immerse in the musical ocean offered here, conquering it much like the title suggests. It is a majestic sound, one that befits compositions of this caliber; the tracks are varied in length, but each one is a world of its own; well composed, rich sounding, sophisticated and keeps the listeners attention. The fusion of the electric and acoustic is so well done; for instance in the 4th track, “The Way Back Home” towards the end of it, the interplay of the guitar and bass with the acoustic instruments (bassoon, oboe and horn) is so natural and beautiful that you wish it will not end. Another such marvelous harmony is in track 10, “Across The Atlantic”.
One more point is the superb musicianship by the musicians in this album, whether the guest musicians or the band members themselves. Everyone does their part very well, and the production manages to convey this very well as the final sound of this album attests. There is no show-off tricks here, no playing for the sake of being technically complex. Rather we get (again) an accurate performance, sharp when needed and mellow and soft in the other occasions. This band is equal to a small orchestra in the variety of sounds they produce and each one executes their role at the level it’s needed. The bass does an excellent work in giving a strong backbone to the music; the wind instruments are spectacular at setting the tone; the electric guitar is played very well giving the harder edge, at times even going for a slightly frisky sound. All in all, the end result has a synergistic effect on me as the listener. I am very impressed at the level of musicianship and of the compositional skills as well. One does not come at the expense of the other.
In summary, this album is a wonderful exercise in the fusion of old and new. It brings a refreshing sound (even if attempted before), and is a great joy for those who appreciate a well-composed tune with skilled instrument playing and varied instrumentation.
For me this sort of music is irresistible.
A great release, highly recommended.