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Siiilk - Way to Lhassa CD (album) cover

WAY TO LHASSA

Siiilk

 

Crossover Prog

3.97 | 15 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Gilbert Gandil and Jacques Roman are two veteran proggers , the core of French legends Pulsar who have revived a long career with the delightful Memory Ashes in 2007 and now explore new horizons with this spectacular debut album. Together with Lyon musicians Guillaume Antonicelli on bass and drummer Attilio Terlizzi, they provide vocalist and songwriter Richard Pick some seasoned instrumental prowess and elegant letters of recommendation! Gandil remains a unique guitarist, a step behind the more famous Gilmours, Hacketts and Latimers, using a warm shimmering style. The stunning cover art by renowned French artist Kaviiik only heightens the pleasure, with depictions of Tibetan landscapes and Hindu goddesses, all swimming in a gorgeous turquoise/emerald sheen. The material is decidedly atmospheric, an elusive union of symphonic mellotron, flute and acoustic guitar, occasionally adorned by Gandil's purposeful lead electric soloing. Nothing heavy or harsh, the expansive compositions lend themselves to reflective introspection and profound imagery ,as the music takes the listener on a magical adventure from Europe to the Himalayas , on the 'Way to Lhassa", blending in a wide variety of ethnic instrumentation to add simmering spice to the orchestral brew. Because this is really a classical example of a sonic travelogue, there is a fair sense of continuity to each track, flowing from one impression to another rather seamlessly and as such, should be listened to as a whole.

"Childhood Memories" as the title implies, initiates the journey under the guise of a young mind dreaming of adventure, curiosity about our travelling universe in the most exotic fashion, a yearning "to be free". Vocalist Richard Pick has a mellow, slightly accented voice which never disturbs and the gentle instrumentation has a puerile feel to it, a perfect beginning.

"Between" is the longest piece here .clocking in at 6.43 and immediately shows off some sublime electric guitar phrasings from both Pick and Gandil, a dreamy, soft-rock composition highlighted by trembling and fragile vocals, a steady beat and the afore mentioned axe work. Jacques Roman fulfills the same in role as in Pulsar, a rich keyboard carpet, lush with simple symphonicity. "Cathy's Woods" is propelled by serene flute, acoustic guitar and dense mellotron scapes that hint at early pastoral King Crimson or even McDonald-Giles. Intensely melancholic and brooding, the journey just gets more personal and focused, showing undeniable prog tendencies. The choir segue "In the Grey Chapel" is a very brief vocal-only interlude that surprises by its simplicity.

"Leaving North" defines itself by a core folk song of utter escapist beauty, voice and acoustic guitar in complete agreement, with a sudden intrusion of a spooky electric guitar that sparkles in the rain. This is my fave tune here, a perfect microcosm of melancholia, drenched in saturated keyboards and shimmering guitars. Gilbert Gandil spurts brilliantly in his inimitable style, slow and gentle, very sentimental. This segues nicely into the terrific "Midlife Crisis", where the Gandil factor explodes through the speakers, a colossal bluesy 6- string rant that would provoke flattering admiration in both Gilmour and Latimer. Gurgling synths, cascades of voice effects give this a very modern Floydian feel, another winner on this stunning album.

"Khajuraho Dreams" is where one looks up towards the Himalayan crests in awe of Nature's immense power, a male-female vocal duet that stands out by its murmuring splendour, again adorned by rustling acoustic and electric guitar phrasings and Roman's ivory coloratura. Fascinating nugget, indeed!

The title track is the second longest feature at 6.37 and the ethnic instruments are given the front stage, glistening amid the oriental imagery, the bells, gongs and percussives, giving the piece an ethereal Tibetan feel. The arrangement veers into the progressive realm as soon as the bass and drums kick in, elevating the enjoyment with a sterling Gandil foray, luminous and grandiose. As the mountains demand of its visitors, there is a palpable sense of breathlessness that comes across vividly in the details.

"Witness" is definitely soporific and laid-back, gleaming in a swath of evocative ennui, as if wanting to elicit a sense of invincible fatigue. But this piece means to be a stylistic contrast to the hard edged finale, the sensational "Wladyslaw's Marching Band" , where the mood gets decidedly jittery with both Antonicelli and Terlizzi marshaling the beat, in agreement with rainy atmospherics, brooding rhythms and a light experimental touch, orchestral and ghost-like.

Siiilk is a delightful and frankly unexpected debut from a group of seasoned musicians, a strong Sunday afternoon-like sonic adventure. Nothing overtly complex yet never dull or senseless. The Pulsar duo surely provide a massive boost in terms of credentials but their playing is inspired and majestic.

4.5 Everest Avenues

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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