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Iona - Open Sky  CD (album) cover

OPEN SKY

Iona

 

Prog Folk

4.04 | 61 ratings

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Zitro
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This album has been a big surprise for me. A Spiritual Celtic folk/ambient album with some electric guitars thrown in the mix. While I do find that the album's generally soft vibe, somewhat minimalist arrangement and structures may not be for everyone, it is some of the best music of this kind I have come across (However, I do not own many albums like these). Open Sky is moving and positive-sounding; the kind of music someone needswhen having difficult times in his/her life. The instrumental arrangements are masterfully and carefully done in a way that keeps the music both complex, accessible, and plain gorgeous and emotional. Quite a feat! Another positive remark I could add is that the female vocalist has a gorgeous voice. The warning: listen to the first of the samples here Trilogy, if you do not enjoy that, you probably will not enjoy this style.

Woven Cord starts ambient but quickly brings a very energetic drum theme which plays for a few minutes while Iona display great Celtic arrangements. A short ambient interlude leads way into an electric guitar solo under a slow tempo. The song finishes with the percussion dominated fast-tempo theme from earlier.

Wave After Wave might be poppy at first glance and you might think you picked the wrong album, but it has enough depth to make it also a progressive tune. The time signatures don't always stay in 4/4, the instrumentation is full of layers, and the harmonies achieved are a result of masterful songwriting. The main melody is extremely memorable and the 7/4 rhythm is very natural and enjoyable.

Open Sky is very heavenly and even more sweet/sugary than Wave After Wave with an unforgettable chorus melody that borders on genius. A distorted electric guitar pops up later in the song, but has no resemblance to hard rock or metal.

"Castlerigg" might be my favorite piece in here though it is one that is less immediate and one that you need several listens. It has a beautiful ambient flute intro until a gentle percussion theme starts spinning around your speakers with a Celtic theme on the spotlight. Later, acoustic guitar and violin introduce the singer who is almost whispering here. This moment is so beautiful that it could make a sensible listener to shed a tear; it might be the most beautiful moment in the album. Afterwards, the acoustic guitar takes the spotlight while Joanne (singer) sings some great wordless vocals. This sounds very upbeat and up to this point it tends to relieve my worries and stresses. The song ends with the Celtic theme sped up.

"A Million Star" is one I thought was underwhelming at first, but this atmospheric tune is plain gorgeous. Violin is the main expression of this somber interlude.

"Light Reflected" does not carry as much emotional power to me nor has as much instrumental depth as the previous songs, but there are two moments that elevate it from a solid song to a great one: the "around the sun" soaring vocal line, and the fantastic guitar solo at the end.

"Hinba" is better. It is a simple song, but some of the best vocals are here and the end has probably the best Uillean Pipe melodies of the album and some great bass guitar work as well.

"Song of Ascent pt.1" has an extended intro that is soothing, ambient and relaxing. Joanne has a spotlight later and as always, she shines. The instrumentation is very lively around minute 5-6. "Song of Ascent pt.2" is instrumental and has great melodies sandwiching a successful ambient exercise in the middle. "Song of Ascent pt.3" starts ambient and explodes in a Celtic fashion.

"Friedship's Door" is a mellow. Easily the least progressive song in the album, but it is very emotional. The vocals are great and the finishing Celtic melody is a great touch. Unfortunately, the end of the album is just ambient with sound clips of various parts of the album flying in your headphones. Not the kind of ending I'd like.

I wanted to give this album five stars due to the quality of the first 5 tracks, but I feel like the second half has no masterpieces and sometimes makes me feel like I've heard enough when I'm around Song of Ascent (my least favorite song here). Nevertheless, this is one of the better albums I have heard this year and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who can enjoy a mellow style.

Zitro | 4/5 |

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