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National Health - National Health  CD (album) cover

NATIONAL HEALTH

National Health

 

Canterbury Scene

4.10 | 239 ratings

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LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Roaming free in a fuzzy, shape-shifting brightly coloured and mostly carefree world must be exactly like the music on this album. I don't know if it's the dreamy, floating composition of it all or a hard-to-define smoothness and ease that make this the (so far) only Canterbury scene album I can say I love. A jazzy elegance and - to be fair - an air of supremacy and compositional care (which catches me off guard every time the album's been put aside for a week or more) that makes a band like Caravan seem down-to-earth and blunt in comparison, coupled with mind-blowing individual performances and the Canterburian aptitude for at least seemingly spontaneous and warm-hearted sense of humour and quirkiness in music results in.well, probably some sort of puzzled enjoyment.

When jazz and jazz-rock in spite of its musical freedom feels too contrived and overly reliant on technique and brilliance of the performers for me to like it in general, National Health's greatest trick is taking that concept, twisting and turning it, fusing it with other styles and ideals, giving the music time to breath, take chances and venture into unexpected directions - which ultimately leads to a wild melange of music where almost anything is tolerated and (un)expected. Being like that, it also loses identity and just as often - a clear structure. If there is a drawback to the album, that's the one, perhaps also that the overwhelming amount of impressions emanating from it don't fit every situation and state of mind. I actually do find too rich for my tastes on some occasions.

Highlights are many; stand-outs are few, sticking to the consistent flow of the album. Still some things are worth mentioning: Dave Stewarts fuzz organ wanderings, which funnily enough feels more like gateways between sections, thus carrying the music instead of just soloing on top of it, the high quality, jumpy and propulsive bass guitar work of Neil Murray, Amanda Parson's soothing, soulful vocalisations and finally the combined percussion prowess of Pip Pyle and John Mitchell. They add - with the mildest touch - a tingling, fragile, refined set of sounds that broadens the music even more.

Tenemos Road have a sweaty drive to it, making it great as a starter, drawing you in right from the start, but it's still mildly preparing you for Brujo's playful little intro and the plunge into the soft, ethereal flute seduction on the same song. Delightful, and probably my favourite 'song' of the five here. A slightly darker, nervously moving interlude and an inpatient keys solo put things in perspective and continues in a fuzz-organ Canterbury-jazz fest. Borogroves, Pt.2 is noteworthy for being the vehicle of a fantastic, slightly subdued (but intricate) bass solo from Neil Murray. Things are really never dark or sinister except for the closing Elephant. Immediately striking as something extra, with mild atonality and a rumbling tension to it. Making it even more interesting is the fact that it never climaxes, but instead triumphantly returns to familiar sounds heard previously on the album, and then mysteriously drifts off into silence.

It leaves me wanting more, a continuation, as this strangely feels like a taste of what's still to come more than anything else. After fifty minutes of music, there is no clear end or beginning, just this marvellous wealth of ideas.

Puzzled enjoyment, wasn't it?

4 stars.

//LinusW

LinusW | 4/5 |

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