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Drifting Sun - Planet Junkie CD (album) cover

PLANET JUNKIE

Drifting Sun

 

Neo-Prog

4.84 | 10 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I have been left with no choice but to come out of reviewing retirement as there are musicians out there who have asked me to continue to write about their most recent accomplishments. First up are my old friends Drifting Sun, a much maligned Neo-prog band with a solid history of releasing thrilling albums that hit the spot each and every time. Leader and keyboardist Pat Sanders has been a FB friend for quite a while and after losing his lead vocalist Peter Falconer last year to health complications , he was in need of finding suitable lead lungs to adorn his ornate compositions , having already enlisted Joshua Corum of Head with Wings, so I recommended 2 of , in my view, the top British vocalists out there, namely Marc Atkinson of Nine Stones Close, Riversea, Moon Halo as well as Colin Mold (Kara, Karnataka and solo). Pat promptly checked them out, felt that they would be perfect fits and presto, the channels of communication kicked into gear! ''Planet Junkie'' comes on the heels of the brilliant ''Twilight '', a neo-prog masterpiece that transcends the label by offering passionate, romantic and intense music, showcasing more and more of Pat's piano mastery. Could this new album be even better? In fact, the setlist is very interestingly set up with each vocalist given three consecutive tracks to express their craft, with Pat doing intermezzos in between , a brilliant chapter-like experience that only enhances the enjoyment of the magnificently constructed songs.

We are introduced to the Marc Atkinson trio of songs, featuring this tremendous vocalist who has adorned a slew of progressive albums that have earned high marks for quality, a voice that transcends any genre, full of romance and passion . ''Within Your Bones'' kicks off this masterpiece with a moody opener, synths and voice propulsing the band ever forward, Marc's hushed voice easily morphing into more powerful exuberance when called upon, sealed by a Andy Mackay-like sax solo from Sarah Skinner and a sizzling Matthieu Spaeter guitar solo that has a little Phil Manzanera feel to it. Pat tortures his synth for good fortune. The title track holds nothing back, a rollicking effort that chugs along at breakneck speed, ushered along by their veteran, well-oiled and manic rhythm section of bassist Manu Michael and drummer Will Jones . Pat and Matthieu combine to put some melodic meat onto the arrangement , the later slapping a wicked propulsive solo to boot, before Marc does some vocal gymnastics that few could reproduce, imitated by a whistling synthesizer for good measure. The crowning achievement is the melancholic ''Missing'', a gorgeous melody that showcases Marc's voluptuous voice, in delicate agony, ballads don't get much better than this! Curling guitar arpeggios and a delicate organ humming in the background serve as the initial platform for a typical Atkinson delivery, where the instrumental intensity is matched by the booming vocals. Matthieu lets loose on his axe, explosive and feathered , enough to send shivers down one's spine.

In memoriam to his father, Pat created this touchingly brief instrumental called ''Life'', a brilliant piano etude that transcends time and space, evocative and sublime.

Colin Mold is one of the most underrated musicians in progland, a terrific multi-instrumentalist who can shine on guitars, bass and violin but its his haunting voice that really hits the mark, a surreal blend of Peter Gabriel and Justin Hayward (talk about icons). His 3 solo albums are absolute must-haves in my opinion, surely an accomplished artist that fully deserves wider recognition and reverential accolades. His work here should entice more than one listener to explore his craft as he does justice to the three allotted tracks that bear his stamp. Truth is both Pat and Colin seemed to coalesce as one in creating these pieces, kindred spirits in so many ways, definitely far from being rock stars but most assuredly dedicated musicians. Just listen to the crushingly timeless ''Night Time Sorrow'' , a masterful duet with Pat on piano and Colin's vaporous vocals and the light will shine brightly into your soul! The epic symphonic nature of ''Stay With Me'' is utterly beguiling, Colin putting on quite the performance, aided by a lead guitar-led chorus that will drop the jaw of any music fan, a level of unmatched passion that gives this band its credentials and its credibility. The extended acoustic guitar solo is liquid beauty, the voice spectacular and the overall impression, indelible. Beauty shines on ''To Tame a Star'', contrasting voices as Colin emotes vividly while his whispered hush occasionally enters the fray , the instrumentalists showing off their considerable skills, Matthieu ripping his electric guitar unashamedly while guest Eric Bouillette shines on violin, then giving the spotlight over to Pat to deliver quite the synth solo, short, sweet and killer! Colin's trio of tracks are simply majestic, coming across as a complete gorgeous whole.

If anyone doubts these guys have the chops, the thrilling ''I Will Be King'' settles the case quite convincingly, as the musicians display a furious bravado that pulls no punches, throwing in Ben Bell into a delirious organ solo, as well a series of exciting solos from the lead instruments. Wow!

Joshua Corum was previously unknown to me but Pat's choice was clearly dead on, as he has a different voice with a higher-pitched, more modern slightly American tone that suits the material just fine. The trio of songs selected for him are laden with altering complexity, moodier and perhaps more eccentric. Pat's piano introduces ''Born of a Dream'' , a seductive fragility emanating from Joshua's pained vocal, acoustic guitar adding to the frailty. A weeping violin courtesy of Eric Bouillette adds drama, while the rhythm section takes a well-deserved break at some nearby pub. ''Diogenes'' is pure prog delight, naming Plato, Socrates, Diogenes and the 'Academy' as influences, while the music salts and peppers dissonance with hints of Gentle Giant, as Joshua navigates the lyrics with steadfast passion and insistence, Matthieu's gripping axe shredding mercilessly, as Manu and Will keep the brisk pace with zest and gusto. He ends the album on a fabulous 10 minute romp, that is both explosive, humorous, breathtaking, at times shrill and excitable and ultimately intoxicating. ''Everlasting Creed'' delivers all the proggy goods, combining manic , breakneck instrumentation, colossal vocals and profound lyrics , as well as infusing a unexpected clarinet spot (Conrad Cheng) , another wicked guitar solo (man, can Matthieu play!) .

Drifting Sun continues its meteoric path and to Pat's credit , he has always displayed the uncanny ability to entertain by keeping predictability locked up in some Safe Asylum (sic), which makes the band so unique among prog outfits. Never boring or safe, Drifting is certainly far from their twilight (sic) , as their future cannot be brighter . Pat gambled on a new course and with a little help from his friends, the result is clearly spectacular. Massive, rapturous and continuous applause to all those who participated in this splendid cosmic adventure! I encourage all fans to travel to ''Planet Junkie'' and be ready for quite the discovery.

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tszirmay | 5/5 |

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