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Nine Skies - 5.20 CD (album) cover


Nine Skies



3.99 | 63 ratings

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Steve Conrad
4 stars Mournful, Soulful Elegy

Gentle Delicacy with Waves of Emotion

What I hear in this new release (release date June 4, 2021) from (mainly) French progressive outfit NINE SKIES, is a tender and nakedly vulnerable meditation on death, life, and the question of faith.

With gentle acoustic guitars picking and plucking as though at our heartstrings, hushed and sometimes anguished vocals singing of that admixture of joy and nearly unbearable pain- yes, actual unadorned life- and with added sweetness from STEVE HACKETT's searing guitar, JOHN HACKETT's wailing, wandering flute, and stirring vocals from DAMIAN WILSON, each on one select track, we have washes of restrained yet strongly-etched emotion depicted in song.

The Full Band

- Aliénor Favier / vocals - Eric Bouillette / guitars, mandolin, violin, keyboards, arrangements - Alexandre Lamia / guitars, keyboards, arrangements - Anne-Claire Rallo / keyboards - David Darnaud / guitars - Achraf El Asraoui / vocals, guitars - Bernard Hery / bass, fretless bass - Fabien Galia / drums, percussion - Laurent Benhamou / saxophones

With: - Steve Hackett / guitar solo (2) - Damian Wilson / vocals (9) - John Hackett / flute (7) - Cath Lubatti / violin, viola - Lilian Jaumotte / cello

Near as I can tell- although vocal performances aside from Mr. Wilson's are not specifically credited- each member of this gifted nine piece outfit, plus additional string contributions from two guests, show us what restraint, arrangements, compositional skills, and thoughtful presentation can yield.

Gone are the bombast and grandeur of earlier NINE SKIES music, and instead we find a cornucopia of poetic ideas and images- largely penned by keyboardist Anne-Clair Rallo- wedded to lush and most often acoustic instrumentation that takes us from hushed and wistful, to impassioned and painfully hopeful.

Everyone shows up; everyone contributes. And oh! that saxophone!

Did Someone Die?

Especially in the final track, "Smiling Stars", I thought so. Especially then, reading back through the lyrics, I thought I could capture a sense of threads throughout- the loveliness and beauty, and ugliness, and hurt- the dark figures like the menacing reaper who stalks through the most golden of moments- and the gleaming of gold or the glittering of stars that may- or may not- portend something beyond this vale of tears.

I Am Touched and Moved

For me, this is an album that could repeatedly be heard and pondered, for it has layers and depths and subtleties. I rate it as an "Excellent addition to any progressive music collection", and find in it a departure in which greater possibilities may emerge.

Steve Conrad | 4/5 |


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