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Cirrus Bay - The Art of Vanishing CD (album) cover


Cirrus Bay



3.77 | 41 ratings

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4 stars Cirrus Bay are a Washington State-based symphonic/neo-prog project of Bill Gillham, currently on hiatus. Sadly overlooked by many when their albums were released, there is much for followers of Renaissance, the classic Genesis era and the Canterbury sound to enjoy in their pastoral, dreamy musical soundscapes with beautiful vocals and intertwining, stream of consciousness, guitar and keyboard prog noodlings.

Cirrus Bay had their roots as an acoustic duo comprising Bill Gillham on guitar and Sharra Gillham (now Acle) on vocals who performed Bill's intricate, but melodic, compositions live in intimate venues in Washington State in the early 2000s. With support from engineer and drummer, Mark Blasco, a number of CDs were recorded and released: The Slipping of a Day (2008), A Step Into Elsewhere (2009) and Whimsical Weather (2012) saw Bill's musical vision develop more clearly and culminated in The Search For Joy (2014). This was a strong, well-produced album that captured their more prog-orientated musical approach and boasted the talents of Thieves' Kitchen's Amy Darby and Phil Mercy on a couple of tracks. The arrival of Tai Shan on lead vocals for 2016's Places Unseen took the band up another notch, in my view (see that earlier review).

The Art of Vanishing (2019) followed up the promise of that earlier album - and included what Bill called more user- friendly songs and instrumentals, whilst keeping the spirit and style of the previous album. Some lovely harmonies resulted from Sharra joining Tai on backing vocals. The absence of Brendan Buss meant Bill and Mark covered the instrumental sprinklings with saxophone and piano ? maintaining the musically continuity very well.

A Blossom of Hills is an impressive opening epic, with sumptuous vocal harmonies, a spritely beat, bags of melodic complexity and a triumphant, proggy finish making it an album highlight. Undiscovered Isle is a gentle, solo acoustic guitar instrumental, followed by the dreamy, relaxing vocals of A Garment of Clouds and provides more light and shade to the album.

The North Country has some pleasing slabs of retro 70s keyboards and some excellent guitar themes later on. Another trio of instrumentals Sooke Harbour, Unexpected Wonder and Lost and Profound (with some soaring saxophone) create that unifying atmosphere of pastoral calm and contemplation which is such a central theme to the music of Cirrus Bay. Two more accessible and commercial tracks, Eden and The Dictator, provide some easy-listening enjoyment with Tai's beautiful vocals to the fore. They are also key to the success of the final epic track, The Vanishing Place, which effortlessly twists and turns through beautiful, evocative, lyrics and Genesis-like keyboards to a satisfying conclusion.

Unfortunately, as Bill states, The Art of Vanishing sold no better than Places Unseen, and subsequently he has now decided to put the project on hiatus. His new project is called Echoing Trees and he says it will be "more rock, more indie, more live sounding but hopefully without compromising any of the art. I will be on guitars, keyboards and vocals along with Sarah Truman-Gillham on bass and vocals, and hopefully Mark Blasco on drums and vocals as well, to carry us into a bit of a more guitar-centric direction, and a new sound I hope many will like!"

Bill, in his home near Mount Rainier in Washington, is also working on an instrumental solo release that is more piano and keyboard dominated, as a contrast to Echoing Trees. So hopefully the future looks good for this very talented musician as he currently moves out of lockdown and into fresh pastures. In the meantime, I strongly recommend checking out what could now be the Cirrus Bay releases on Bandcamp, if you missed these hidden pastoral neo-prog gems on their initial release. Finally, it is worth highlighting the expressive cover artwork of Lee Gaskins, which successfully evokes the soothing prog music on the later releases, although is it only me who sees Meghan Markle on The Art of Vanishing?

(Extract from The Progressive Aspect)

Squonk19 | 4/5 |


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