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Cirrus Bay - Places Unseen CD (album) cover


Cirrus Bay



3.95 | 110 ratings

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5 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.

However, the arrival of Tai Shan on lead vocals for 2016's Places Unseen took the band up another notch, in my view.Recorded at a difficult time for Bill, on a personal level, the album has a wonderfully eclectic variety, with delicate pastoral tones, acoustic and electric guitar passages over powerful keyboard layers and subtle piano motifs. Strong bass and drum foundations and a sprinkling of flute, saxophone and recorder as appropriate.

The title track opens the album with gentle piano and dreamy vocals before a dancing drumbeat is introduced, changes of pace and then stabs of retro prog layering. The band's character is well-exhibited with this song and the influences of Renaissance, Genesis, Caravan and Camel mingles with classical and folk overtones. The music is allowed to ebb and flow and follow its own path and rarely repeats itself or follows any rigid verse-chorus structure. Followers of The Far Meadow and the aforementioned Thieves' Kitchen will find much to enjoy.

There are four instrumental tracks and the epic First Departure is a particular favourite of mine. The soft, atmospheric start gives no hint of the rapid, twisting prog instrumentation and tempo changes to follow ? with lush keyboards over soaring guitar lines.

Dimension 7 displays melodic, Tony Banks-style keyboard chordal arrangements, with Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett guitar passages here and throughout the album. Horseback to Hanssonland is a fresh, jazzy romp and homage to Bo Hansson, whilst the closing epic Second Departure is both haunting and uplifting and even has some 60s-style 5th Dimension vocal harmonies amongst the neo-prog. Whilst some of the transitions between sections could be smoother at times, the sense of variety and the unexpected always makes their longer tracks an enjoyable listen.

The more song-orientated pieces, such as Songs Unheard, provide a refreshing contrast. The Sheltering Cove will please classic Renaissance fans, whilst Boats begins with delicate, yearning phrasing before picking up the pace and soaring high. Bill says it is the album closest to his heart and his favourite. "I was writing what I like best, but not many could relate to it, I guess."

The band followed up with the Art of Vanishing (2019) - which was almost as good. However, Bill has subsequently 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. Some future instrumental solo releases are also planned at the time of writing. 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. (Extract from The Progressive Aspect)

Squonk19 | 5/5 |


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