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The Emerald Dawn - To Touch the Sky CD (album) cover


The Emerald Dawn



4.00 | 92 ratings

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4 stars The atmospheric prog folk band from St. Ives is back with it's fourth major release--an album that shows some major steps forward in both its compositional complexity and its sound production.

1. "The Awakening" (11:15) not as syrupy as past compositions, there is complexity and development here that the band has never been willing (or felt the need) to do before. There are moments I feel classical music parallels and jazzy stylistic adventures. Awesome! (17.25/20)

2. "And I Stood Transfixed" (15:07) I love the PINK FLOYD "Welcome to the Machine" feel of the opening of this one as well as the hand percussion used in place of the drums. At 2:12 it shifts in both tempo and instruments as drum kit joins in with bass, fast strummed guitar, and Dick Parry-like tenor saxophone. Then, at 3:40, everything stops while spacey synths oscillate and soft rhythm track establishes itself for Tree to sing over with her heavily-reverbed TRACY THORN-like voice. Beautiful section. Tree's flute takes over in the gorgeous seventh and eight minutes before a kind of earthquake of sound leads into an aggressive, monster-movie-like section. Ally's tenor sax goes wild over the drums. A brief section with Tree's most angelic vocalise is followed by a long passage over which Alan's guitar shreds perhaps as quickly, effectively, and emotionally as ever. My favorite Emerald Dawn song ever! (27.5/30)

3. "The Ascent" (22:17) opens with organ-synth sounds (strings and flutes) and Mellotron voices before giving way to light classical piano play of a kind of Russian theme (think John Tout/RENAISSANCE) with background synth strings and delicate cymbal improvisation. The whole song sounds as if it were recorded inside a huge cathedral space. In the third minute, Ally Carter's distinctive electric guitar begins another searing solo but then, uncharacteristically, cuts it short at 3:00 in order to make room for a new two chord section over which Tree sings in a kind of SALLY OLDFIELD/TRACEY THORN voice. At 5:37 there is another shift--this one taking the listener down an entirely new and refreshing path--with low strings and plucked strings arpeggi flowing over the more dynamic bass and drum play. Despite the open, orchestra-like sound recording of the drums, they are rather impressive here. At 8:30, there is another shift into a more ethereal fog of synth washes with some subtle bass and drum incidentals until a very slow pace is established--over which Ally begins soloing as if from one of the side chapels of a large cathedral. At the end of the eleventh minute, the music shifts back to a variation of the 5:37 movement. Here Ally's synthesized guitar solos sounding very much like a saxophone. The keyboard soundscapes here sound a lot like the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT in the I Robot era. At 13:55 things break down into a more simplified, spacious variation of the 3:00 motif with Tree singing again. Piano solos and synth solos exchange take turns over the paunchy bass lines and interesting drum play. There is a very COLLAGE Moonshine-like quality and feel to the sound here. The music palette stays pretty much the same for a while though there are several subtle shifts in pace and motif. At the end of the nineteenth minute, some nice orchestral-sounds (low "brass") help bring a gravity to the music indicative of the song's coming to an end--trying to make it's last impression. Tree sings the final verse and then Ally lets loose with an emotion-packed guitar solo while organ chords, bass, and vacuous drums carry the tune below up to it's protracted "orchestral" finish. Very nicely done! Another song that I can honestly say raises the band in my esteem. Finally, I can feel the way Emerald Dawn's music is informed by classical music as they have claimed. (39.5/45)

Total Time 48:39

A band that has had a very pleasing, attractive sound from its inception, but whose quality in sound production and complexity of musical arrangements has always seemed lacking. With this album, the band seems to have taken a turn toward more serious sound engineering and more seriously thought out compositions. In the past, I've complained about the simplicity of Emerald Dawn compositions as well as about the out-dated computer- generated sounds used to make their rich space music. On To Touch the Sky, the band have finally stepped up in both compositional complexity and the use of machines that can produce higher quality sounds (or they may have just found a better producer and better engineers). The changes are a definite step forward.

B/four stars; a solid contribution to Prog World and an Emerald Dawn album that I can finally recommend to prog lovers everywhere.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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