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The Enid - Aerie Faerie Nonsense (1983) CD (album) cover


The Enid


Symphonic Prog

3.62 | 117 ratings

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4 stars Picture yourself at the Royal Albert Hall, the Concertgebouw or Carnegie Hall. Hear the excited murmur of the audience, the orchestra tuning up, the applause as the conductor walks to the podium, and the descending hush as he turns to the orchestra and lifts the baton. You are now in the perfect state of mind to listen to "Aerie Faerie Nonsense". THE ENID used synthesizer, guitar, bass, drums and other percussion to create a lush, convincing orchestral sound on this captivating instrumental album. Some of the sounds are sublime. It's not a live album, but I really get the feeling I'm listening to an orchestra performing to a live audience.

Sounding like a mixture of the Last Night of the Proms and a John Williams soundtrack, 'Childe Roland (A Heroe's life)' (sic) is a musical romp par excellence. Echoing electric guitar, drums, 'horns', 'strings', 'flute', 'fairground organ', tinkling percussion and concert piano certainly make for an interesting sound. It was inspired by Robert Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came or by the legend of the childe (untested) knight Roland who, guided by Merlin, rescued his sister who had been carried off by fairies to the castle of the Elfland king.

'Ondine' provides a calm, pleasant breather after the first track. There's a ballet of the same name, which I have not heard. The folksy tune seems familiar, though. According to German mythology, the water nymph Ondine and a young knight fell in love and married, but he cruelly betrayed her and she cast a spell on him that would stop him breathing as soon as he slept. The piece starts off sounding slightly medieval but then moves into Hollywood soundtrack territory and would make the perfect backing for a fantasy story or romance. I get a picture of a fairy glade, especially when the ethereal synthesizer and glockenspiel play, or of Audrey Hepburn in autumnal Paris. Quite lovely. Come to think of it, I'm slightly reminded of the music of Satie.

'Prelude (Interlude)' is precisely both: just under a minute of Wagnerian 'horns' between 'Ondine' and 'Mayday Galliard (Bridal Dance)'. The latter made me chuckle on first hearing: Caractacus Potts meets Mary Poppins? It sounds rather like a Yorkshire colliery band, complete with chintzy electric piano, playing at a tea dance. The tinkling tune of the 18th Century English nursery rhyme "Boys and girls come out to play, the moon doth shine as bright as day." ends the piece. Gorgeous.

At just under 30 minutes, the epic 'Fand' begins with deep, menacing 'tuba' and 'cello' and could easily be the backing music to Frodo's arrival in Mordor. Initially reminding me slightly of the music of Wagner, Elgar and Tchaikovsky, an electric guitar (lute?) riff then strikes up to introduce synthesizer sounding like horns, strings and harp. As the piece progresses the musicians begin to sound like a colliery band again and, later, like a symphony orchestra. The guitar riff returns and the whole thing jollies up and transforms into something reminiscent of a sailors' hornpipe. Finally I imagine ISAO TOMITA or VANGELIS playing Elgar: the music mellows, orchestral 'strings' ebb and flow to the accompaniment of 'horns' and timpani, and the music becomes a full-blown orchestral piece complete with majestic ending. I half expect to hear someone coughing during the performance. According to Celtic mythology, Fand was queen of the fairies. I'm no expert on early 20th Century British classical composers, but The Garden of Fand and other symphonic poems by composer Sir Arnold Bax were the inspiration for the piece.

The whole thing feels very British (the romanticised images of the Pre-Raphaelites spring to my mind), although there are parts that make me think of Wagner, Tchaikovsky and the ballet (and My Fair Lady, come to that). When 'Fand' ends I feel as if the lights should go up and an audience should start applauding. The music is over-the-top, yet delightful: aerie faerie nonsense, indeed. Talented guys. The group must have had a blast doing it, with collective tongue in collective cheek, and I would love to have seen it performed live.

How does one rate an unusual sound such as this? To me it's worth at least 4 stars (excellent addition to any progressive music collection), but I suspect it may leave some Progressive Rock fans nonplussed. It's pleasant listening and very evocative but I can't say I regard it as essential, so 4 stars it is. Nevertheless I strongly doubt that anyone who enjoys symphonic Progressive Rock, classical music or West End musicals (not necessarily in that order) would regret owning it. The next best thing to being at the Proms, methinks, and best turned up LOUD. Next time I listen to this I think I'll have a bottle of bubbly (or should that be Pimm's?) at the ready for the interval.

Fitzcarraldo | 4/5 |


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