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Dave Greenslade - The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony CD (album) cover

THE PENTATEUCH OF THE COSMOGONY

Dave Greenslade

 

Crossover Prog

2.36 | 29 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Musical Wallpaper? Or ....

Conceived, written and illustrated by fantasy artist and writer Patrick Woodroffe, The Pentateuch was his first fully-fledged art-book combined with Dave Greenslade's second solo album, released at a time when the punk revolution had revised the outlook of many former Prog musicians!

The Book

The Pentateuch Of The Cosmogony [literally meaning 'the 5 books of the origin of the universe'] is a fantasy 'creation myth-cycle' presented as a pseudo-scientific decipherment of an ancient document. Beginning with a description of how the document came to be found, it then details the ideographic 'language' employed [ideograms are like, for example, our modern road signs] before presenting a "suggested interpretation" which takes up the bulk of the work. The text is laid out as a series of 5 'books' each sub-divided into many 'verses' and extensively illustrated. Briefly, the story shows how a world was created, populated by deities and men, before being destroyed by the hateful vengeance of an overlooked deity called Ildrinn. Ildrinn subsequently took her hate, and her human followers, into a never ending journey through space, an endless search for contentment. It is of course based on known creation myth-cycles, but is also an allegorical look at the condition of humanity.

While the story may not be to everybody's taste, the colourful illustrations will attract more attention. Some are large-scale paintings covering a whole page or more, while others are smaller details which accompany the text. All are rendered in Woodroffe's highly imaginative style, depicting a world full of strange mutated beings, like an evil flying spider with eagle's wings and beak, or an underwater fairy with a fish-like body. One or two of the set-piece paintings are simply stunning: for example 'Peace - The Happy Savage' is a skillful evocation of a pastoral heavenly innocence with a wealth of fine detail.

The Music

Let's face it, the music was never going to win any awards for originality! Somewhat different from the varied mixture of his first solo album, this is an all keyboard affair, with occasional assistance from drums and vocoded vocals - oh yes, and his 2 year old daughter urging us to "come and play". Aside from that it was all down to Dave and his large assortment of keyboard based instruments, including Mellotron, church organ, piano, tubular bells and the much-loved voices of a host of classic vintage synths.

Greenslade's music is light of hand and fleet of foot. It cheerily skips and jumps over fat bouncy bass lines. It meanders dreamily among slowly evolving ambient textures. It beguiles with charmingly simple melodies. It is intimate and airy in nature, yet satisfyingly warm and organic. It is instrumentally sparse and concise. It maintains a consistency of 'soul' throughout. It trips along pleasantly without being at all demanding, and could easily be used as a background for a dinner party, or writing reviews on a PC! But above all, it is nice!

The music succeeds - and fails - in variable degrees as a tool to illustrate the story, partly depending on the imagination of the listener. Beltempest, for instance, a track depicting the Lord Of Air, successfully invokes the first living being floating on air and making the first sounds. Conversely, Forest Kingdom, a funked up piece with Phil Collins on drums, entirely fails to conjur a forest world full of magical and mysterious creatures. Then again, Mischief & War cleverly imply a build up of arms and division of kingdoms by the use of a marching motif with an increasing amount of dissonance and harmonic breakdown, ending on a simulated nuclear strike.

As with any interpretive music, its success is often dependant on the amount of effort the listener is prepared to put in. Taken on its own you will likely find the music bland, boring and uninspired but take time to study and absorb the music and story together and you will be rewarded. It becomes transformed beyond a merely OK piece of nostalgic electronica to a deeper and ultimately more satisfying experience, though hardly in the same league as Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony!

Summary

In 1994 BGO Records finally released Greenslade's music as a CD. They have made a fair enough stab at presenting as much of the original book as possible and reproducing it as a high quality booklet. Inevitably it suffers in comparison: those magnificent full size illustrations are now too small to fully appreciate the detail work, and text is now borderline for comfort, especially the ideogram chart for which a magnifying glass is essential. The music was remastered by Greenslade and sounds superb, with a crisp and clear soundstage.

Personally, I adore the book and have a soft spot (or, should that be blind spot?) for the music. For that reason I am giving it 4 stars, but bear in mind the original 12 inch version is the one to get for the book - though now a hard to find collector's item - while the CD reissue is best for the music.

.... Science Fiction Masterpiece

Joolz | 4/5 |

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