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Nine Stones Close - One Eye On The Sunrise CD (album) cover

ONE EYE ON THE SUNRISE

Nine Stones Close

 

Neo-Prog

3.97 | 160 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars I just received my package from Holland, the new shimmering release from Nine Stones Close as well as a personal message from Adrian Jones, a simple little gesture that showcases the class that will be expressed in musical form as I stick this one into the music machine. This band really knocked me sideways with their debut 'Traces' (for which Adrian kindly included the 'Retraced' bonus disc), a collection of emotionally dense progressive rock that featured sensational songs, impeccable playing as well as some of the most pained vocals ever. Needless to say, this sophomore effort will determine the mark Nine Stones Close may earn in the prog galaxy and the adding of bassist Peter Vink (formerly of Dutch legend Finch) as well as Pieter van Hoorn on drums, a former member of Knights Area certainly has set the bar at a very high level. Obviously, the rhythm section is solid as one could hope for. Lead vocalist Marc Atkinson has a style unique to his own, imagine a mix of Mark Hollis (Talk Talk) and Steve Hoggarth with lots of personal flourishes and you get the message. Keyboardist Brendan Eyre is a masterful coloring agent, using his various boards with delicate parsimony, ornate piano, crawling synth carpets and some brooding organ to fulfill the more masculine sections. Adrian is a superb guitarist with tons of flair and bravado, certainly moving away from overt comparisons to Latimer or Gilmour by injecting more organic sounds (acoustic guitar on the otherwise breathtaking 'Janus').

The serene e-piano intro on 'Faceless Angel' evolves into a sweeping synth-based orchestration that caresses the soul and prepares the table exquisitely, a flashy axe solo to get the goose bumps going (as the mellotron howls in the background). Yummy!

'A Secret' proposes a soporific Atkinson vocal, deeply agonized and fragile (hints of David Sylvian), minimalist instrumental workings with subtle acoustic guitar slashes and electronic wooshes with drums entering the fray most majestically. The whole sounds very current Marillion with Adrian finally unleashing a whizzing solo that has a 'While my Guitar Gently Weeps' feel to it. Hush, my children, big boys don't cry!

The glorious 'Janus', as mentioned earlier, is a stunner, fueled by a haunting and repetitive guitar wail, bass rumbling along, drums fixated on the road ahead and a purely hypnotic brew. The regal piano meanders lovingly through the spellbinding fray, abetted by the swooning lead guitar, itself aided by some superb acoustic guitar, both played by Adrian. This leads into the short guitar duel (Adrian with himself)) on ''....and dream of sleep' , keeping things pastoral and acoustic. The overall mood is one of laid back confidence, at times almost ambient soundscapes that have no restrictive elements, gently meandering sounds until the arrival of the bulldozer 'One Eye on the Sunrise' , where the guys eventually cook up a storm. The title track begins placid enough, just a continuation of the previous mood led by an acoustic guitar and a plaintive voice, a somber cello exalting the pain and then'..Boom! The shift towards hard and harsh becomes overpowering, dissonance and brutality in emotional embrace, raging organ swirls, pulsating bass and brash guitar riffs complete the musical manifesto. This is not the easy listen one was accustomed to from the onset, a deep sense of foreboding and almost doom (like early Anathema). The track then settles down nicely into a more symphonic approach, taking its sweet time in developing a newer austere mood (that gorgeous Katy Bell cello again). Frankly, this is no neo-prog but what the hell! The second time around, the oomph factor is even more pronounced, Atkinson really getting rousingly poignant and the crescendo effect is quite stunning, slippery Adrian solo flashes that burn up the sky, steering it all towards a swirling delirium.

Back to some more contemplative stuff on the brief 'Eos', a fastidious and temperamental piece that shows off Adrians guitar skills once again.

'The Weight', as the title may imply is a heavier nugget, classic blues-based prog colored by unexpected hues of melancholy and deep emotion. The Marillion comparison is quite obvious here, not some cheap copy or a fawning tribute, just a stylistic parallel that deserves mention. References to 'Sunrise' appear once again confirming the relationship with the Brave boys. Fans of the aforementioned will adore this track, album and artist to no end. Spooky electronic effects add even more experimentation to the mix, Adrian unleashing some trembling finger food that sweeps along grandly. Marc gives a unique vocal, full of deep emotion. Wow!

'The Distance' keeps the flow going, dreamily atmospheric, unabashedly romantic and simply gorgeous, Brendan's keys diligently painting the arrangement (like only Mr. Barbieri can), forlorn piano and spatial effects amid the fretboard wisps. This is tremendously soporific in a good sense, pastoral and grandiose, almost haunting.

The highlight 13 minute + epic 'Frozen Thought' has a rather unique attribute, a 'Hocus Pocus' by Focus riff at the start that is lusciously perverse (hello Jan!) which evolves in a variety of directions (as all good prog epics should). The pulsating Van Hoorn drum work supplies a broad framework to groove to, 'something divine' to move the soul, glacial burns and overwhelming coalescence, this is perhaps the band's finest moment, a true classic. The contrasts between the soft and harsh are remarkable; the lead vocal is totally entrancing. Stolen Earth's Heidi Widdop provides some passionate female vocals to the mix, while Adrian utterly shines on the axe (evoking even my hero Phil Manzanera at times) , sweeping crystalline riffs and ripping some fiery solos to boot, aided here by guest axeman Matt Stevens . The frenzy is ecstatic, the playing absurdly competent (check out them drums!) and the liberating sense of rage is spellbinding. The final section is just incredible, needs to be heard by all fans of prog.

The album ends with 'Sunset' an apt title as one could imagine, cello and piano in complete harmony, like 2 lovers grateful for the day that has passed and the music that was played.

Nine Stones Close have successfully passed the sophomore jinx grade and I cannot recommend this album enough, a perfect compliment to their debut. Lovely artwork completes the deal. I eagerly await their future output. Bravo Adrian and bravo to the boys in the band!

5 Solar Irises

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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