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Colin Masson - Isle Of Eight CD (album) cover

ISLE OF EIGHT

Colin Masson

 

Crossover Prog

3.59 | 32 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Isle Of Eight' - Colin Masson (8/10)

Arguably better known for his work with prog-folk band The Morrigan, multi-instrumentalist and composer Colin Masson has seen fit to ride alone, and create some work he can safely call his own. As the debut of his solo career, 'Isle Of Eight' is a surprisingly challenging piece of work. With track lengths easily nearing the half-hour mark, Masson has crafted a piece of work that demands attention from the listener, and one might expect from such an ambitious album, 'Isle Of Eight's true beauty is in the fact that with each listen, appreciation grows, and a new shade of the music reveals itself.

'Isle Of Eight' reminds me of the colossal work 'Tales Of Topographic Oceans' by progressive giants Yes, in the sense that the work is comprised not of many shorter tracks, but only a handful of extended, detailed compositions. Masson fashions a very pleasant style for himself, finding his sound somewhere between Celtic traditional music and the symphonic prog style of bands like Genesis and Yes. A predominantly instrumental venture, 'Isle Of Eight' is mainly driven by Masson's brooding guitar work, which is incredibly diverse in it's mood and tone. Throughout the course of one song, the music may go from that of utter chaos and technical skill, to some subtle and soothing acoustic work. In terms of the performance Colin has given here, everything is surprisingly consistent and strong, be it the lush keyboard backings, or his tasteful lead guitar work, or brilliant acoustic interludes. Personally, I find the most enjoyment in the acoustic work Colin plays here, managing to be emotionally sound yet very technically accomplished as well.

While there are only three tracks that make up the whole of 'Isle Of Eight,' the album is vast. After quite a few listens under my belt, it appears to me that it might be just that, that is both the album's greatest strength, the cause of it's greatest weakness. The wealth of musical ideas here are great both in their quantity and quality. The musical sections never feel undercooked, and almost always have something really interesting and engaging going on. Where the album starts showing it's ugly head is actually brought on possibly by the fact that there are too many ideas to contend with... or at the very least, the tracks aren't structured well-enough to give a feeling of cohesion. With the possible exception of the last track 'Return To The Northern Wasteland' which uses a recurring theme throughout, the music constantly flows, but rarely returns to an idea once it's left behind. Therefore, without anything for a listener to latch onto, the music can feel too expansive and all over the place.

While the music on 'Isle Of Eight' is mostly instrumental, there is some sparse vocal work from fellow Morrigan bandmate Cathy Alexander that is very effective for the short times it is used. The two first tracks on the album are quite similar to each other in both sound and structure, although the opening title track is a tad stronger and more memorable. As has been said, the music here rarely focuses on any single musical idea for too long, instead preferring to jump over the map, and bring as many different ideas in as possible. While arguably the least powerful song here, 'Return To The Northern Wasteland' does distinguish itself from the other two tracks in terms of it's unique sound. Starting out as a very electronic piece of music, the piece gently builds into a spacy, upbeat and interesting Celtic groove.

While the album does get robbed of being called a 'masterpiece' for it's structural flaws and lack of cohesion (an issue that would be corrected somewhat with his second album), 'Isle Of Eight' is a very exciting piece of progressive rock, and a beautiful piece of music from this talented artist.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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