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Nine Stones Close - Traces CD (album) cover


Nine Stones Close



3.93 | 154 ratings

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5 stars After nearly 45 years of exploring the wonderful world of progressive rock, you get to hone your likes and dislikes into a highly sharp edge and sort of develop a gut feeling simply by perusing the artwork, deciphering the titles, the instrumentation and players or even the production credits. One foggy morning, I went hunting for some new prog thrill and I absent mindedly flicked through the PA top 2010 albums and my mouse "eeked" to a halt in front of what I first thought was a sliver of odorifous cheese but was actually this unknown entity called "Traces" by Nine Stones Close, a band I had never heard of previously. Hmmmm! What is this all about, recognizing nothing but Ed Unitsky's flamboyant artwork (a pretty good sensor)? Reading my colleagues glowing reviews (AtomicCrimsonRush brilliant essay sealed my interest) , hearing the samples and the biography on their website created quite a stir as my proggy senses started tingling big time, as if a Geiger counter had gone haywire in my psyche. I got to get a copy, I bellow with glee! But it turns out that the usual suppliers do not have this yet, so I revert to going straight to the band and Adrian Jones replies kindly, graciously and immediately to my request for a Traces + Retraced bonus version as per our reviewer amcy's suggestion. Et voila, time for UPS to get their pigeons loaded up and fueled for the transatlantic (no, not the band, silly) flight and arrive on my Calgary doorstep, garlanded by a gracious personal note from Mr. Jones himself.

I always liked melancholia, as it's a crucial vehicle for the human experience which provides a binary dosage of sadness and hope. From Italian opera, Chicago blues, Portuguese fado, Celtic folk, Hungarian gypsy music and countless others, themes of despair can fuel the pen and the artistic fingers. Now melancholic does not mean depressed (that is an extreme) as it's not a pejorative term, it's simply an introspective journey into the realm of human emotion and how one deals with pain, tragedy and suffering. Sometimes, the results can be awe inspiring like the manner in which the Japanese people have been dealing with the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear leak. Grace under pressure, elegant respect for the departed, massive humility emanating from the survivors, are all held together by tears, sweat and blood. So how fitting that the first track is called "Reality Check"? A gentle acoustic guitar splashes gently across the airwaves, weaving its delicate web and waving the heavy rhythm guitars to crash on the breakers in thunderous succession. Then, as suddenly as the squalls began, the calm returns. "Threads" is simply put; a pure aural delight and the influences are obvious, deep felt personal pain obscured by clouds as vocalist Marc Atkinson cries out in anguish, a sorrowful tour de force as Adrian unleashes a shivering series of electric guitar solos, gliding among waves of choir mellotron and urgent organ courtesy of Brendan Eyre , a fret display that rekindles Andy Latimer's exalted solo on "Ice" as well as Gilmour's finest moments but it's the repeated and fragile vocal chorus that would make Steve Hogarth blush with utter jealousy that takes it all to such a lofty level. Phenomenal piece of music. "Falling to Pieces" is another stellar piece (no pun intended!) that features the quivering voice of Marc Atkinson (Mandalaband and Riversea) and the setting of a serene mood, flush with regret and despondency. The title track is more of the same, man this guy can sing! When Adrian slices through with another blistering axe ride , you kind of realize all the goose bumps are there for a reason. This is definitely atmospheric, comfortably numbing in a spiritual way, as one learns painfully how to deal with tragedy. "Thicker Than Water" is the extended epic, a nearly quarter of an hour of sonic bliss, the empathy theme recurring and reassuring amid a vast coalition of keyboard torrents such as e-pianos, organs, synthesizers and synth-strings, graced by the almost funky mid-section where whispered vocals, bluesy guitar noodlings and percussive boils conspire nicely. The aggrieved and repetitive "What happened to us" chorus introduces a raging guitar revelation, an explosive fury of dejection that soars, glides, screams and howls unrelenting. The melody veers into a little welcome weightiness as the rage is ratcheted up quite a notch, the drums pounding mercilessly. Tremendous stuff!

The "Retraced" bonus CD kindly found for me provides a reweaving of "Threads", a reconstructed "Traces" and an instrumental version of "Thicker Than water" as well as an acoustic piece. Tender mercies.

The story is best expressed on the band's website and I quote " Themes of loss are universal; loss of innocence and youth; loved ones and things. Money, hair and sleep once you have your own children. Things left unsaid and undone, or that should have been. Fleeting moments you try to hold onto when times are not quite so good, special memories that surface to comfort you when you least expect them. None of us are immune". This album is a sublime winner in all aspects and easily one of my prized possessions, a desert island addition. Thank you Adrian, Atomiccrimsonrush and amcy 5 merciful suggestions

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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