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Clearlight - Clearlight Symphony CD (album) cover

CLEARLIGHT SYMPHONY

Clearlight

 

Symphonic Prog

3.91 | 202 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Consisting only of two sidelong Movements, Clearlight's debut album is one of the finest prog releases ever in the history of French rock. "Symphony" is literally a symphony of not only sound, but also reflection and emotion: the richness and majesty of this sonic tapestry are so amazing that it happens to bear an almost surreal beauty even in those particularly disturbing places. Cyril Verdeaux, a refined keyboardist and an inspired composer, created such wonderful music and managed to join forces with a host of equally inspired partners in order to concretize it in such a magnificent way. The presence of major Gong names in the support ensemble makes it assured that the music will bear a distinctive cosmic flavor, at least. Verdeaux's individual performing style is clearly influenced by the standard polish vibe of academicism, yet you can tell that his musical vision is pretty close to the peculiar exuberance of the jazz tradition and the eerie nuances so typical of spacey-oriented rock. All this gets translated into a peculiar type of symphonic prog: actually, Clearlight's global sound preserves the usual sense of bombast and artistic stylishness of symphonic prog, indeed, but let's keep in mind that this offering is quite peculiar and distinctive. Both Movements last almost 20 minutes each. 1st Movement kicks off with effective piano chords that don't take long before they articulate a basic motif, with the whole band getting in for the expanding jams. While the guitar and sax provide excellent flourishes, it is the recurrently floating synthesizer that sets a sort of surreal core for the support band's whole sound. Piano and organ alternate their soling before the sixth minute arrives, a time when things get jazzier in a Canterbury-like manner. It is in this passage that Hillage begins to assume a proper leading role, albeit not going all free but keeping a solid touch with the rhythm section's pulsations and the mellotron layers. At minute 12 chaos arrives to set a dislocated sonic landscape: only when the chaos eventually disappears can the initial piano motif reemerge and restore order. After an excellent sax solo, things get majestic, with a choral mellotron that casts a splendorous light on the remaining instrumentation. The organ arpeggios' fade- out has a dreamy effect, very proper for the 1st Movement's closure. For the 2nd Movement, Verdeaux dispenses with a recurrent rhythm section and chooses to lead the ensemble across a realm of pure evocation. The initial motif, carried on by piano and mellotron, simply makes the word 'delightful' reach a transcendent meaning. The successive emergence of synth and trumpet adornments, keyboard floating effects and subtle guitar layers elaborate a delicate orchestral architecture that gradually turns from an introspective candor to an intense expansion (which is when it sounds to my ears like an ethereal version of classic Magma). A few seconds before the 5th minute comes a scary section that seems to set a challenge to reason and intellect. Even though it is fair to say that this Movement is patently more relaxed than the first one, this is far from "new age". Occasional elements such as the explosively neurotic guitar solo at minute 8 and the mysterious ethnic section between 15'30" and 16'30" manage to create an interesting mood of tension and colorful variation against the more candid sections in which plain serene beauty rules. The reprise of the 1st Movement's main motif sets the pace for the 2nd Movement's closure, leading to a dreamy climax in which the cosmic vibe prevails. This Clearlight Symphony is a supreme masterpiece of prog, and in many ways it would be accurate to say that Verdeaux wasn't destined to top or equal this exquisite opus. But, all in all, the career of Clearlight is not to be dismissed, since I has many excellent items. but that's a matter for other reviews. I'll end this one expressing my maximum rate for the album in question.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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