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Diagonal - Arc CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.50 | 68 ratings

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4 stars Diagonal is a Eclectic Prog band that started out in 2006 in the UK, released an album in 2008 and another in 2012, and then went on hiatus between 2013 ? 2018 to raise families and etc. In August of 2019, they came out of nowhere to release their 3rd albums "Arc". For a band that started out with 7 members, it is quite a feat to say that the band's line up has remained the same except minus one member. All 6 of the remaining members were with the band since the beginning; David Wileman (acoustic and electric guitars), Alex Crispin (organ, electric piano, vocals), Ross Hossack (synthesizer), Nicholas Whittaker (alto and soprano saxophones, vocals), Daniel Pomlett (bass), and Luke Foster (drums, percussion). "Arc" has 8 tracks and a total run time of just over 44 minutes.

In order for the band to "get back in the groove" of working together, they decided to try creating the album with a more spontaneous method, not spending so much time trying to get the perfect take. They holed themselves up in the studio for a week and spent that time composing, jamming and recording, focusing on nothing except music. The lyrics have taken what the band calls a "Jon Anderson approach" where they are mostly thematic, choosing words to fit the mood instead of telling a story.

The album starts instantly with a groovy beat on "9-Green" (6:22), which soon brings in the vocals that sounds similar to the male vocalist from "The Human League", but good enough, but have a nice level of vulnerability to them. The music is clean and feels free flowing, but it isn't what you could call straightforward either, as there is a strong progressive feel to it all. A unique sounding guitar solo comes in around 3 minutes, which continues even when the vocals start again. The music is relaxed and really does seem like it is very un-forced. During the last instrumental section, things take time to develop and intensify as the guitar continues, then it eventually calms back to the flowing style again.

"Stars Below" begins atmospheric with nice synths and keys and acoustic guitar. It's a very nice mix, again relaxed and free flowing. The melody from the vocals doesn't fall into anything really structured, it just seems devoid of any boundaries or borders. Short and nice, with shades of Canterbury Scene and a light jazz attitude.. "Citadel" (8:02) does follow a loose- structure of sorts, but at the same time, has a meandering attitude. The soft jazz/motorik feel really shines through on this one, relaxed and free floating. As the music slips into a soft psychedelic feel, you get a feel of "Can" or even some of "The Doors" softer jams. Later, the sax comes in with a more minimal foundation, but that soon returns. Instruments continue to take the spotlight as the music softly flows along with some excellent improvisation.

"The Spectrum Explodes" (4:32) has an upbeat tempo, but retains smooth synths with sustained chords and a more accessible melody. In the instrumental break, a sax introduces in a rousing guitar solo. The music sounds almost like a Moody Blues track in their later years. The beat and meter get a little more complex towards the end, but smooths out again for a organ and synth led ending. "Warning Flare" (6:13) slows things to a slow, moderate tempo, and returns to the mellow and relaxed style. Beginning with a floating intro with guitar and sax, the vocals later come in, and it all sounds a bit more Pink Floyd-ish, but with psychedelic, stoner guitars. Things calm down towards the middle until the track is mostly driven by acoustic guitars and soft organ with the vocals. An extended sax solo has the final spotlight of this track. The title track "Arc" (4:25) comes next. This one has a definite psychedelic feel to it, but gets more intense when the vocals come in with a tricky melody echoed by the guitar. Synths and sax share the solos on the instrumental break, followed by fuzzy guitar after.

"The Vital" (7:38) begins with an atmospheric organ and minimal soft guitar both improvising together. This time the band calls on their inner, early psych-Floydian spirit. Even the sax gets in on the mellow instrumental bliss-out. The somewhat ambient track just meanders along like a slow, wandering river, and also brings an inner peace to the spirit in the same way as the river does, evoking nature almost as well as anything by Paul Winter. Very nice, and quite unexpected actually. "Celestia" (4:34) ends the album with a soft and pensive song with more "Floydian" style, but with a repeating keyboard riff in the background.

This album seems to teeter on 3.5 star rating, but overall the band manages to tip the scales in their favor. The music is quite easy going with a relaxed flavor, even in the heavier moments. It seems the band was going for that style from the comments they made about having a sense of spontaneity without feeling stressed out about boundaries of time and such so much. The music is mostly quite relaxing, and yet it doesn't really get boring like you might think, however, in the first few listens, it might seem a bit same-y. But the music grows on you also, and with more listens, you will pick up subtleties that you didn't notice at first. It's a very nice album that mixes soft jazz, psychedelics and even some hints of Krautrock in places, plus it is a bit spacey at times. Very nice, but not really essential or excellent, but quite good nevertheless.

TCat | 4/5 |


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