Illuminae - Dark Horizons,
These days I am so far behind on my reviews that even if I read the press release at the time the album was made available to me, I have long forgotten who was involved by the time I get around to playing it. Hence this was a wonderful surprise when it finally made it to my ears, and I wondered how such a well-formed band could have come out of nowhere, and in some places there was no doubt whatsoever that they had Troy Donockley (Nightwish, but for me will always be associated with Iona) playing as I recognise his work anywhere, so who was this band and who did they bring in? It transpired that the people behind this are multi-instrumentalist Ian Jones (Karnataka, Chasing The Monsoon) and singer Agnieszka Swita. While I guess Polish singer Agnieszka will normally be linked with Caamora, I have been aware of her other works as well and highly recommend searching out her solo album ‘Sleepless’. Then they brought in a few others to assist, such as Steve Hackett (Genesis), John Helliwell (Supertramp), the aforementioned Troy Donockley, Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson), Luke Machin and Gonzalo Carrera while it was mixed by Joe Gibb (Massive Attack, The Cure and Leftfield).
The result is an album which is a delight from start to finish, encompassing a myriad of progressive styles while always steeped in the symphonic. We get Celtic, crossover, pop, and perhaps unsurprisingly some real theatrical. Agnieszka Swita has long been involved with Clive Nolan and the Caamora project, and of course plays the part of Amelia in ‘Alchemy’, and there are times when that style comes through, especially on “Black Angel”. She has a wonderful voice, professionally trained, and her experiences allow her to work in multiple different styles and types of music while always in full control, with clear annunciation and a warmth which invites in the listener. Add to that the sumptuous arrangements and one knows this is a work of some import.
It is so easy to listen to, yet each time it is played it gets even better. Needless to say, everyone involved is a master of their instruments, but Ian has ensured that the guests are used for just that, so while John Helliwell has a huge impact on “Sign of Infinity”, that is it. The core of this is a consummate musician and an amazing singer, and together they have delivered a wonderful album which is sure to be a firm favourite of any lovers of melodic crossover symphonic prog with elements of the stage. The next trick will be to form a full band and get this out on tour as music as strong this needs to be in the live environment.