Joined: 24 Jul 2009
Localisation: France (Champigny-sur-Marne, Paris' suburbs)
|Posted: Fri 7 Aug - 19:15 (2009) Post subject: Reviews
That one was published (in French) in KOID'9 (means "What's New?" written in a strange way !) the paper fanzine that I'm involved in (a quarterly fanzine mostly specialized in progrfessive rock, progmetal, metal, classic rock). I translated it for Troy at the time.
published in Koid'9 nr 46 – France - Late June 2003
Troy DONOCKLEY : The Pursuit of Illusion (Green Lantern records – autoproduction)
Troy Donockley is known for being a member of Iona, but also for his collaborations with the female singer Maddy Prior, of the legendary folk-rock band Steeleye Span. We can find Troy credited on quite a lot of albums released during the 12 last years, for this multi-instrumentalist is doing also some sessions. He also played live with Midge Ure, ex-singer and guitarist of Ultravox, for instance.
In 2001, you could read in Koid'9 Nr39 a review of his magnificent debut solo album, "The Unseen Stream", which was released in 1998 indeed. Five years later, "The Pursuit Of Illusion", whose title is inspired by Troy's interest in the science of magic and conjuring, enjoys the collaboration of the same musicians who performed on his previous album : Neil Drinkwater on grand piano, Duncan Rayson on church organ, Chris Redgate (oboe), The Emperor String Quartet, the two ex-members of Iona, Nick Beggs (Chapman stick) and Terl Bryant (percussion), Andy Duncan (percussion), and introducing a large contribution from the american choir York Cantores, (apparently) specialized in ancient music. And of course, there's Troy himself, who plays the famous Uilleann Pipes, tin whistles, low whistles, electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki, mandola, keyboards, percussion and, for the first time, sings a bit as well.
Donockley stands as a composer first and foremost here, as he is leaving a certain amount of the tracks to be performed only by his guest instrumentalists for some parts.
Far from being stick into the Celtic genre, even if we can see some quite obvious elements of it, "The Pursuit Of Illusion" gathers and melts lots of influences and musical colours, coming often from the classical genre on this album, but a rather modern classical repertoire (nothing really experimental, don't be afraid ! But sometimes, one can notice a trace of repetitive music in the style of Philip Glass or Wim Mertens). There are also some influences coming from ancient european music, indian music…
"The Pursuit of Illusion" is beautiful and full of emotion, that's what one can say if one wants to describe it in a few words.
It's mainly a calm album, bathing in a meditative atmosphere too. The tracks are often based on the string quartet, the choir, the oboe, the organ, a rather unusual ensemble ! An then, there is Troy who plays his different instruments according to the tracks. The arrangements are very varied and never overloaded, just elaborated and subtle, never pompous.
The opening track, "Conscious", gathers during 5 minutes the melancholy string part of the quartet and the oboe, a repetitive organ sequence, the piano , the low whistles and the mandola, plus the angelic voices of the choir. "The Pursuit of illusion" which comes after, lasting almost 9 minutes, has got an instrumental first part with the string quartet, the cello playing the main melody, then comes the voice of Donockley, not very powerful, but smooth and soft, very pleasant indeed, soon joined by the more powerful and stirring voice of Joanne Hogg (who is becoming really a great singer as years go by). The lyrics of the track are inspired by the fatal accident which killed a very famous Asian magician called Chung Ling Soo in London in 1918. The instrumental section ending the track is slightly more energic, moving, brilliant. "Little Window" is rather different, with only a piano, an oboe and the electric guitar of Troy, plus some very discreet percussions. It's a fairly mysterious, melancholy piece of music, like are some of the tracks by Steve Hackett – reminescent of the latter as Troy has got his electric guitar sounding like a violin.
The 10 minutes of "Floating World" are, in my opinion, the only weak point of this album. The track, featuring the violin of Peter Knight, seems obviously inspired by indian ragas, with a repetitive pattern based on harmonium and synthesizers, Joanne and Troy's ethereal vocals, Duncan and Bryant's percussions, Beggs' Chapman Stick, Troy's electric guitar and whistles. It's a rather long track for its purpose, seemingly partly improvised and that never really takes off.
The very short "A Bridge" that follows with Troy playing solo on tin whistle with a background of strange synthesizer sounds, is used as an introduction to the marvelous, ethereal "Fragments" which, during almost 5 minutes, reminds us of the antique church chants… or maybe Barber's Adagio (!) with the soothing voice of Joanne Hogg and, once again, the Emperor String Quartet and the organ. A majestic track with a religious atmosphere, casting a spell on the listener, as solemn as it is beautiful.
To end the album, the main dish [ I think you also say "pièce de résistance" !] is the huge suite "The Colour of the Door", divided in two parts spanning no less than 21 minutes. And believe me , it's NEVER padding out ! The two minutes intro has got a very classical tone, starting with the string quartet, then arrives the majestic organ, the choir and the electric guitar, then it gives way to a multi-facetted track, blatantly progressive. The second part is also partially vocal (Troy) and it's also the only piece where we can here the famous Uilleann pipes and most of the instruments mastered by Donockley, along every guest on the album, except Joanne Hogg (a pity!).
The Uilleann pipes, which Troy knows how to make vibrate like a human voice, introduce a moving melody, helped by a synth sounding like cristalline bells, then they're joined by the piano and the strings. The melody develops like a bird which has never flown, spreading his wings for the first time… then it's a third section, more strained, with a piano whose playing keeps going faster and then the Uilleann pipes taking off, the synths and the flute, a sudden stop during which the choir and the synths wave an angelic music, and then enters the electric guitar (sounding rather like a violin) and so on… We could describe so many different sections ! and yet, the whole piece sounds always homogeneous, coherent, magnificent… This real progresive rock masterpiece can remind us slightly Mike Oldfield at his best (the late Swedish band Tribute too) but with a much more marked classical influence and a very different personality, a tangible, absorbing emotion, if ever you want to listen carefully.
This album is certainly not atmosphere music, it's simply beyond any attempt of labelling music. It's maybe the classical music of the third millenium, it's the world of Troy Donockley, a marvelous musical world, sparkling and bursting with a thousand colours. A trip that we are lucky enough to repeat endlessly to find out new details during each listening.
Available on Troy's official website www.troydonockley.co.uk
A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission (Neil Peart - 1987)