I am a huge fan of 60’s and 70’s progressive rock and I also have a special place in my heart for experimental folk. Something about these styles of music captures my imagination and interest. Perhaps it’s the sense of total and utter creative freedom that these artists seem to exude. Perhaps it’s the wealth of instruments and tones used. In the end, however, it doesn’t really matter as I can just sit back and truly enjoy this music.
So imagine my utter delight upon sitting back with Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost‘s The Blue Hour and realizing that I was entering an album that sounded like it was directly transported from 1970’s UK. With elements of King Crimson‘s In The Court Of The Crimson King and Red as well as Pink Floyd, this album seemed poised to play directly to my tastes. But did that delight linger on throughout or fade as one track ended and the next began? Read on to find out.
Gentle horns and Marsh’s soft voice open the album on “And I Wait”, a somber seven-minute track that intersperses subtle jazz guitar lines alongside a restrained drum beat, allowing the focus to fall squarely on the simple yet incredibly effective vocal harmonies. “Read The Cards” is a more upbeat track, using dynamics to great effect in making the chorus stand head and shoulders above the verse. It’s not a stretch to hear influences of The Beatles during parts of this song.
“Broken Light” is where the nagging feeling that King Crimson was an influence was confirmed. Sporadic drums mixed with sparse keys and slightly unsettling vocal melodies build up the first half of the song before it suddenly opens up with a dynamic burst. Then, after a few minutes, the song winds back down with a mellow jazz guitar solo. The song then ends in an almost sinister fashion, dynamically rising again.
“Wooden Heart” has a slightly demented folk carnival feel about it, almost as if one were to mix The Wicker Man with one of P.T. Barnum’s circuses.
The album ends with the beautiful and understated “One More Moment”, a slow-burner with hypnotic, subtle phrases. The song also features some fantastic horn work.
What I noticed most about The Blue Hour was the amount of open space that each instrument offered. There was never any showboating or extravagant display of musical prowess. Rather, everything combined to make the final product the ultimate focus.
The Final Word: Hearkening back to a time when music was more akin to art, Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost brings a solemnly beautiful album in The Blue Hour. It is a mature album, one that doesn’t feel the need to play to the listener’s expectations.