Prophecy by Solstice


    review by Andrew Darlington

    In some parallel continuum, where green elves ride astride giant dragonflies across Roger Dean landscapes, people still listen to musicians who play to the limit of their not-inconsiderable interactive skills, and attempt to break on through to advanced levels where the ageing whore of rock is more than it has ever been before. Snotty music-critics have long derided prog as a term of abuse. Flash, virtuosity, the ability to improvise creatively is suspect. Even potentially great guitarists such as John Squire or Johnny Marr are slagged off for the mere suspicion of straying beyond the most limited permitted style-repertoire. But music is now multiplatform-wide and diverse enough to ignore such sniping. Music has multiple parallel continuums, barely touching, unaware of each other's existence, but sufficiently self-sustaining to contain diverse appreciative audiences.

    Andy Glass formed Solstice in 1980, which was not a kind era to this sound, but a re-issue of their Silent Dance album provoked a 1990s reformation, and new material, and then a new 2007 line-up. And now Prophecy catches a whole new ripple of neo-progressive appreciation, with Treat and The Way We Live, and the amazing Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree as spirit-guide on hand for remix duties. You might not realise, but it's all around you. And - prejudices aside - it's impressive stuff, admit it. The sleeve-art, by 2000 AD's Barry Kitson catches the exact futuristic Native American meld of influences. And that's it, a kind of intense ambient spirituality, interpreted through involved instrumental interplay that never devolves into pure self-indulgence.

    Andy's stinging soaring guitar is set off and precisely balanced, in this Solstice incarnation, by Jenny Hemsley's folk-pure violin adding earth to Black Water, Steven McDaniel's keyboards contributing ice to West Wind, Emma Brown's voice providing quiet fire, plus the thunky drums and bass gravity of Pete Hemsley and Robin Phillips. But it's all worked collectively, in immaculately textured ensemble interplay, with no space for ego-trips. Is that a Robert Plant sample on Warriors..? Maybe... Probably not... But five tracks, plus three remixes from the original Silent Dance eight-track tape, take in the width of multi-verses. You'll never hear this on the radio. N.M.E. won't like it. That doesn't really matter. It thrives and survives its own parallel continuum. That's enough.