The Year That Wasn't
(2021 - self released - UK)
It is no secret that Gary Bamford has a beautiful spread of skillsets, having released 8 albums and all a superbly done collection of gorgeous ambient jazz (sometimes akin to ECM), many provocative soundtracks (many in the horror field), and the odd mix of funky avant pop/rock/alt, and aggressive out rock, to call out a few. The multi-instrumentalist, composer, and great thinker, can attack a style or flock of styles, with command as if it were his only and long time devoted corner. Expect anything and prepare to be satisfied with all that flows from this musician's mind. 'The Year That Wasn't' is another diamond shining brightly, just waiting to be purchased for a very reasonable price, sat down with, placed on a large stereo system (or nice headphones) and taken in like a slow relaxed evening, where tensions are let go, and brains and ears are allowed to absorb the feel and atmosphere of Mr. Bamford.
He meshes his exquisite keyboard work (heavenly washes, Vangelis thick) with classical piano, electronic wizardry, quirky injections, world percussive framed parts, and aggressive out rock all to bring the listener to a reflective thought session, all in a series of eight compositions that paint vivid portraits of the isolation, the despair, uncertainty, and perhaps the hope for good outcome. All in the Covid world we all got catapulted into and still have not been let loose from. Often the music soothes, and is scored as a dream, even at times reminded me of Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence' OST (track 3 - Good Boy, Sam) but quickly yielding into a more lo-fi bedroom electronica, then moving back to the piano so touching. It is with this full spilling of Bamford's soul that is what makes his music so irresistible, so rare, and so rich in the first hand listening experience.
Composed, performed, recorded, mixed and produced by Gary Bamford. He even did the artwork. Mastered by Stu Rowe. The set of songs also throws in avant slants with what might be a more let it all ride Robert Fripp and Mel Collins, and crew from 'Lizard' (one that Fripp might have tossed for unknown reasons) in the cut 'No.53'. And following that, the 'Initial Reaktions' is something Heldon fans can delight in. 'Meh' is a forceful progressive avant rock work that Poil/Ni/Pinoil (Dur et Doux label) lovers will stand up and cheer for. The final track ('Virtual Lessons') has a Canterbury feel, soaked in the electric piano talents of Mr Gary, and the knowledge of the genre, all cooked with fondness. In short, you get a variety of tracks that continue to tickle your ears, give glow to the mind, and introduce surprises, never ever letting the audience distract themselves into Smartphone/Tablet/idiot social media, or wandering from what is being served honest and earnest, with his landscape of ideas bubbling over. Buy the physical format if you care, as this is not only a smart recording, but one that deserves all attention on board. Check out his entire catalog if you are new to this fine artist. RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 11 - 24 - 2021