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(2022 - Hungersleep Records - UK)
He just keeps getting better and better. A beautiful dreamy 5th album from Grice (Peters) who has been superb at whatever style(s) he decides to move into with each release. It is tough not to hear strong flavors of Tim Bowness (solos and the more ethereal No Man) especially since Grice's voice sounds so much like Tim on several of the songs. Also lending a heavy influence is Mark Hollis (solo and Talk Talk's mid to late period). None of this is a bad thing. In fact, seeing that Hollis is deceased, this is a welcome tribute of sorts to that special place that Talk Talk floated into. Mixed with the enchanting tunes are also a couple of surprise high energy compositions. Splurges of Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (trk #3 'Winter') just add some peaceful trumpet, and even Colin Blunstone (check out trk #4 'Without Her'). And more.
With a absolutely pristine combination of engineering, recording, production and mastering, 'Polarchoral' will easily go down as a classic recording of 2022. With a fantastic collection of artists, Grice - lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, tzouras, EBow, bass, grand piano, Hammond organ, synths, sonics, sequencing, and programming - lyrics & vocals, and the master who wrote, arranged, and produced this jewel, brings in : Richard Barbieri - synthesis & sonic pulse (track 6)/ Steve Jansen - ghost pads, bells, lazurite sonics (track 10)/ BJ Cole - pedal steel guitar / Luca Calabrese - trumpet, flugelhorn/ Robert Brian - drums, LinnDrum/ Hossam Ramzy - tablas, doholla, mazha, triangle/ Al Swainger - bass, double bass, french horn/ Suzanne Barbieri - vocals/ Steve Bingham - violin/ Duncan Chave - programming & warping/ Eliza Carew - cello/ Alan Burton - uilleann pipes/ and Jack Lawrence - autoharp. What a grand crew and performance by all. Also no stone left unturned as to the perfect touches in these arrangements, that simply cast a spell and sooth even the most savage or restless soul.
Before you go thinking this is a mishmash album, let me both clarify and confirm that the flow is spot on. The seemingly odd assortment of references I state in this review, are true yet far less spread apart than one might conclude. A deep listening will toss that ill thought away instantly. In fact, the assembly of influences is brilliant. Fact remains the bulk of the album is melancholy, but in that sense of ambient dreamtime world that the best artists created in the 1980's and beyond. Some songs even sound like you swear you have heard them before, so incredible that they have that instant greatness all over them (such as trk #7 'Band of Brothers', trk #8 'Legend' and trk #10 'Lapis Lazuli'). Sadly I rarely hear songs in the ambient soft pop/rock world this great. You will have to go back to the late 60's and early to mid 70's to find songwriters who could pen tunes this potent, unless you already know Hollis and Bowness. So much WOW factor, and a non- stop glory of prominent compositions that will force you to desire multiple listens over and over again.
It needs to be repeated what Grice stated about the making of 'Polarchoral' His words are clear and most definitive. "Creating this album has been a process of looking inward through the microscope as much as looking outward and upwards through the telescope into the universal" - Grice Peters. The sources I personally hear, echoes the need the highlighted information that gorgeous trumpet, French horn, or flugelhorn (or sweet additions of other sorts) are added in to create something other than a duplicate sound. If this is factored in, then you can understand my nominating this album in the TOP CHOICES of 2022 at Big Beautiful Noise. The title track (# 9) is 14 minutes of mild psychedelic verve, using some of Suzanne Barbieri's pearl like vocals to aid in the spinning web (tablas included) 1960's trip out. Besides, he and I both love birds and this extended cut mentions 'as the crow flies' with a most magical touch. You get 74 minutes of gorgeous music. The physical CD package is super too, with a 6 panel fold out digi-pak, complete with booklet and very nice art. I own all of the Grice recordings, and have not found the style that he cannot make his own, and in an ultimate way (check out his previous album with birds as the focus). It is not often that an album excites my senses this way. MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 3 - 10 -2023
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