Stunning Debut Album
Hugh is going to make a lot of friends in the music world with this creative triumph.
In a self-propelled project like this it is all too easy to imagine ego overshadowing art but in fact what has happened here is the simple uncovering of a talent, dormant, latent and like the genie from a bottle, released. A multi-coloured cloud of magic that grants you a wish - music to sooth, to evoke, inspire and stimulate. To transport.
You may think it's easy to listen to music. Turn up the volume and sit back. Let the artist do all the work. Tut when you don't like it. Drum those fingers when you do. Play a little air-guitar perhaps ...
It's not that simple.
Hugh Carswell's I'Anson project has much more depth than that. It expects the listener to have a mind of his or her own. An ability to really listen. To use the mind as a stage. To open up and expand. To see a vision in sound. To hear beauty.
"In Chances of Light" is not the debut album from Hugh but it is for the I'Anson project. His first commercial release, although intriguingly the part number for the CD is MAKER002. No mystery, Maker are the studio. But the number two? Tantalizing. Could there be more we haven't heard?
Once the music was written Hugh had what must have been a superficially difficult task - how to attract renowned, high-quality collaborators to an unknown artist? We don't know how he did it but he managed not one, not two but three stunning coups. Steve Jansen ex of Japan, Rain Tree Crow and Porcupine Tree on percussion and drums. Dudley Philips, noted jazz, folk and world-music bassist on both electric and acoustic double-bass. The Scottish Ensemble, a world-famous string orchestra based in Glasgow to add a wonderful three-dimensional element to the mix. Superior choices each and every one.
As I sat to write my first review of a complete album instead of just single tracks, I made listening notes designed not to give the game away, but to intrigue. Here they are, edited and pared-down but hopefully just enough to give you a good overall impression of the pleasure this music will bring.
Your Halo - is the introduction and forms a sparse but captivating opening, like the first paragraph of a successful novel. Each pause speaks as loudly as the music itself. Clear as crystal.
Fire Mercy Be - a glorious concoction featuring all sorts of ambient sounds beneath the music - valve-radio and chuckling water to name a couple. Powerful, controlled vocals.
Summer of My Soul - love and life. Meeting. A storm crashing onto the beach. Rain? Steve's cymbals.
Take Hold - the single I reviewed for iTunes but in an alternate form. An album version if you like, with a different mix and ending. Starts simply and builds brilliantly.
How Strongly I felt - must have been about building a place to live on Jura. Full of powerful feelings. Catharsis. Determination. And birds tweeting.
The Light Keeper - sombre viola; beautiful piano. A steady Roman-galley-like thumping beat with musical waves crashing on the rocks.
Golden - just as its name suggests. Vibrant piano chords. Home for Christmas in a land of maternal Hills. The sparse vegetation of a treeless landscape in winter. Joy. Low morning sun turning the landscape - golden.
Fruit Tree - more enigmatic. A mandolin, a xylophone, Roy's cycle-bell tinkling. Last breath - Jura air. As an ex-bassist (very ex) I can especially appreciate the work Dudley Philips did on this track. Smooth as silk bass beneath a triumphant horn signifying enthusiasm and hope.
A Tide - the strong desire to follow ones destiny. To believe in a hunch. To run with it all the way to the line. Strong conviction. Valve radio in the background. Doubts overcome. The nearest to a rock track as it builds. Force of will. Great lyrics.
Evermore - a new version for the album. Things that last. The bass pulled higher in the mix than in the promo video to where it rightfully belongs.
Spring Will Come - I'm sure there's a cock crowing in here. The start of a new day, a new season. Growing. Blossoming. Was this glorious experience, this wonder-filled CD just a dream as the music fades into the distance and the end of the album?
A dream of life perhaps, of love and building and commitment.
By now you should know there's a rock in the sea somewhere to the west of the Scottish mainland. People live there, far from the hustle-bustle of urban life. Free to tend livestock, farm the sea, grow on a land warmed by the Gulf-Stream. And create. The I'Anson project was inspired by the geography and one man's hereditary place in it.
If you can, listen to this CD on a decent sound system or hi-fi, just so you can fully appreciate the work that has gone in to this stunning debut production. There's more to be found on second or third listening than you might expect.
So far Amazon only offer the album as physical CD but I expect MP3s will follow shortly. However I'd recommend the CD because the digipack features artwork by Hugh's clearly very talented sister.
Creativity must run in the family. Creativity and the ability to tell a story.