Cosmograf's Robin Armstrong is fast becoming Prog's very own Time Lord, many of his songs and indeed albums exploring the concepts of time and space. Rattrapante, his eighth studio album, again takes time as its central theme, in this case, how we interact with it, measure it and at the same time, waste it, how it defines our existence and forms our memories. The title comes from a French word “rattraper” meaning to catch up or recapture, while a Rattrapante chronograph can time two events concurrently.
Transporting us back 36 years to when Armstrong was a teenager, opener In 1985 is an autobiographical journey which is, poignant, sometimes angry, but always reflective with echoes of Pink Floyd and a huge nod to David Bowie. It's a powerful, full-on rocker, Kyle Fenton providing the driving beat, while Armstrong's voice soars high above the instrumental lines. It ends with a huge roar of a crowd to highlight Live Aid which took place that year.
The title track has a real rocking groove to it, built around a striking refrain which questions how mortality, death, achievement, and time can all ultimately shape our destiny, plus some authentic NASA sound effects from its archive. Armstrong also shows great skill and dexterity in a couple of beautifully balanced guitar sections.
Acoustic guitar starts off the darkly romantic I Stick To You featuring The Blackheart Orchestra's Chrissy Mostyn. She sounds suitably spectral as the partner to a man who grows older despite being immortal, his destiny being to outlive his partner with whom he cannot connect. It is like she is trying to communicate with him through a mystical veil.
Memories Lie's more laid-back mood belies the powerful theme of how our memory plays tricks with us over the course of time. Again, Armstrong's voice floats over the pared back instrumentation where a resonant guitar and some close vocal harmonies give it a certain dreaminess.
Picking up some of the themes from Memories Lie, Time Will Flow is meditative, moody and magnificent. It features one of Cosmograf's characteristic spoken sections, narrator Tommy McNally reminding us of the preciousness of time: "Use it well for it can't be made, Do it now, Don't be afraid".
An acoustic section at the end with Armstrong's voice away in the distance again gives another facet to the shape of time, reminding us to let go of the past if we want the time of now and the future to flow.
Armstrong plays guitars, keyboards and bass as well as recording, mixing and mastering the album at his home studio in southern England. He's a man who occupies a unique place in the Prog universe and this album will further solidify his reputation as being one of the most consistently thought-provoking artists around.
****+ Alison Reijman
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