Although new output from the ex-Hawkwind and Gong keyboard man is few and far between, Esoteric Records, amongst a raft of recently remastered re-issues have dug out this millennial offering from Tim Blake, and I'm not sure that it does him too many favours.
While there is undoubted quality throughout this collection, and Blake's playing is nothing short of a delight, this effort must have sounded dated in 2000, and the last 18 years haven't helped. There is a certain lack of direction and an uneasiness to these songs, from the synthesised vocals on the opener Nature 'L' to the confused meandering and petering out of the title track which sounds as if Blake had simply got bored, or had forgotten what he was rambling on about or likely both. Crystal Island has some lyrics which are frankly creepy and a vocal which sounds appropriately enough like a past his best children's entertainer trying to revive a long-gone career. Sarajevo (Remember) while undoubtedly worthy in its sentiments, sounds like a pastiche of every slacktivist charity song of the '90s, containing every tired motif short of a slogan on a t-shirt. The grunted 'No more war' refrain sounds hopelessly out of touch given what came next. The less said about the closer, a sort of reggae/rap piece of the kind an embarrassing relation might concoct to entertain children, the better, except that it is aptly titled, Tribulations.
In happier news St Dolay keeps the instrumentation to a minimum, avoiding any temptation to drag in synth pop cliché, apart from a perfectly executed solo and is all the better for it. Byzantium Dancing, an instrumental based on clubland motifs also benefits from a tighter arrangement and should find its way into any club DJ's arsenal of samples. Not much of a harvest from something that I hoped would be better. If you liked Blake's earlier incarnations, or '90s music, I would steer clear of this as both are tarnished by it.
** Andrew Cottrell
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