Heights

Phantasia On The High Processions Of Sun, Moon And Countless Stars Above

Written by: LF on 18/08/2015 15:09:43

Heights, I have come to find out, is the name of several musical projects but, in this case, we're talking about a trio from the UK who play progressive/post-rock music. The band consists of Al Heslop on guitars, John Hopkin on bass and Jamie Postones (of TesseracT) on drums and while the band was apparently planning to have a vocalist as well back when they formed, they quickly discarded this idea and became a fully instrumental band. "Phantasia..." is their third full-length overall and, I might as well say this from the beginning, a slightly too long album, clocking in at 64 minutes total.

The reason for me saying this however only has to do with a lack of an overall focused structure while the skill of the involved musicians is certainly not in doubt. The band takes influence from jazz, fusion, and classical music as well as from post- and progressive rock and thus the compositions that most often last between five and six minutes can be pretty unusually built up for a rock fan, complete with mathy guitar pieces and drum patterns. They seem to grow and swell from their foundations, evolving in different directions as if on a whim that just seems natural at the time. Some of the compositions still have recurring themes or riffs that you recognize in more than one place, for instance during the groovy "Solar Bringer of Chaos, Lunar Bringer of Light", but mostly this sense of free flow dominates, no doubt owing to the jazzy influences.

All the songs have a very majestic groove and atmosphere, parallelling some of the grand movements of the astrological bodies mentioned in the album's title. This similarity across the album in combination with very similarly used strumming patterns and the sense of improvisational free-flow in the songs sadly makes for an album with songs that are simply hard to tell apart and hard to get into due to this lack of key riffs or musical "stories" to hold onto. While the songs are most certainly full of pleasant sounds, not least on the swirling and fairly busy "Heliograph" or the heavy-set "Time Dilation", none of the compositions here really stand out in mood or dramatic storytelling from any of the others and it makes for a very uniform album that of course flows well but doesn't provide any surprising turns along the way.

The inventive crossing of musical influences can be interesting to listen to in depth for a while but after having been through the album several times, I can definitely say that this is the kind of music that will most probably be way more gripping live - as I feel about most jazz or classical music as well. Thus we have here an album that showcases a band that can certainly play their instruments and have a certain feeling for internal progression and build-up in songs that just doesn't make for a very engaging hour-long album, as the overall progression somewhat suffers through the fact that every song goes through some of the same mood settings and movements as the one before it. If you're all for getting into music to wonder at the skill-level showed in either of the instruments, though, there's a good chance you might enjoy "Phantasia..." as well.

Download: Solar Bringer of Chaos, Lunar Bringer of Light; Heliograph
For The Fans Of: Caspian, Landscapes, And So I Watch You From Afar, Dirty Three
Listen: facebook.com/heightsuk

Release date 27.04.2015
Basick Records

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