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CD REVIEW: Royston Vince - London Nights
By Alex Jasperse - 12/19/2007 - 10:29 PM EST

Artist: Royston Vince
Album: London Nights [2007]
Label: Independent
Genre: Neo-Prog and Space Rock
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8.5/10
Songwriting Skills: 9.0/10
Performance Skill: 9.0/10
CD Review:

Sliding seamlessly from swirly atmospheres and mind-expanding grooves to crisp and picturesque soundscapes, Royston Vince’s latest release, London Nights, is an entrancing, synthesizer-led experience. While preserving many of the stylistic elements from the mid-70s to late 80s, Vince manages to successfully avoid heavy reliance on musical clichés, introducing an edgy 21st century perspective into the mix.

No doubt a headphone album, the attention to detail and layering makes it a must-listen for any neo-prog and space rock aficionado. Within the first few moments of the title track opening, a fragile piano line ushers in a rapid bass melody that begins to trade places for the lead with both drums and strings. Alternating with an Ozric Tentacles dramatic tone, the subtle cues and section breaks radiate with an intensity that’ll satisfy all cravings for something new – something fresh. Suddenly things become more intimate and soft with “Soho Midnight”, allowing the synth to slowly drift into range with an Edward Shearmur soundtrack beauty (K-Pax, The Count of Monte Cristo). Pulsating with heavy delays and a stylistic rhythmic dominance, entrancing melodies cross each other’s paths nearing the end, occasionally combining to fill the soundscape with a simple, yet complex, fullness.

Once the low-end synth and the rhythmic water drips run dry in “Behind the Light”, colourful washes of synthesizers and acoustic guitars begin to create a sublime musical canvas to work from. As the echoes of beautiful guitar harmonics in “Brick Lane” immediately begin to trace shivers across your body with its beauty, you can feel the world slow down to let in a new one: Royston Vince’s. Faint echoes of dampened bells shift through the background signaling the entrance of a tabla and distant male vocals to colour it with an ethno-fusion flare. It’s not before long they step aside to let the synth back in to add the final touches – it’s simply spellbinding ear candy.

While different from the rest, the introduction of a well-composed piano ballad in “Shining River” adds – in some respects – a nice contrast to the electro-dominated sound. Unfortunately, the sound is too bare, and would have benefited from some additional layers. Further along the track list, “By Way of Kensal Green” revisits this sound with much more of an emotional impact than the first ballad; haunting and fragile, yet powerful (one can only think it may refer to some of the social issue that have faced Kensal Green over the years). This track would have been better suited to take the place of “Shining River”.

Immediately bringing to mind the work of Vangelis, particularly their work for the 1982 Blade Runner soundtrack, the ambient soundscape of “Dockland Echoes” is a fascinating deviation from the flow of the album. Its minimalist, and somewhat gritty appeal breathes a sense of loneliness, solitude and reflection… and just like many of the other pieces, it doesn’t disappoint, making the sudden musical shift feel as though it belonged all along.

Picking up on some of the stylistic characteristics that define much of the first half of the album, “People Horizon” welcomes back the predominant focus on the bass and synth, once more. Continually ascending upwards – with a more upbeat vibe than the previous pieces – each of the layers resonate with a personality of their own, only to interweave themselves moments later to create a lush dreamscape. Minutes later, enters “Home” with a lone acoustic guitar, and before long, a classical guitar gently, followed by the drums and the keys, brighten the environment with an honest warmth, before falling back into the arms of the acoustic guitar to bring the album to a close.

What makes London Nights such an enjoyable listening experience is the fact that nowhere along the journey does it feel like you’re being led by an amateur trying to recreate a sound that, for the most part, has gone by. This is the domain of a true professional – one who can go in and make the small adjustments to a sound that change and reconfigure the limitations of a genre. Granted, there are a few issues with some of the mixing, however, Royston Vince proves that just because something’s been mapped out before, it doesn’t mean it’s all been found. London Nights is perfect for those who want to hear what the flip side to groups like Ozric Tentacles and Vangelis could have been, making it clear that Royston Vince is truly exploring instrumental music to the fullest with the best of them.  

The Verdict: 8.8/10

For more information, please visit Royston Vince's myspace page.

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