Skyedance: Labyrinth

Jo Morrison wrote this review.

All of the members in Skyedance are consummate musicians, who have honed their craft to excellence. It is pure pleasure to hear these six phenomenal performers work together with such precision and craftsmanship.

Alasdair Fraser brings crisp, accented fiddle lines, with an unmistakable Scottish accent to the group. Eric Rigler’s prowess on various pipes and low whistle add a foreign flair. Chris Norman, a phenomenal flautist, adds a touch of classical civility, while Paul Machlis brings a new age keyboard touch. Mick Linden’s often slightly unusual bass lines give the music just that touch of unbalance needed to keep things fresh and interesting. Peter Maund adds accent and flair with his highly effective percussion lines. Together, their varied backgrounds and musical interests blend into an exotic fusion of sounds.

This particular recording is centered around the image of a labyrinth, taking the listener on a circuitous path, visiting a wide variety of cultures and sights along the way. The tunes are all contemporary, composed by members of the group. The inspirations for the tunes range from the Scottish poetry of Donnie Campbell to the professional pride of Canadian engineers. Despite this, the music seems to have a continuous flow, melding from one tune to the next as one might feel when walking a labyrinth, for the path is the same, even though the scenery may be changing.

My favorite track is the opener, “The Spark,” by Alasdair Fraser. This haunting melody, passionately delivered by Fraser on fiddle, gradually builds to point of ignition, introducing an up-beat and exciting new melody. The new melody uses syncopation and accents to their fullest, creating an image of a flame flickering this way and that in the wind. The instrumentation, from the perfectly synchronized flute and fiddle to the exacting percussion, is flawlessly selected, and grows in passion and mood as the track progresses. The instrumentalists’ skills shine throughout this outstanding track.

Equally powerful is Chris Norman’s “The Iron Ring/The Boxwood Road,” which was dedicated to Norman’s father, a retired Canadian engineer. Using a delicate, traditional sounding melody, Norman builds upon it as the inspiring engineer might build a bridge. The track opens with the melody flute playing faintly in the background, with a droning effect over it. The melody grows, expanding until the fiddle takes it over, when the flute becomes a semi-droning harmony. From this, the music branches out further, adding instruments and percussion, until it becomes a strong and passionate theme, which eventually closes with an upbeat, lively reel.

Despite the fiery opening track, the overall impact of the recording is subdued and gentle. The music tends to have more of a new age feel than this reviewer’s traditional tastes tend to prefer, but the excellent musicianship of those involved make this an album worth hearing.

Culburnie, 1999)

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