We like the sleeve image of this; we think it’s supposed to be someone looking out over a lake, but it’s definitely got a creepy feel, in the style of Don’t Look Now.
Once you see the image correctly, it perhaps suggests rather twee English music: we expected artsong, or at least singing, but it’s nothing like that. We recently reviewed an album of work by a composer whose main living was playing in an orchestra; art’s all well and good but you’ve got to sell tickets, and he knew that. Walker composes in similar vein. He wants people to sit and listen to his music for pleasure, and not sit admiring how clever he is but only listen once. While he is clever, he lives in the Pennines — the Lancashire side we guess, where it’s bleak and you can still see tracks built by unemployed gangs given work by the government 150 years ago — and he combines the pithiness of the people with the beauty of the environment in which he lives.
All this is clear from the opening piece, A Prayer And A Dance Of Two Spirits, a concerto for violin, recorder and string orchestra. (He explains that he once dreamed his late parents were together in a small boat on a lake, which may explain the sleeve art).
“Feeling should always precede intellect,” he writes, explaining how he tried to write a piece that was the antidote to grief. There is a sense of sadness to the music but it also contains acceptance. The ubiquitous John Turner plays a sprightly but earthly recorder.
Later on his, His Spirit Over The Waters remembers Keith Elcombe, musician; again there is sadness and lamentation but the beautiful cello of Jennifer Langridge also suggests hope and life going on.
Much of the music is fairly conventional (and thus easy to listen to), which can’t be said for the opening of The Song of Bone on Stone, a piece inspired by a Millstone Grit trough near the composer’s home, which he ritually touches with his front teeth (composers, eh?). The double bass opens this with the strings being thwacked, before settling down to a bassy and mournful air.
I Thirst is a meditative piece — the title is reportedly from the last words of Christ but it’s more suggestive of dawn over a barren landscape, the opening minute being super-relaxing.
All in all: a rather low key but outstanding album that’s a real gem. It will appeal to lovers of both gentle classical music and also fans of chilled electronica. We’ve been playing since writing this, always a good thing considering how much music we listen to.
This was recorded in a Macclesfield studio, and churches in Stockport and Heaton Moor.
The cover image is of Loughrigg Tarn.
Out on Divine Art, dda 25180.
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