Doors Open: 7:00 PM Starts: 7:30 PM
Diving For Roses
April 2017 Right Track Records
*****/***** five stars
Tickets and CDs: http://www.theblackheartorchestra.com/
Don’t miss this relatively rare opportunity to see the Blackheart Orchestra offering a full set. Because so many big-name bands think they’re a fabulous support act they’re often reduced to a short set. I resist nostalgia and see them when they’re on their own.
Late 2018 catches The Blackheart Orchestra evolving with typically counter-intuitive genius from their previous Blackheart incarnation. Diving For Roses is a massive leap forward from the last Blackheart album Songs From A Satellite itself extensively lauded by KCWToday (issue 48). The orchestral references make sense to hard-core fans, as part of the huge live appeal is Chrissy Mostyn’s and Richard Pilkington’s flamboyant competent and confident multi-instrumentalism. Songs From A Satellite is a powerful statement with two huge killer tracks, Not Over Yet, which has become an our-song for the nearest thing I’ve had to a girl-friend in a decade, and the imperiously grand neo-prog Living In The Underworld, punning presumably intentionally on the Velvet Underground. Satellite is a great big lush adventure, fabulous referencing that delights and amuses the informed listener, while in no way being a requirement for the casual fan.
Given the implied complications and intricacies of the appellation “orchestra” Diving For Roses’ stripped-down genius is an unexpected evolution. You wouldn’t be in a hurry to patronise a band that’s been invited to support the likes of Renaissance, Hawkwind, the Strawbs and Stackridge. I first heard The Blackheart Orchestra at Discovery 2 organised by that highest standards stickler Alex Kerr-Wilson and was mesmerised. Diving For Roses is so minimalist it’s a risk artistically but shows off Mostyn and Pilkington’s mastery of melody and harmony.
The album is pure five star, a perfect album, one that I will listen to for the rest of my life. I never thought they’d exceed the excellent Satellite. Diving For Roses is about as good an album as you’ll hear in years. It’s hard to resist commenting on this highly accomplished and intelligent duo’s influences but Diving For Roses is a fully-evolved statement with a hugely original stamp.
Ethereal first single from the collection Sebastian is the right opener on an album like its predecessor perfectly sequenced. Sebastian would be expected to have a pop music wash, an excellent track but atypical. Keep The Light In is the album’s more soulful overture and it is quite the most stunning track I’d heard in years. Keep The Light In’s wonderful reggae-infused echoing chords are according to Mostyn wholly unintentional underlining the extent to which this most intelligent and erudite duo has matured into one of the truly great song-writing partnerships. How much longer will they have to wait for international superstardom? Keep The Light In sets both the stripped-down Picasso-pure tone and the standard for the rest of the album. Symphony and Now We Are Ghosts are similarly beguilingly simple, pleasing fans of the Blackheart Orchestra’s earlier work. The bass-heavy darkness of Right By Your Side reflects the intensity that Chrissy Mostyn is able to summon both in voice and presentation, something the album returns to subtly throughout; others have been saying for a while that Chrissy often exceeds the range and ability of her own influencers and I agree. This is perhaps less obviously but clearly true of Richard as well.
Where do we start with the Giltrap-esque Hypnotize? I am reminded of the dictum music criticism is like dancing about architecture. It is a miraculous track, a masterpiece, paired back vocals contrasting effervescent accompaniment. It takes all kinds of risks. In line with this stunning album’s vision, everything is reduced to the melody; gone is the vaulting baroque ambition on Satellite. All the braver, because on Satellite it works very well; we’re not just being offered Satellite plus. Diving For Roses is very much new ground. “Because you hypnotize”. And how.
With Hypnotize we’re only half-way through what on vinyl would have to be a double-album. Darling Africa is as close as Mostyn and Pilkington will get to stadium rock and I suspect its excellent simplicity and suggestion of lead drums ensure it will become a live favourite; it has been well-placed in what would have been the track one side three graveyard slot, cleansing the pallet after the breadth of the visionary Hypnotize.
Wake Up and I’m Yours rebuild the intensity of the first half of the album. It is hard to overemphasise the excellent ordering. The subtle reverb and cascading harmonics make Born to Live a most enjoyable and very typical Mostyn Pilkington number and forecast the climactic Breathe and finally Falling.
Between now and then:
Nov 17 KNARESBOROUGH Arkendale Hall
*Nov 24 BATH Forum
*Nov 25 BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall
Nov 30 SWIMBRIDGE Village Hall
Dec 5 LONDON St Pancras Old Church
* with Hawkwind