4 September 2012
listen: on an on
Andrew Reinholds reviews the musical mind trip that is Syd Arthur’s latest album, On an On.
Hailing from Canterbury in Kent, Syd Arthur are very much the sons and heirs of the psychedelic, progressive rock groups from the late sixties and early seventies that made the English cathedral city their home.
Described as “Jethro Tull jamming with Jamiroquai” their debut album belies their youth, given the sophistication of both the arrangements and the playing. Complex time signatures are merged with jazzy guitars, keyboards and razor sharp violins (courtesy of the rather extravagantly named Raven Bush, nephew to arguably the most famous musician that Kent has produced, Kate Bush) that gives a sound firmly rooted in the past a contemporary and fresh feel.
Album opener ‘First Difference’ sets the scene – the band’s big warm sound gradually building intensity and scope which carries over into the chiseled guitars and feverish strings that propel ‘Edge of the Earth’. Elsewhere, there is much to admire when things slow down a shade, most noticeably with the lounge-like intimacy of ‘Dorothy’.
However it is Syd Arthur’s desire to experiment that literally turns heads – they successfully summon the spirit of namesake and inspiration, Syd Barrett, on the hallucinogenic ‘Truth Seeker’ and at the same time reveal their real modus operandi.
Likewise, the truly mind-bending ‘Paradise Lost’ which closes On an On is a grandiose statement of intent that clocks in at over nine minutes and along the way features a myriad of psychedelic, folk, funk and rock influences that just about manages to make some sort of sense.
Avant-garde and improvisational by nature, On an On is an infectious and up-tempo bundle of delight.