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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

The Pursuit of Illusion
Troy DONOCKLEY

Conscious
The Pursuit of Illusion
Little Window
Floating World
A Bridge
Fragment

The Colour of the Door (Parts 1 and 2)
Troy Donockley, voice, guitar, mandola, whistles, Uillean pipes, keyboards
Joanne Hogg, voice
York Cantores Choir
The Emperor String Quartet
Neil Drinkwater, piano
Chris Redgate, oboe
Terl Bryant, percussion
Duncan Rayson, organ
Nick Beggs, Chapman stick
Peter Knight, violins
Andy Duncan, darabuka, Tibetan drum, voice
Recorded at The Chapel Studios, Lincolnshire and Waterworld, East Yorkshire. York Cantores recorded at The National Centre for Early Music, York.
LANTERN LNTNCD1 [54.47]

 

Troy Donockley's second solo disc cannot in any way be described as mainstream classical but is an absolute stunner nonetheless. Donockley is best known as a member of the brilliant Celtic Christian rock group Iona, who have made many magnificent recordings (e.g. Journey Into the Morn, Beyond These Shores), often embellished by guest appearances from the great and good of the Celtic and progressive rock milieu, Robert Fripp and Maire Brennan (Clannad) for instance. Likewise Troy has also appeared with such luminaries as Breton harp genius Alan Stivell and I am happy to report that his superb credentials and connections feature heavily here too. Van Morrison pianist Neil Drinkwater contributes to several tracks and Steeleye Span's Peter Knight pops up on one. Current and former Iona members also feature, with Joanne Hogg's magical voice, Terl Bryant's percussion and Nick Beggs' soulful Chapman stick all involved. What we have though is very much more than an all star line up running through a few songs. This is a lovingly crafted and conceived project with a true spiritual bent, although less overtly Christian than Iona.

The classical feel to many of the pieces is provided by the integral involvement of the Emperor String Quartet and York Cantores Choir and the overall impression is very much reminiscent of the Fripp/King Crimson/David Sylvian/NoMan progressive axis with, obviously, a greater emphasis on Celtic themes and instrumentation. The latter aspect also recalls Mike Oldfield's superb collaborations with Maddy Prior (Incantations) and The Chieftains (Ommadawn), not forgetting Troy's own astonishing Uillean pipe arrangement of Finlandia (as We rest on Thee our Shield and Defender on Be Thou My Vision: Celtic Expressions of Worship, Volume 1). One track also even reminds me of late Joy Division!

The opening Conscious is a shortish track - less than five minutes - but introduces us straightaway to the choir and string quartet. The title track, The Pursuit of Illusion, has a fascinating background, being based on a First World War Chinese magician who died tragically when his "bullet catching act" went wrong. I hear it as an extended allegorical meditation, beautifully sung by Joanne Hogg, even by her very high standards, on the transience of the human experience, on this earth at least - eight minutes of spellbinding music! Little Window which follows is indeed as its title suggests as Donockley's guitar meshes with Drinkwater's piano, Bryant's percussion and Chris Redgate's lyrical oboe to provide a gentle postlude to the stunning Illusion.

The ten minute Floating World features Knight and Beggs, along with Andy Duncan's ethnic percussion in a piece that seems to revisit original 1970s prog-rock preoccupations. A Bridge, which is just that, then merges into Fragment, another truly inspired piece, again with Hogg's vocals to the fore and again with an intriguing genesis. This time the text is taken from the Unknown Books of the Essenes, the latter being the militant but mystical Jewish sect finally routed at Masada by the Romans in 73 AD. The translation used is highly poetic and would have been worthy of inclusion on one of Iona's own albums. Finally the two part, twenty minute Colour of The Door proves that Troy Donockley really does believe in leaving the best until last. The two minute first part provides scant preparation for the astonishing tour de force that part two is revealed as. I am not entirely sure as to the subject matter but it is clearly of a deep spiritual nature. It ranges far and wide, from almost whispered, melancholic vocals (this time by Troy himself) set against tintinnabulating bells, through string driven meditations to full on choir and organ and sequenced arpeggios, and really has to be heard to be believed. In all this a distinct thread, theme, whatever you want to call it, is maintained, thereby giving direction and discipline to a piece that could otherwise have pulled in too many different directions at once. A fine end to a fine record. It had me reaching for my old Iona albums plus King Crimson etc is and highly recommended to anyone who loves both modern and accessible classical music and high quality rock/folk/ambient. I now cannot wait to hear the previous solo effort, even if it only half as good as this.

Neil Horner

 

 



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