“Balancing the equation” - Equations of Meaning, the new album by Tony Patterson reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Mr Patterson has been a very busy boy over he last couple of years. His collaborative effort with Brendan Eyre, 2014’s Northlands was one of the albums of the year at TWR HQ and Tony is back again, this time with a solo offering.
The album gets off to a suitably haunting (pun intended) start with Ghosts, a synth and acoustic guitar driven track. I have seldom heard the acoustic guitar evoke quite such melancholy sounds as it does here, a truly remarkable opening.
This is followed by the equally evocative The Magdalene Fields, a track rich in vocal and musical melody and Tony’s vocals just get better with each album. His is a truly distinctive voice not only in terms of performance but also in terms of the lyrics he writes and this track will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Haunting, evocative and complete with a melody which will stay with you long after the song has ended - excellent stuff!
Each Day A Colour (A Dreamer’s Dream) is next, and I love the title, it conjures up so many ideas in my head! Here we have the magical hands of Mr Nick Magnus augmenting Tony with some impressive keyboard playing but once again it is Tony’s performance which impresses as he shows his skill not just as a singer and lyricist but also as quite a mean electric guitar player too - he must be an octopus to play so many instruments! Escapism is the theme here and the music is so exhilarating that we are quite possibly able to live our own dreams through it or at the very least be taken away from our own drudgery for a while.
Cast Away is another magnificently constructed track, lush, lyrical and totally mesmerising, a latter-day lullaby for the senses and following this with The Angel and The Dreamer which begins with the industrial clanking of some machine on the rampage over which the ethereal voice of Siobahn Magnus soars conjures up an image of a blighted industrial landscape but all is not doom and gloom, there is hope implicit in the latter rhythms even in the rather spiky electric guitar work which Tony conjures up. This is indeed, another sonic landscape like those so vividly evoked by Tony and Brendan Eyre on Northlands and what I adore about it is that there is no programme implicit in the music, leaving the listener to draw their own conclusions as should always be the case with music.
Beneath A Perfect Sky is another brittle, delicate offering which brings us to what I personally find to be the album’s most impressive track: Sychophant. A superbly evoked examination at today’s obsession with social media and all that goes with it. Tony’s lyrics here really get to the heart of what is wrong with the subject and all couched in a suitably up tempo melodic and yet at times slightly paranoid musical accompaniment - an obsessive’s mind writ large in music, this is superb stuff!
And When The Sky Opened is another one of those lush, gorgeous instrumentals which this album is populated with. Strangely enough for me though, this conjures up images of coral reefs and the open ocean but hey, that’s what is so marvellous about music isn’t it? My only complaint is that it isn’t long enough!
Pilgrim, is without doubt a statement of intent. If you believe in destiny, fate or whatever you call it, then this one will instantly resonate with you. A simple but incessant drum pattern indicates the relentless treading of our hero towards their chosen goal and you can place yourself at the very heart of the song if you wish without it losing one iota of emotional and musical impact. Or you can see it as Mr Patterson’s own statement of what has driven him through his musical endeavours. Either way it works on so many levels.
As The Lights Go Out is a simple, austere almost classical piece in which Tony is accompanied by his Northlands comrade, Brendan Eyre, a melancholy beauty this and one which once again will echo in your head long after the music fades.
The album’s closing track; The Kindest Eyes is another bona fide classic. A love song, of the kind that only someone like Tony could write but one which expresses more genuine emotion than any of your current chart fodder. This is where music moves from the simple to the sublime and OK, I find echoes of a few past masters of the song writing art in this one, it is Tony’s work that shines through it all. If there were any justice, this would be gracing the airwaves and the tune is incredibly catchy - if you can ever say that about something that will indubitably be labelled as “progressive” music.
Indeed, this album is progressive, in the truest sense of the word. Tony continues to evolve and progress in his musical journey. He is helped here by several of his old pals from Re Genesis as well as several others but the end result is uniquely his own and I adore it. More please!