Robert Illesh -
To Horsenden

(CD, 2015, 47:35, Opal Flame OFR-002)

The tracks:
  1- Strummin' Dawg(2:39)
  2- A Song For You(2:26)
  3- After the Rain, Song(2:57)
  4- Tiger Song(6:54)
  5- Matchbox Blues(4:23)
  6- Wallowing In A Self-Made Little Garden Of Thoughts(2:50)
  7- Were You There?(3:02)
  8- A Very Delicate Time Indeed(3:39)
  9- A Day In June(2:56)
10- North Carolina(5:43)
11- How Do I Know?(5:43)
12- Traveller's End(4:23)

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Robert Illesh is a guitarist, composer, producer and all-round musician of Austrian-Hungarian descent, who apparently has worked with people like Steve Howe, Jon Anderson and members of Jethro Tull before. He is also the mastermind behind the progressive rock project Aquaplanage, but I'm as familiar with them as I am with Illesh's solo work (which is not at all). I am, however, familiar with the Yes cover band Fragile that Illesh played in during the early 2000s and as far as I recall he did a good job there. Our main editor reviewed Illesh's debut album Golden (2011, see review) and recommended it to people who like “fine acoustic guitar music with a classical touch”. The biography says that Robert's influences are wide, including classical, jazz, folk, rock and fusion as I can confirm this as it's well-documented on the 12 songs between 2:25 and 5:43. Yes, you read that correctly, you won't find any prog epics here.

Opening piece Strummin' Dawg brings folk blues with harmonica and sound as if it was recorded at least 70 years earlier. Personally I like this stuff, but to be honest, Robert Johnson-like stuff is not what I would expect when reviewing for a progressive rock magazine ... The second piece, A Song For You, is built on acoustic guitar with a vague (bamboo?) flute and some (wordless?) vocals/chants in the background. The flute is pretty annoying, by the way! After The Rain, Song then is the first highlight with open instrumentation, interesting percussive work and nice acoustic guitar and vocals that carry the piece. More blues are found in Matchbox Blues (big surprise, huh?) while Were You There? brings nagging singer/songwriter with acoustic guitar. This snotty song is clearly a low point and something I suggest you not to program so that you NEVER have to hear it after the first time. Or better even, take my word for it and skip this right away. It's interesting how one song can spoil an entire album - this one makes that I don't want to play the CD again, but I will have to in order to write a decent review. Oddly it's as if things are suddenly switched to another CD. I wonder what Illesh was thinking at this point!
Much better (not that this is particularly difficult) is A Very Delicate Time Indeed, a gentle folky ballad, also mainly carried by acoustic guitars with flute (or flute-like keys) and vocals that are much, much, much better than that horrible song that I will never listen to again.
North Carolina is a jazzy/bluesy upbeat song that sweeps you along and it's hard NOT to tap your feet (it's no prog, though). This piece is one of the longer tracks on the CD, together with How Do I Know? which is probably one of the more symphonic and a lovely song all around. Some great Howe-like guitar towards the end, by the way, and a very Yes-like atmosphere. I would have loved to hear a bit more in this style.
A shame that the final song Traveller's End is a bit of a let-down, despite some Nick Drake references in the vocals and the fine keys that are way back in the sound.

All in all I found this CD somewhat disappointing. There are a couple nice songs, but as a whole it lacks serious substance. Oh, and by the way, I have NO clue whatsoever what the title is supposed to mean. Checking the internet I found a variety of locations in the UK. Whatever, I really don't care that much.

** Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)

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