Nine Skies from France released their debut album Return Home on November 30th, 2017. The band is comprised of Alexandre Boussacre and Freddy Scott on vocals, David Darnaud and Eric Bouillette on guitars, Alexandre Lamia on guitars/keyboards, Anne Claire Rallo on keyboards, Bernard Hery on bass, Fab Galia on drums, Laurent Benhamou on saxophones, and guest Peny Mac Morris on flute on The Blind Widower Part I & II. According to their press release: “The album relates, through the look of the protagonist, the lives of several characters within a contemporary metropolis. Sometimes allegorical, sometimes particularly realistic, the various tracks highlight the nonsense of our current lifestyle, and the way which each has to experience the sufferings there which ensue from it. The diversity of the influences of the band allows to express varied feelings, while preserving, thanks to its very personal musical identity, a coherence in the global nature of this modern musical tale.”
Each song within this collection makes optimum usage of musical styles and influences to evoke an atmosphere and helps to develop the “character” of the individual for each track. This is particularly evident on the track The Blind Widower, where jazz-inspired piano, bass, drums and woodwinds lay down a frenetic backdrop while Spanish guitar and dream-like vocals weave in and out of the rhythms.
While there are obvious influences at work here, nothing is derivative. As the album moves through many different styles and has many very theatrical moments (quite evident on a track like The Slight Snake) narrowing down the bands influences becomes difficult, but there are shades of early King Crimson (especially in the sax work of Laurent Benhamou) and some of the guitar work is reminiscent of Steven Rothery of Marillion. Time For Them To Go, with it pastoral acoustic guitar, Mellotron and piano introduction almost feels like Pink Floyd, but as it moves into the vocal section becomes so truly original sounding that the influences fade into the background. The far-too-brief track Catharsis is like a musical dream sequence with some brilliant multi-layered guitar stylings and Season Of Greed could almost be in the realm of pop-prog but for the intricate bass lines and stylish guitar work.
The incredibly crisp and clear production allow the discerning listener to pick out each performer without relying on solos (although there are some wonderful guitar solos, especially on Roses Never Hatch), instead creating perfect sonic spaces for each instrument. As a producer/engineer, this is an album that truly appeals to my usually highly critical listening sensibilities - possibly one of the best produced albums that I have heard in quite some time.
The opening and closing tracks, Return Home and A Way Back (Return home Part II) are really the stand-outs on this disc, capturing many of the elements that are prevalent throughout the album into a fantastic package
Over-all this is a definite contender for my Top Ten this year (I know it is still early in the year, but this disc THAT good). To think that this is a debut album makes me quite anxious to see what this group can do in the future.
****+ David Carswell
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