In 2012 vocalist Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and keyboard player Richard Barbieri (Japan, Porcupine Tree and Rain Tree Crow) surprised the progressive rock world with the debut of their collaboration, which they named Not The Weapon But The Hand (see review). Apparently there was more music to be discussed, because the two recently came up with Arc Light.
This new release certainly is a fine addition to their first album that came out only slightly later than their debut. It includes four new tracks and a special version of a previous track (Intergalactic), but with a total time of only half an hour it may be a little bit too short. It appeared that at the end of 2013 the album had already been offered in a limited edition, and now the same CD is released in a deluxe gatefold cardboard sleeve to a much larger audience.
Just like on their first release the rather laid-back style of music dominated by the keyboards of Richard and voice of Steve are audible once again. The songs are very understated, while at the same time an eclectic mix of progressive rock styles is audible. Barbieri wrote four strong new tracks. The most innovative of them is probably the track Oil. Here, oriental influences are predominant, thanks to the contribution of Dalbir Singhon on tablas. They were blended into a rich orchestration and the somewhat distant sounding hollow voice of Steve Hogarth. This is especially apparent in the Arc Light-modified version of Intergalactic, which actually rocks quite a bit. This, in comparison to the opener and title track of the album, which carry on in a dreamy way, with quiet percussion, acoustic guitar and atmospheric keyboards. Hogarth's voice fits this music perfectly and at times even gives me goose bumps, with the intense sound this man creates vocally. Daddy Does Work is much more subdued and even tends to lean towards the works of Roger Waters.
You could say each track on Arc Light carries the listener away into a dreamy world in which the additional guitar player (on three tracks) by Aziz Ibrahim (Stone Roses), wake you up every now and then.
Instead of a "sop", Arc Light is a real addition to the collaboration of Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri. The production, done by the two artists themselves, leaves behind a positive impression, as does the well-groomed artwork. The album is a compulsory purchase for lovers of quiet, insistent progressive music, or for those who already own the duo's debut album!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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