Cloud Atlas (2012) is a German drama and science fiction film written, produced and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer. The movie has been adapted from the novel Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell, which has multiple time lines set across six different eras. The official synopsis describes it as 'an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.'
However, Cloud Atlas is also the name of a brand new British rock band based in York and formed by singer Heidi Widdop. She previously sang in Stolen Earth, Breathing Space and Mostly Autumn. In 2014 they recorded their debut album Beyond The Vale. Whether their album has also multiple time lines set across six different eras or meets the description of the aforementioned synopsis, can only be found out by taking a deeper look into this album, which I did, of course!
The album opener Searchlight starts with an atmospheric Middle Eastern kind of music before the whole band starts to play beautifully. Soon it becomes clear to me that the bluesy, soulful voice of Heidi Widdop and the soaring melodic electric guitar sounds of Martin Ledger are the most important trademarks of this melodic rock band. But either keyboard player Dave Randall has an important role by filling the spaces Heidi and Martin leave behind. This can be heard throughout the album. It works very well for me and I really enjoyed how they succeeded in entertaining me from the first until the end of the final track. Music wise it's obvious that there's a connection with the aforementioned bands, but influences from Pink Floyd are all over the place as well thanks to the fantastic guitar parts.
Some songs like Let The Blood Low and The Grieving even reminded me of Marillion having guitar parts in the vein of Steve Rothery. Cloud Atlas also succeeds in combining mellow acoustic parts with more heavy up-tempo passages in one composition. This certainly is a great asset in their music. It's not easy to mention any favourites because all tracks have a rather high musical quality level. In my opinion the last three tracks Stars, Journeys End and I'll Take Care Of You (A Song For P) bring out the best of the musicians, but that's perhaps a matter of personal taste.
Cloud Atlas may be proud of this album. I truly hope that Heidi Widdop has some more luck with this band than with her former groups. Anyway, Beyond The Vale is an excellent start which is highly recommended to people who like Pink Floyd and Mostly Autumn! By the way: precise investigation of the content of this album learned that it has nothing to do with the film I described at the beginning of this review...
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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