With the dust barely settled on Neil Campbell’s previous release, Tabula Rasa Suite appearing in November 2014, then the news of another release appearing in March 2015, may cause the cynically inclined to ponder whether this may be a case of quantity over quality. Well there are few more cynical than I, however one thing I have discovered over the last decade is that not only does Neil Campbell constantly surprise, but also – seldom repeats himself. eMErgence is another such album and although in many respects a companion release to Tabula Rasa Suite, it treads a different path.
Whereas the Tabula Rasa Suite album was a reflective and absorbing solo guitar offering, eMErgence is a full band release with Neil calling in collaborators from across his career. The wordless vocal duties fall to both Perri Alleyne-Hughes (Perri and Neil | Sense of Sound) and Anne Taft (Neil Campbell Collective | Ghost Stories). Marty Snape from the excellent Bulbs quartet takes on the role of Electronics and production whilst the rhythm section comprises of bassist Roger Gardiner and drummer Viktor Nordberg – both of whom work with the Perri and Neil Quartet.
The album opens with the bright and breezy, Morphogenetic Fields, with Perri’s vocals capturing the flavour of a 70s film track, the rhythm section complementing the atmosphere whilst the wispish synth lines languish comfortably alongside. The tranquillity is disturbed by two driving instrumental sections, the latter conjuring the fiery work of Al Di Meola. The electronic synth and percussion driven MC 2, on the other hand, has essences of 80s synth pop intermingled with the melodic sense of Vangelis. On the surface perhaps not overtly enticing, but the track is carefully written, carrying the listener on a relaxed and pleasant journey.
Private Collection 1 is more familiar with Neil’s plaintive classical guitar wonderfully offset Perri Alleyne-Hughes’ effortlessly floating vocal and light percussive sounds. Gliding in and augmented once again by an electronically driven undercurrent, Private Collection 2 sees both Anne Taft and Perri Alleyne-Hughes perform the wordless and ethereal melody line. A formula they recreate, to great effect, in part three, once again complimented by Neil’s rippling guitar and the cleverly understated backing. Icing on the cake here comes with the infectious keyboard line. As with Parts 1 and 2, Part 3 seamlessly runs into the the final section of the Private Collection suite. The harmonisation between Hughes and Taft is both engaging and scintillating. Again the rhythm section capturing the mood, with lightly brushed drums and the busy bass part that moves in all the right directions. At a little over fifteen minutes this is a suite to be enjoyed with headphones on and the lights dimmed.
Located in the middle of the Private Collection suite is the entirely instrumental and tranquil Teilhard De Chardin. Like much of Neil’s work it references great scientists and philosophers of our time, here the track carries the name of noted contemporary Frenchman, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Musically it slots neatly in-between the two halves of the suite and offers subtle contrasts. At times the track is reminiscent of Art Of Noise, which is no bad thing in my book.
The up-tempo Fields Within Fields is a fine slice of instrumental progressive music and certainly deserves a wider audience. It initially retains the rather gentle nature of the release, but allows the music to expand and build with a series of dynamic breaks. Starting out with Neil’s signature classical guitar and accompanied by a great moving bass line, which is a delight throughout the track. The music’s complex rhythmic patterning is hypnotic, augmented by subtle layers of keyboards and effects and bolstered with some fiery electric work. Why not have a listen…
Concluding the album, E=, which recapitulates the themes and ideas from track two, MC 2. As mentioned previously, referencing a scientific theme – here with Mr Einstein’s famous relativity equation. I suspect that these two kindred pieces of music started life with the classical guitar version, E= and later expanded into the MC 2. Two contrasting interpretations that are equally enjoyable.
As mooted earlier in this review that with such a varied output it is difficult to say whether or not this would be a good introduction to the work of Neil Campbell. All I can say is that, once again, Neil has come up with an excellent release that encompasses a whole gamut of styles from prog to fusion, classical to ambient film and electronica to minimalist…
01. Morphogenetic Fields (7:00)
02. MC 2 (5:21)
03. Private Collection 1 (4:04)
04. Private Collection 2 (3:10)
05. Teilhard De Chardin (4:18)
06. Private Collection 3 (3:58)
07. Private Collection 4 (4:05)
08. Fields Within Fields (4:54)
09. E= (4:20)
Total Time 41:10
Neil Campbell – Guitars & Keyboards
Perri Alleyne-Hughes – Voice (1, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 9)
Anne Taft – Voice (4, 6, 7 & 9)
Marty Snape – Electronics
Roger Gardiner – Bass
Viktor Nordberg – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 9th March 2015