Brighton band Diagonal reappear on my radar after a seven year gap with their third album Arc, and after a regrouping following the fracture of the band before during and after 2012’s Second Mechanism (read more HERE), and the subsequent encroachment of the real world and its attendant prioritising in the intervening years.
A change in compositional approach – see the notes on the Bandcamp page for more on this – lends the whole affair a more laid-back feel than the two previous albums. The interplay is relaxed, and Diagonal’s distinctive vocal harmonies are the icing on the cake.
Guitarist David Wileman lays some nice runs over the stripped-back white boy prog-funk (is that a thing?) of opener 9-Green, and briefly lets rip on the rollicking The Spectrum Explodes. Returning original keyboard player Alex Crispin adds some tasteful organ solos to the same song, and elsewhere, with sax player/singer Nick Whittaker filling out the sound where and when needed. All the soloing is brief and no notes are wasted on the altar of ego.
Hope tinged with melancholy is the feeling I get from the mostly impressionistic lyrics, a natural occurrence as the writers get older. The sound has a lot of space and is quite dry, but never brittle. This gives the album a curiously ’80s feel, especially on the title track which I can imagine an alt-rock version of Duran Duran performing. That sounds awful, but it really isn’t! The guitar break lifts that spell, and thankfully there’s no Synclavier.
Older and wiser, Diagonal go with the flow on Arc, and are all the better for it. This is Zen and the art of music-making in practice, and it is exemplified by lovely sax-led The Vital, which floats serenely through the cosmos observing the chaos from a safe distance. The beyond and the wider universe appear to a theme throughout, and the album ends with Celestia, which as its title implies drifts away and into the beyond, on the back of a gentle repeated synth line, and leaves us on a note of optimism.
I hope that this time round, the band last long enough to do some gigs outside of Brighton, and maybe even make a follow up. Good to see them back!
01. 9-Green (6:23)
02. Stars Below (2:46)
03. Citadel (8:02)
04. The Spectrum Explodes (4:32)
05. Warning Flare (6:13)
06. Arc (4:25)
07. The Vital (7:38)
08. Celestia (4:34)
Total Time – 44:33
Alex Crispin – Organ, Electric Piano, Vocals
Luke Foster – Drums, Percussion
Ross Hossack – Synthesiser
Daniel Pomlett – Bass, Vocals
Nicholas Whittaker -Alto Saxophone, Vocals
David Wileman – Guitars
Record Label: Cobblers Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th September 2019