Dyanne Potter Voegtlin and Jan Christiana of Potter’s Daughter have teamed up with Simon Phillips on drums to form a new band, Octarine Sky. Their debut album, Close to Nearby, featuring Guthrie Gowan (of The Aristocrats) and Amit Chatterjee on guitar is a very impressive and diverse blend of prog, jazz, art rock and classical music, with flights of powerful instrumental virtuosity mingling with beautiful, lyrical vocals and harmonies from Dyanne over eight ambitious and eclectic tracks.
Potter’s Daughter was formed in New York City while Dyanne was studying classical piano performance at the Manhattan School of Music. The group performed regularly in New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania, releasing their debut album, The Blind Side, in 2018 with two more singles appearing the following year, Blood and Water (featuring Annie Haslam of Renaissance) and This Winter’s Child. Lockdown curtailed more live performances, but a number of online festivals and their Covid quarantine EP Casually Containing Rage both maintained and raised their profile.
Close to Nearby was originally designed to be the group’s second album, but the decision was made to create a new, distinctive band, Octarine Sky, to emphasise and embrace the shared vision and dynamic that was brought to the recording sessions by iconic drummer Simon Phillips.
The album retains much of the jazz-orientated, prog, pop, classical and new age elements of Potter’s Daughter, but with the added drive, power and complexity of Simon’s drumming, all enhanced by the sublime flowing guitar work of Guthrie, taking lead on many tracks.
The album begins with One, a dynamic and expressive interpretation of the first movement of Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No.1. Dyanne’s piano and Simon’s drums weave an intricate, fresh fabric of sound which echos the work of both Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer (ELP interpreted Ginastera themselves in Toccata many years ago). It is certainly a vibrant start to the album.
Rosewind, by contrast, is a more serene affair, starting with a gentle drum pattern, simple guitar notes and floating keyboards as Dyanne sings the poetic and mysterious lyrics, such as “And flowers come out like Rosewind. The blushing wind of roses”. Not that it is all languid in tone; there are bursts of energy throughout, and Jan’s restrained guitar solos add more texture and colour – including some Eastern touches on occasion – before a dreamy piano-led conclusion.
Night Sky / Into the Dream is a cinematic and evocative soundscape where vocals, drums, bass and keyboards all mingle and merge, dream-like, whilst Guthrie’s guitar work takes the track up high into the atmosphere. Lyrics, such as “You raise me up to the night sky, when I’m standing in my dreams” are beautifully and confidently sung by Dyanne, the whole track having a wonderful diversity despite its modest duration.
The Mask has a sad poignancy from the very start – with an almost modal jazz feel at times. The sound of water, soft brush strokes from Simon and Jan’s acoustic guitar complement the yearning vocals; “I remember you by the ache in me”. Yet mid-way, a spoken narrative addressing the false beliefs of paranoia provides a sharp contrast – accentuated by oscillating keyboards, a firmer drum rhythm and then a well-pitched guitar solo from Jan. The song returns to is original style by the end, but there is a subtle, unsettled nature to the music and lyrics now… maybe the emotional mask has now slipped?
5 is a dynamic slice of heavy jazz fusion, with forceful keyboards, a driving beat and Guthrie’s singing guitar reminiscent of the work of Jeff Beck with Jan Hammer in the ’70s. Yet there are ethereal and pastoral passages of harmony as well, producing an intriguing concoction. Octarine Sky are a musical collaboration continually looking at changes in pace, style and flavour throughout the album.
Fans of Edgar Allan Poe will enjoy how Midnight sets the ominous, poetic lines of The Raven to a strident soundtrack. Jan’s resonating bass dominates the instrumentation, with Guthrie adding an urgency and unease, as Dyanne’s chant of “Nevermore” sails across the surface.
VII is a return to the atonal, Emerson-style piano of earlier, with a dazzling and lively interpretation of a piano piece by Julia Schwartz. Simon’s drumming is almost a masterclass, as is Dyanne’s classical piano, and Jan and Guthrie add their own flourishes in this challenging but potent brew of virtuosity. The spirit of ELP is alive and well here.
The final track returns us to a more typical Potter’s Daughter style, with the soothing, tranquil, and hopeful Hold. There is a Yes flavour around the song, with Amit providing Steve Howe-like guitar touches at times, and even Jan’s backing vocals having an echo of Jon Anderson. It was subsequently interesting to hear from Dyanne that “Actually, we sent Hold to Jon Anderson and asked him to sing on the song. He loved the song and sent us back a demo of those gorgeous harmony parts. Unfortunately, he has been so busy touring he wasn’t able to contribute to the final recording, but generously gave us permission to use the part.” Her clear lead vocals and harmonies provide a lovely feel to the song, with Jan’s backing vocals delivering optimistic lines such as “In imagination we are one together”. Amit delivers a gliding solo over the smooth wash of instrumentation to close, and it is the perfect way to end the album.
Octarine Sky have delivered a wonderfully diverse and profound album with Close to Nearby. The spirit of Potter’s Daughter remains with Dyanne Potter Voegtlin and Jan Christiana’s wonderful interplay, but it has been enhanced by the intensity and virtuosity of Simon Phillips, Guthrie Govan and Amit Chatterjee. It really is a joy to hear musicians interact creativity to push the boundaries and be truly progressive. The artwork of Armand Cabrera also impresses. If you want your progressive rock to be challenging and have a captivating and refreshing melange of styles and genres, this album is highly recommended.
01. One (4:28)
02. Rosewind (5:08)
03. Night Sky / Into the Dream (4:46)
04. The Mask (7:27)
05. 5 (5:38)
06. Midnight (4:35)
07. VII (7:47)
08. Hold (4:57)
Total Time – 44:46
Dyanne Potter Voegtlin – Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
Jan Christiana – Bass, Bass Synths, Keyboards, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Simon Phillips – Drums
Guthrie Govan – Lead Guitar (tracks 3,5,6 & 7)
Amit Chatterjee – Lead Guitar (track 8)
Christian Voegtlin – Narration (track 4)
Record Label: Uberwald Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 5th November 2021