Do you remember the first time you heard The Dark Side of the Moon? The Contemplative Power of Water by Ali Ferguson is just a bit like that, with much better reference points since we have heard of Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream, and many others. It is a roll of honour, and while it is early days for this album, it may find Ali a place on that roll. It’s a mixture of sounds, soundscapes, spoken word and song as our songsmith delivers his craft, ably supported by his fellow artists. I find it a bit of a triumph. Yes, I get a little disappointed at the sound of distorted guitars as they seem to be the flavour of the moment, but then in quiet moments, listening to water, contemplating if you wish, I realise and accept how appropriate this choice might be. For me it’s dream mode, water babbles, trickles, and it’s relaxing, but a little closer inspection reveals a much more turbulent world. The distortion fits.
Scottish folk and Americana? It shouldn’t work. The concept of the album is to reconnect with the natural world, the foundation of which is water, its fluidity and flexibility always getting through. Water trickles, water splash, distorted guitar solo before settling on a more flowing composition, with shades of the Greek and Vangelis. It is like having all your eggs in one basket but remaining original to form. Children of Men introduces a vocal in the vein of eighties electronica and perhaps Robert Myles, the music at times complex and layered. I can’t see it troubling the charts but within the progressive community I can see it being selectively loved.
The River Crows hints at folk and a like extract from Oldfield’s Incantation. Morse heralds an end or a beginning, the sounds of dogs barking and pistons pumping. Aural exercise for late night ponderings, a languid pool of musical bouillabaisse, all drawn together by a voice that lures but sounds slightly of a sore throat. The incantation melody reappears courtesy of some sort of flute or pipes; with guitar solo backing, he is a local hero? Someone will now tell me the melody is traditional Scottish as well, a sort of ‘McPocohontas’? No worries, judge for yourself…
Stare Into Sunlight features a Fish-like intro, softly spoken words of power, a Division Bell solo. It almost has its own echo, dialogue from an observation platform high above the Earth at the edge of space. There is still that component of past glories matched with modern contemporaries John Mitchell, Public Service Broadcasting and Frost*. If you love those there is so much you will enjoy here, a bit War of the Worlds in the way the track descends at times, but mostly Floyd. Mr Ferguson is a very clever man.
The ripples of the past just continue, reflections that go on to establish their own wave fronts. It has all the makings of a classic, but is flawed from my perspective; I just wish for a few more clear guitar solos, but the last track, which is reminiscent of Peter Gabriel (where is that new album, Peter?) is a delight. It would be easy I guess to just roll out classic old style, but Ali has combined cherished artist with modern and contemporary sounds. I assume Ibiza is still a thing giving us a chilled progressive house dance vibe, and I really like it.
Listing track by track revelations is an easy path, but this is very much a single sitting album to me; you can extract the elements of it, dissect its bones, but it just sits better as an album.
Ali Ferguson is an Edinburgh-based singer/songwriter who performs live as lead guitar for Ray Wilson (ex-Genesis); he will be – based on current information – performing at Prog Before Xmas at CCA Glasgow in November, along with Abel Ganz, Comedy of Errors and Alan Reed – all excellent reasons for a night out, and Ali Ferguson as well! [Prog Before Xmas 2022 Tickets]. If I can work it out, and find the thermals, I would certainly go. This album is his third, his first was The Windmills & The Stars in 2011, which he followed up five years later with A Sequence of Moments. His publicity states that The Contemplative Power of Water is his most ambitious yet, and my overall feel is that he succeeds.
It’s a good first listen, then a grower, and finally I will say has a fair chance of appearing in my end of year top five, even with the guitar distortion! Ali’s complete discography is available on Bandcamp for 21 Euros from 2nd September. I’m seriously considering it.
01. The Contemplative Power of Water (Part 1) (9:09)
02. Children of Men (6:13)
03. The River Crows (7:43)
04. Stare into Sunlight (Release/Control) (6:14)
05. The Contemplative Power of Water (Part 2) (6:04)
06. The Catacombs (9:37)
07. You Can’t Hold an Ocean (5:06)
08. Peace Begins with Me (7:18)
09. The Contemplative Power of Water (Part 3) (10:40)
Total Time – 68:04
Ali Ferguson – Guitars, Bass, Vocals, Keyboards, Programming, Field Recording
Chris Agnew – Bass (track 7)
Lawrie Macmillan – Bass (tracks 1 & 4)
Liam Saunders – Keyboards
Ross Ainslie – Whistle
Duncan Ferguson – Strings
Kim Shepherd – Backing Vocals
Sally-Jo Seery – Backing Vocals (track 7)
Karin Tenggren – Backing Vocals (track 3)
Jennie, Thea & Felix Ferguson – Choir (track 9)
Thea Ferguson – Field Recording
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Scotland
Date of Release: 13th April 2022