It’s been an emotional few weeks, and the new album due from Grice, Polarchoral, is the right vessel to draw together those emotions. This is closer to the norms of The Pineapple Thief or Porcupine Tree, both of whose recent albums I have enjoyed, although they have neither quite hit the nerve like Polarchoral. I guess you can already tell that I am enthused, the lyrical imagery pitches just right, words that alternately make me smile or frown. Cloth ears that I am, I misheard the first line, it is “Anyone who had a Thought”; make your own mind up as to my mishearing, just the way the wind blows, but the chilled jazz feel from that opening phrase had me hooked, and I cannot see you being any different. Ambient sounds are introduced, creating texture as well as aural landscapes.
That laid-back vibe continues into Damage Done. There is a distinctive and assured jazz/jazz rock vibe going on here, with trumpet channelling the spirit of Miles Davies, a performance I would place on a par with the legendary Kind of Blue. Grice’s subject is relationships, the bipolar aspect of them, the ups, the downs, and the runarounds. Polarchoral, the title track, is thrice blessed in some excellent drumming, in the realms of Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train) or Tom Jackson (The Emerald Dawn). I hear Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Eastern European, Greek (Verbal Delirium), so many textures, feelings and emotions. Given Robert Brian’s pedigree, I shouldn’t be surprised.
Grice describes the album as a search for reconciliation. Unity and healing in a fractured/polarised world. It blends genres with a smoothness of silk, pop to rock to jazz and beyond, with a backdrop of grey rain on an early November two days before release. Both Winter and Without Her show classy pop writing, leading to Saviour, the first single from the album (here you get album and radio edits), which if there were justice should be heard on mainstream radio.
If you are not a trumpet fan then the beautiful solos from Luca Calabrese on Alarm Bells really should win you over. Mellow but not melancholy, the music has hope through it, threads of silver embroidered with gold, uplifting even. Band of Brothers continues in this rich vein, dipping into the avant garde, and then switching direction for Legend; more thoughts, more questions, making way in the world today, be a Legend…
Polarchoral is penultimate, with a lovely drum intro as the titular track builds from something low-key, increasing in drama and personae dramatis as Suzanne Barbieri adds her harmonies to that of Grice. It reminds me of a slower version of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, it has that level of presence. It’s gorgeous.
Lapis Lazuli; it is a Kind of Blue, by definition and by comparison with the Miles Davis album. Reflections on love can easily be maudlin and melancholy, but here it’s with hope that shines through, even if that is a reflection on what was rather than what is? It is a beautiful, dramatic, thought-provoking album, and in a world that currently seems to dwell in negativity, offers hope. My favourite of 2022 so far is How far to Hitchin’s Screams and Whispers, Polarchoral matches it in the emotion it causes you to invest and the feelings it stirs. A 2022 top album for me.
The release date for this album is 4th November, which is a Bandcamp Friday, so you can maximise the artist revenue by ordering then, although having heard it all I would not blame you for impatience. The rest of Grice’s back catalogue is also available.
01. Involution (7:35)
02. Damage Done (5:08)
03. Winter (7:16)
04. Without Her (4:54)
05. Saviour (5:52)
06. Alarm Bells (10:26)
07. Band of Brothers (5:09)
08. Legend (5:32)
09. Polarchoral (14:05)
10. Lapis Lazuli (4:09)
~ Bonus Track:
11. Saviour (Single Mix) (4:18)
Total Time – 74:24
Grice Peters – Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Copycat, Synths, Hammond Organ, Grand Piano, Piano, Tzouras, Sonics, Samples
Duncan Chave – Programming, Warping (tracks 1,6 & 9)
Robert Brian – Drums, Landrum, Linn Drum (tracks 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 & 9)
Al Swainger – Double Bass (tracks 1,2 & 8), Electric Bass (tracks 2,6 & 9), French Horn (track 3), Bass Pedals (track 5)
Suzanne Barbieri – Vocals (track 1), Backing Vocals (track 9)
Luca Calabrese – Trumpet, Flugelhorn (tracks 3,8 & 9)
Alan Burton – Uilleann Pipes (track 3)
Jack Lawrence – Autoharp (track 3)
B.J. Cole – Pedal Steel Guitar (tracks 5,7 & 8)
Eliza Carew – Cello (track 5)
Steve Bingham – Violin (track 5)
Richard Barbieri – Synthesis & Sonic Pulse (track 6)
Hossam Ramzy – Triangle (track 6), Tablas, Doholla, Mazhar (track 9)
Steve Jansen – Ghost Pads, Bells, Lazurite Sonics (track 10)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th November 2022