There was magic in the air
Where thoughts and feelings become reality.”
Tony Lowe’s ESP Project is founded on a deceptively simple yet utterly remarkable vision. The lyric above, from the Carier Wave section of the album’s opening track, defines that vision with perfect clarity: to capture and to paint musical landscapes on a canvas where dreams and magic and where thoughts and feelings can, for a time, come together in holistic soundscapes which sparkle, thrill and delight.
Beginning in 1993 he has slowly, but surely, nurtured and evolved a body of work which is impressive in the ways in which it embodies musical innovation and creative in its blending of collaborative contributions from musicians invited to share in this journey. To my mind, however, Reverie marks a defining moment in that project’s evolution. It is, in form as well as content, momentous. What will follow from this release will have far reaching echoes, ripples and consequences for future progressions in this exciting and tantalising adventure.
As anyone already familiar with Lowe’s music will doubtless expect, Reverie is beautifully nuanced and alive with exquisite textures. The riveting momentum of the music never fails to engross and absorb with sumptuous melodies and enthralling atmospheres. Even the stunning cover artwork (also courtesy of Lowe) as well as the CD artwork itself all serve to build an overall experience which is absorbing, dizzying, intoxicating.
Yet it is perhaps too easy to be swept away with the richly alluring and seductive musical tides which embrace and beguile us and miss the fact that we are dealing here with something distinctively different from previous releases. To understand what is going on, look again at the title. Reverie is certainly (and intentionally) the headline grabber. But on the reverse of the CD and in the notes accompanying the digital download, a second more understated title comes into play: A Prog Symphony in Seven Movements.
Note the distinction: not symphonic prog but a prog symphony. Whilst it is certainly true that Reverie is indeed beautifully symphonic, it is so primarily because of the structure around which Lowe brilliantly arranges the music – a structure which uses the shape and form of a classical symphony to explore the intriguing possibilities for – and boundaries of – progressive music. Even more telling is the reference to ‘movements’; the symphonic form creates a unifying and dynamic coherence across seven different and distinct pieces whilst retaining an organic and cohesive whole. It is an inspired choice which also proves to be decisive.
Why? Look further. Look at what the track listing tells us. Seven movements, but each movement (with the exception of the third) has three sections or passages. It is here we arrive at why I think Reverie is a defining moment in Lowe’s work to date: the musical triptych. If ‘movements’ provide the structure of the album, the triptychs create the flow, the expression, the rhythmic drive, the inexorable logic and the scintillating power at the very heart of the music.
If you don’t believe me, listen to just one of any of the movements. Once you’ve listened, go back and listen again, this time pressing pause at the point of transition between segments as if it were a separate track. Then listen to the whole movement again. You get a different kind of experience. The segments work individually; but they work better as a whole – and this is only possible because they are carried along by the symphonic cradle within which it all magically comes together and makes unified sense.
Here we find ourselves back where we started. The first of the triptychs, innocuously entitled Carrier Wave, can now be seen to be significantly more revealing than first appearances might suggest. I have spent a lot of time dissecting the shape and form of the album rather than talking directly about the music itself. I make no apologies for having done so, simply because I don’t believe you can truly enjoy the sheer beauty of the latter without first appreciating the remarkable way it is allowed to live, breath, expand and flourish within such an innovative and ingenious carrier wave – the symphony.
The genius of what Lowe has achieved is the enabling of music as a living organism, an album which is spectacularly alive and brimming with vitality, diversity, progression, which invites you in and seduces you into a musical reverie which astounds, surprises and enchants in equal measure. Thoughts and feelings entwine as one musical reality, their dance the breath which carries us across gorgeous musical vistas and, by the end, lay us to rest with a definite sense of peace and hope. Magnificent.
01. carrier wave – peace will come – a breakthrough (9:58)
02. the long climb – view from above – the steep return (7:59)
03. manifestation – cities in the sky (5:46)
04. lights in the field – into the earth – heat beneath the soil (8:21)
05. flying deeper – power revealed – reawakening (12:49)
06. silent agreement – revealing the future – heart of the undersea caves (6:35)
07. climb to the stars – corridors of light – coming home (5:45)
Total Time – 57:13
Tony Lowe – All Instruments & Vocals
Record Label: Sunn Creative
Formats: CD, Digital
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 19th May 2023