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Acuity - Skyward

Acuity - SkywardI have no idea what happened but I am feeling rather strange and shaky after listening to Acuity's Skyward.

This is Michigan based Acuity's debut album and what a stormer of an album it is.  Bradley Styes is the man responsible for all the music and most of the lyrics (Chuck Mitchell collaborated with the track Milwaukee and is also responsible for the cover art) but there is no definitive list in the sleeve or their website as to who is playing what apart from Matthew Parmenter (violin) on one track.

The opening track, Vector, kicks off in a heavy rock style, fast moving guitar prominent stuff.

State Of The Art Love Song appears to follow this theme initially, but soon locks into prog mode with an early IQ flavour which can't be bad.  The first of the three longest tracks, Transcendence (Culture Of Hospice) (15 mins), is a prog masterpiece, gentle acoustic guitar and vocals, and keys threatening to open up into something altogether heavier in an understated way.  Synth and Mellotron sounds mingles with electric and acoustic guitar create that strange sensation that one sometimes gets when listening to one of Steve Hackett's 'nightmare' pieces.  The sort of 'weird' sounds experienced on Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway while a voice is heard "lying wide awake, anxious for a coma" is a little unsettling but this opens up into a Genesis/IQ style ending, although the ending for this track is still four minute away.  And what an ending; the song continues with more depressing lyrics (well, see the song title!) but the final couple of minutes lets rip with prog European style.  Marvellous.

Milwaukee (an essay on morbid hysteria) is another long track (22mins) that could hardly be described as happy as far as subject matters go.  Divided into nine sections, two of these titled Not One Of My Better Days (Tired) which I can definitely relate to, and Shit-Eating Grin, the lyrics may be morbid but certainly not devoid of humour.  There is a touch of the Hamill VDGG here but only a touch; as an admirer of what VDGG were trying to do, I for one always struggled (and still do) to get into their music whereas I find Acuity more accessible.  The music is complex and by this stage of the album is a million miles from the first track, it is actually going somewhere worthwhile.

Cul-de-sacs Of Venus, interpret that as you will, is a delightful and delicate instrumental featuring Matthew Parmenter on violin and has an air of YES combined with the folkier side of Led Zeppelin, haunting and memorable.

Voyager (17 mins) completes the album and is full of 70's prog sounds and styles including the brass heard on Floyd's Atom Heart Mother, the jazz of John William's Sky and Dave Sinclair's keys á la Caravan.  Even a touch of Theremin can be heard at the end.

As I implied at the start, this album can leave one feel a little shaken if not disturbed.  Good though it is, the first track is a little out of place on this album and perhaps should have been omitted, especially as losing 5 minutes would make little difference to an album which has a running time of 68 minutes.  That said, Skyward is a concept of modern prog with a strong leaning towards classic 70's styles and sounds full of melodies ands riffs and complex arrangements that delve into the darkside of the mind.   Unless you never stray from mainstream prog without a note from your mum or have suicidal tendancies, Skyward could be that essential purchase you've been looking for this year.  Recommended.

Jem Jedrzejewski

Project ACUITY


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