PHIDEAUX - Snowtorch
Eight years after forming his musical project and two years after his last album, Phideaux Xavier is back with his eighth CD Snowtorch. The busy artist also works full time as a director for TV series, making one wonder if this hyperactive person actually finds time to sleep anymore.
Phideaux consists on the new album of ten regular musicians plus two guest performers on cello, flute and soprano saxophone. Musically the band is still producing its trademark version of retro progressive rock, packed in a modern production. The big influences from the Seventies are rather obvious, but Phideaux is mixing the different ideas into such an elegant panache that makes the listening experience the purest pleasure.
Snowtorch is like one of those mega-long songs of the Seventies, separated into two main suites simply titled Part One and Part Two. Those two tracks of twenty respectively sixteen minutes are separated by the six minute short Helix. The album ends with an untitled instrumental recalling a previous leitmotif. Jethro Tull did something similar with Thick As A Brick already nearly four decades ago, but that doesn’t mean that the idea is no longer applicable. In the case of Snowtorch, it works perfectly well, as this is the most accessible yet also most demanding album by Phideaux. Recurring melodies spread all over the epic tracks give the listener a guideline, while the vocals shared by Mr Phideaux himself and several, mostly female vocalists, maintain the spirit of variety.
The music is also anything but run-of-the-mill. The organ sounds starting the album reminded me a little of Hugh Banton’s of the majestic Van Der Graaf Generator. Otherwise there is a lot of early Genesis that has influenced the music, especially the vivid sense of drama that prevents the album from creeping into less than interesting territory. Other times the spirits of Yes and ELP are not far away. The album might sound cheesy to those unaccustomed to progressive rock, but connoisseurs of the genre will revel in the musicians’ fervent display of ardour, as they are making their way through an era when songs were still allowed to take up an entire side of an LP and even more.
Let’s be honest: Snowtorch is not an atypical Phideaux album, but he has certainly refined the band’s style on this eighth album, resulting in a wondrous masterwork full of discoveries and marvels. Later this year, Phideaux will release an accompanying album titled 7½ consisting of songs from the same recording sessions that weren’t used on Snowtorch: If only every busy band was able to retain such a high level of quality! This is a must-have for every fan of well done progressive art rock!