YEAR: 1993
STYLE: Progressive Rock/ New Age
FORMAT: APE (Image + Log + Cue + Scans + 5% Recovery)
SIZE: 365 Mb
THE BAND: Nic Potter: Main performer and producer; John Ellis: Guitars; Guy Evans: Drums & percussions; Huw Lloyd-Langton: Guitar; Molly Duncan: Saxophone; Steve Bolton: Guitar
Nic Potter is best known for having been the bassist in British art rock band Van Der Graaf Generator. But his little-known solo albums `Mountain Music' and `Sketches in Sound' make for interesting listening, and are well worth getting.
At its most innocuous, Potter's music is like a cross between Jean-Michel Jarre's `Oxygene' and 80s-era Tangerine Dream. At its most sublime, the music is more like a cross between and Anthony Phillips' brilliant synthesiser album `1984' and the aural landscapes of Harold Budd. If you like any of these artists, then Nic Potter comes highly recommended.
This CD collects all the tracks from `Mountain Music' and `Sketches in Sound', some of them remixed, plus a few previously unreleased tracks. The CD has been released in a limited edition of 3,000, so if you're intrigued by these comments, I'd get my hands on it ASAP. One word of caution though - the packaging is horrendous. The picture of a bemused Potter on the front looks like a still from David Lynch's `Eraserhead', but it's nothing compared to the back-cover picture, which is an out-of-focus photo of Potter standing on a city street on a rainy day - with the photographer's finger obscuring part of the lens! You have to ask yourself whether this is intended as a joke.
Still, the music more than makes up for the drab packaging. Opening tracks `Optimism' and `Cuban Dance' both begin with striking slow passages, giving you a hint of the more epic pieces that follow later, but then speed up into jaunty synth pop with memorable melodies. These tracks sound like they could belong on Tangerine Dream's album `Le Parc'.
The CD really hits its stride with `Morning Suite', a beautiful composition with jazzy chords. `121' is even more atmospheric, conjuring up ominous soundscapes. And then the three-part suite `Planet of Paradise' is the best thing on the CD, sounding like it could belong on Harold Budd's album `Lovely Thunder'. The poignant melodies and dramatic arrangements of `Planet of Paradise' will have you dreaming of vast, desert spaces.
`Middle Street Dream' is a laid-back number with a waltz feel. `Die Grossenwahn' starts out jazzy, and then goes into an insistent figure in a minor key overlaid with doom-ridden synth. Sadly, `The Forest' is a mediocre bit of ill-fitting throwaway pop that'll have you hitting skip on your CD player. The strident `Purple Dawn' is another Tangerine Dream clone, but none the worse for it - perfect music to drive to, in fact. And `Future Contemplation' is an Arabic-sounding, snake charmer kind of a tune, very catchy (if you're into computer games, it sounds very similar to the music used for the Oil Ocean Zone in 'Sonic the Hedgehog 2' for Sega Genesis/Megadrive).
The next five tracks - `Paradise Journey', `No Particular Reason', `Night Falls over Europe', `Intelligent Shoes of Canvas' and `Mountain Vision' - range from more disposable pop to the odd interesting passage. They make for pleasant enough listening, but it's a pity that all the best tracks are stacked at the beginning of the CD, which gives the whole thing a feeling of just fizzling out. Fortunately, closing track `Tropical Tones' is a really sweet tune, largely because of its mellow bassline.
This music deserves to be better known - not to mention better packaged, and released in batches of more than 3,000. So give it a try. It's a pity that Potter doesn't dabble in film or computer game soundtracks - he clearly has the musical chops for conjuring drama and atmosphere.
Track Listing:
The Band:
Nic Potter: Main performer and producer
John Ellis: Guitars on 11
Guy Evans: Drums & percussions on 9, 16, 17
Huw Lloyd-Langton: Guitar on 14, 16
Molly Duncan: Saxophone on 1, 15
Steve Bolton: Guitar on 3.