StarsDie.com Review – Burnt Belief
It is of little surprise to anyone that when you put two musical virtuosos in a studio they cannot escape from that they will, inevitably, conjure up a masterpiece. But what does that mean for two strikingly different musicians? Jon Durant is well-known for his intricate ‘cloud guitar’ approach to playing, which has become something of a personality in itself – prompting musicians the world over to mimic this style.
None, of course, achieve the same level of balance and harmony as Durant. Coupling the dreamy guitar melodies on the strongly-titled ‘Burnt Belief’ is the rich, groovy and enchanting bass playing of Colin Edwin. Edwin, who has become famous for his key role in the progressive rock giant that is Porcupine Tree, has always allowed his style (which is as unique and sought after as Durant’s ‘cloud guitar’ voice) to permeate the heart of all the tracks of musicians who are, dare I say, crazy enough to allow their music to be subdued and pushed aside to make way for Edwin’s signature style.
So as I was saying, if you put any two musical icons into a room with recording equipment, they will create a masterpiece. But if you put Colin Edwin and Jon Durant in the room – you can expect something incredible. On the one hand, it could be jazzy, employing Edwin’s grooves, or it may be overly ambient, giving the guitar the centre stage. After all, guitar and bass as the primary instruments in any album is a hard task to mix well. Somehow though, Edwin and Durant allow their instruments to coexist perfectly, as well as layering each track within an inch of their lives with textures both organic and synthetic. The effect of this makes each track sit perfectly on your ears, and from the moment the aptly-titled Altitude fades in with a mix of euphoric synth melodies, intriguing percussion and bass playing that is immediately reminiscent of Porcupine Tree’s The Sky Moves Sideways (1995), it is clear that you’re in for a treat. Textural indulgence, being key to any great album, is already a ticked box from 30 seconds in.
Altitude flies by, and once the Djembes of Impossible Senses fade in, you realise that not only is the record going to be indulging, but it is also going to be diverse. The one flaw with many ‘prog’ records these days is that the 2-dimensional approach to genres and styles thieves the ‘prog’ crown from many bands that stay too close to home in their experimentation and, ultimately, appreciation of all musical genres. Progressive music, being a celebration of all music at its very core, is a concept sprinkled all over Burnt Belief. As the album unfolds, the pair explore aspects of their musical personalities that we just haven’t heard until now – and cover more musical ground than a lot of new records under the ‘prog’ guise. Now, that doesn’t mean this album feels fragmented or trial-and-error in any way – in fact, the album (left to its own devices) will become a part of you for the 60 minutes the disc occupies and feels as smooth and indulging at the end, as it does when you first hear the synths of Altitude creep in.
But don’t let the ‘prog’ association put ideas in your head on what it might sound like – this isn’t a Pink Floyd record, and it certainly doesn’t sound like Porcupine Tree and neither does it sound like ‘just another’ Durant CD with some new bass lines. Together they’ve managed to shed pre-existing ideas that would stereotype the sort of record the pair would make and instead focus on creating something really unique. Immediately any die-hard proggie would think of Mikael Akerfeldt and Steven Wilson’s recent venture into the weird and wonderful mind of Storm Corrosion. A similar approach – but by no means similar records. Burnt Belief is instrumental, but that does not in the slightest take anything away from the experience. Instead, each instrument and even the textures penetrate each track to give each passing moment its own voice and style.
All in all, Burnt Belief is an incredibly strong body of work, and could potentially make way for a very strong collaborative project in the future. I, for one, am certainly hoping for a follow up. I’ve lived with this record for a few months now, and each time I listen, more and more textural delights throw themselves at you. This isn’t the sort of record you would necessarily want to have on in the background – do not let the instrumental nature of the record deceive you – instead, the music begs to be played on your best headphones or speakers. It craves your full attention and, if you give it exactly that, it will absolutely be a rewarding experience.