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Bill Ryder-Jones - If....

  by Andy Cassidy

published: 12 / 11 / 2011

Bill Ryder-Jones - If....
Label: Double Six Records
Format: CD


Evocative debut solo album from former Coral guitarist-turned-orchestral composer, Bill Ryder-Jones, which is a soundtrack to Italo Calvino’s 1979 post-modern novel 'If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller'

As career changes go, the leap from lead guitarist with the Coral to orchestral composer is probably as big as it gets and yet, based on the evidence of this album, it is a change that Bill Ryder-Jones has managed with some aplomb. Ryder-Jones’ starting point for 'If…' was Italo Calvino’s 1979 post-modern novel 'If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller'. The music on 'If…' is intended to serve as a soundtrack to the novel. The novel itself is a masterpiece of self-referral and post-modernism. It tells the story of a character who is trying to read a book called 'If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller'. Each odd numbered chapter describes the preparations the reader takes prior to beginning reading the next chapter, while every even numbered chapter consists of the text that the protagonist is reading. The opening track, 'If…', has much in common with the contemporary movie soundtrack – gentle, melancholy strings, haunting piano and a hushed feel which slowly builds into a swell of emotion before returning to a more sedate mood. The effect of the powerful crescendo is quite unsettling at the first listen, and the changes in mood throughout the three movements of the first track perfectly convey the varying depths of emotional intensity that one experiences throughout the narrative of the novel. 'The Reader' is a beautifully crafted piece, with strings and piano once again to the fore. Despite its modernity, the track has a timeless quality and would sit comfortably on any classical compilation. The mood of the album becomes stark and bleak during fourth track, 'By the Church of Appollonia', and yet despite the seemingly moribund opening, the tracks swells to an optimistic climax complete with breathy, wordless vocals. 'By the Church of Appollonia' makes me think of a brooding seascape, with the voices representing the winds of some retreating storm – it is a very evocative piece of music. After four orchestral tracks, the straightforward singer-songwriter balladry of 'Le Grande Desordre' is both surprising and refreshing. Reminiscent of Syd Barrett’s solo material, the song has a wonderful fragility and, far from detracting from the album’s orchestral pieces, the variety adds to the overall album’s sense of escapism. Described as “musical pieces in search of a film,” 'If…' is the product of a prodigious musical talent; an artist as suited to a conservatoire recital as to a sweat-soaked rock solo. Influences abound on this album, many of them from contemporary soundtrack composers – there are elements of Hans Zimmer’s score for 'Inception', Michael Andrews’ 'Donnie Darko' and Clint Mansell’s 'Black Swan'. With these influences, as well as a solid background in rock, one would be forgiven for thinking that the resulting music would be something of a hotchpotch, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is an album of elegance and grace, a “soundtrack” which, by virtue of not being tied to any movie, can easily be adapted to the listener’s life.

Track Listing:-
1 If...
2 The Reader (Malbork)
3 Leaning (Star Of Sweden)
4 By The Church Of Appolonia
5 Le Grand Desordre
6 Enlace
7 Intersect
8 The Flowers #3 (Lotus)
9 Give Me A Name
10 Some Absolute End (The End)

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