Simon McKechnie — Newton's Alchemy
(Voyager 4, 2014, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-04-20Artists’ inspiration can be triggered by just about any experience, internal or external. (To be precise, all inspiration is internal, though it may be brought on by something in the outside world.) For London-based composer Simon McKechnie, it came from learning about the alchemical pursuits of Sir Isaac Newton — along with being one of the most influential thinkers in the history of science, Newton spent many years delving into the magical realm of transmuting elements. The result of McKechnie’s inspiration is an elaborate construction of progressive rock, nearly a one-man effort, featuring drummer Adam Riley throughout and occasional contributions from Clare Salaman (nyckelharpa) and Jan Hendrickse (bass flute); the composer plays guitars, keyboards, bass, dulcimer, psaltery, and percussion in addition to singing. Most of the lyrics come from Newton’s own writings. In keeping with the subject matter, the compositional techniques are sophisticated and elaborate, but to McKechnie’s credit it all works splendidly even without paying attention to the intellectual aspects. Musically there’s some kinship to such contemporary bands as Underground Railroad and Birds and Buildings, with the non-rock connection being more with 20th Century music than Romantic or Classical. Like a fractal design, the closer you look, the more details you make out, be they melodic fragments cropping up in multiple pieces, unexpected combinations of sounds, or off-kilter rhythmic twists. Newton’s Alchemy is an outstanding accomplishment in progressive rock, free of cliches and strikingly original without sounding stuffy or fussy.
Related artist(s): Simon McKechnie
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more