The fact that this album came to me from Tom de Wit’s label screamed Progressive. Actually, no screams, just dreams. I was barely a minute into it, and I found myself floating away.
“Florescence” is about growth. This concept album from the Netherlands takes us from childhood to adulthood, and within that concept juxtaposes anger, fear and sickness with joy, excitement and love. That’s all very prog and looks prosaic when written down, doesn’t it? This is where the music comes in. What I heard as “The Breeding of Us”, the first big oeuvre of this album, struck up, was lush power. After initial delicate tonalities, colourful hard rock strength develops, building up and expanding like a blooming flower. I was so grateful that “The Breeding of Us” was instrumental. By being so, it allows entry into our soul without distraction, and places us in the middle of the expressive scene. The wavering keyboard sound reinforces the dreamland where we find ourselves.
“Our Physical Way of Speaking” has an Opeth-like touch about its introduction. Musically it’s harder than what has gone before. There’s a briefly harsh and surprising vocal interjection before it gets more prog-inspired and haunting. I can’t say it’s the purest clean voice I’ve ever heard – let’s call it vulnerable. Most striking are the instrumentals. They are dynamic and urgent, and again reminiscent without being derivative of the bunch. There’s a haunting end to this intriguing track. Where did the time go? But there is no time for such reflection as a beautiful mellow acoustic line with an atmospheric backdrop transforms the scene and engages our attention. “Aquarius” is its title, and it is indeed this piece of delicacy is like drifting on a river on a summer’s day. Melancholy has now crept in, and this is the talent of Hillsphere at work: transformations of mood are subtle. Nothing is overdone or rammed down our throat. This is a mark of maturity. Hillsphere open up still further with “Ghost of You”. Melancholic without being depressing, it sweeps out and expands into instrumental finery and reflective majesty. This is a magical listening experience, to which I became transfixed. Delicacy, subtlety, balance, power – it’s all here, as it passes seamlessly through time. I didn’t want it to end but after nearly 11 minutes of wonderment, it does. The dream now becomes darker, but the night subsides and Hillsphere instil further calmness and vulnerability with “Mind at Rest”. The pitch is just right. There’s no exaggeration, yet it does not hide. The life of “Mind at Rest” betrays dark emotions. The combinations and flavours are powerful and subtle. From soft passages to angst, it is in perfect harmony. About three quarters through this eleven minute epic, it goes off at a tangent. It is as if to alert us to the dark warning which follows. It then stops, and restarts urgently and strongly for the closing passage. They lost me with that ending, I must confess, but I guess that’s the world of the progressive musician. The lyrics, which are fundamentally about regret, don’t help much here. It’s back to sublime dreaminess now I’m putting myself back together after “Mind at Rest”, whose title belies the reality, I must say. The calm is upon us as the instrumental “Clairvoyance” works it way up the stream of life, before breaking out in technical and emotional flamboyance, and ending our journey in colourful tranquillity.
“Clairvoyance” took me to another world. It’s neither understated nor overstated, and with the exception of a few rocky moments, it was if I was being guided through life’s journey. In “Clairvoyance”, these Dutch masters have created a thoughtful and sensitive album from the heart and soul with amazing instrumental patterns. This is prog that I like.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)