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Downes Braide Association's Halcyon Hymns is a welcome escape from a turbulent real world

MOR prog project Downes Braide Association gets dewy-eyed for old England on Halcyon Hymns

Downes Braide Association: Halcyon Hymns
(Image: © DBA Records)

In classic neo-prog fashion, Downes Braide Association might be named more like a firm of chartered surveyors than a band, but since 2012 they’ve made three albums of pretty tidy progressive AOR. 

This fourth outing from Yes/Asia keys man Geoff Downes and songwriter to the stars Chris Braide is their most ambitious yet. 

Concept album? Not quite, but themes of nostalgia for childhood haunts and past romances, not to mention an idyllic lost England, are woven throughout a richly melodic hour-long set. 

Poetic, Radio 4-ish spoken word monologues punctuate beatific, bitter-sweet chamber pop visions like Warm Summer Sun and Beachcombers, regularly swathed in warm banks of Asia-esque harmonies. 

A slightly edgier past is hinted at on the 11-minute Remembrance when a narrator speaks in posh BBC tones of how “we looked for magic mushrooms on the coastal path”, but once again the overarching tone is of a loved-up Philip Larkin – a welcome escape from a pandemic-stricken, politically turbulent real world.