Messenger: Illusory Blues

Quietly rapturous debut from London quintet.

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Don’t be put off by the slightly ponderous blurb that accompanies this record (‘a cosmic ode to the forces of nature and the inevitable cycle of life’): Illusory Blues is in fact one of the freshest debuts you’ll chance upon this year. Formed two years ago by city boys Khaled Lowe and Barnaby Maddick, the band have pooled disparate backgrounds in punk, metal and ambient music into a wonderfully cohesive whole.

Messenger take bucolic folk as a starting point, then happily roam into more cosmic territory. Nothing encapsulates them better than nine-minute epic Midnight, which begins discreetly (strings, acoustic passages and the like) before breaking into a fair gallop and winding down to a soft canter. It’s all beautifully paced and skilfully delivered.

There are broad swathes of Pink Floyd here (cf: the lunar oddness of Dear Departure) and echoes of modern-day experimenters like Riverside and Ulver (the latter’s Kristoffer Rygg is already a big fan).

These are songs that invariably build slowly and deliberately, marked by arpeggioed guitars and woodwinds, creating a surreal realm that hovers somewhere between an English meadow and a Thorgerson dream.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.