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Philip Clemo - Dream Maps album review

Philip Clemo gets close to the edges on his extraordinary sixth album.

Philip Clemo - Dream Maps album cover

Scottish-born Philip Clemo made his name as a visual artist, and his compelling music is intricately woven into his work. Early inspirations were The Cocteau Twins, Japan and Eno, and over five albums he has developed a unique and inventive soundworld – part ambient, part modern jazz, with a textured, compositional economy that evokes Arvo Pärt and a fresh, restless avant-garde streak Steve Reich would be proud of.

After three years collaboration and improv, Dream Maps beckons you in with Liberation, whose subtle horn promises exotic things before carrying you off on its lolloping rhythm. What follows are exercises in tonal temperatures, as the pieces’ bare bones are warmed and cooled by an array of instruments – cello, ondes martenot, Evi Vine’s vocals and Arve Henriksen’s trumpet among them.

The tone is spare and insistent (Shadows Seas), subtly tense in parts (Magentic) and soporific in others (Awaken Now). The relatively conventional moments are spellbinding too: Lark’s guitar riff is hypnotic, and the brass of optimistic closer Home passes through Big Big Train country. “I explore edges,” Clemo says, “where functionality, familiarity or certainty start to break down.” The sound of these edges is utterly transfixing.

Grant Moon is the News Editor for Prog and has been a contributor to the magazine since its launch in 2009. A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.