"Jardin Des Étoiles" (Garden of the Stars) imagines a garden somewhere deep in space. Its delicate and ambient introduction builds slowly to a more powerful vocal section.
"Aro," a track in three distinct parts, conjures up a journey through different lands, and at different speeds! A quiet middle section is flanked by two more ‘driving’ sections with quite heavy synth solos, while the final section leads to a sense of rest and the journey coming to a close.
"Runner!" Was initially composed using just Mellotron sounds; in fact, just the sounds associated with The Streetly Tapes (see here: www.gforcesoftware.com/products/thestreetlytapes)
The track was then modified with the introduction of other instruments, but many of those ‘Streetly’ tron sounds are still there, including the saxophone and vibes, complementing the slightly jazz-fusion character of the piece. What of the “Runner?” If you’re familiar with the sci-fi novel and film Logan’s Run, you will recognise the ‘runners,’ as those who aim to escape their society which executes members who reach the age of 21. Heavy breathing mixed with a Mellotron sampled Fairlight patch were used here to suggest the runner attempting to reach Sanctuary chased by Sandmen whose aim is to terminate those Runners.
"To See You" suggests a more spiritual relationship with our sense of deeper space. The lyrics may be understood in different ways. One level conjures up the sublime sense of how we may feel if we were to meet other life-forms. Another level attaches that wider sense of space, to a notion of the afterlife. In this reading, space is a sense of Heaven and the lyrics meaningfully evoke the highly charged emotion associated with a deep desire to meet again departed loved ones. Alternatively, the lyrics also function as a good old love song!
"Solaris" is a dreamy, melancholic track in the spirit of that more ambient side of progressive rock and synth based genres. Vocoder introduces the track, followed by string synths along with orchestral strings and other orchestral sounds. The descending bass line and chord sequence are picked up in the following track Citadel, yet the pace and feel of each are quite opposite, with Citadel suggesting something much more uplifting and majestic. “Maestoso” would be the perfect musical direction for any conductor wishing to articulate the very last section.
Retour Au Jardin (Return to the Garden) closes the album by reprising the opening sustained chord and sound effects. In the middle of the piece, a curious, alien-like, space character, broadcasts his sentiments on the delightful spectacle before his eyes.
"The low-key build up to the release of his third solo album Astro, suggests that this compelling musician is destined to remain prog's best kept secret. [...] The lustrous, effervescent music is not only a joy to listen to, but, if it were to reach the ears of a wider audience, well...The segue between Solaris and Citadel displays his mastery of light and shade. Prog forums are awash with new music suggestions. Here's one."
PROG Magazine (July 2013, p. 101)
released March 11, 2013
Ian Neal: keyboards, vocals, virtual mellotron, autoharp, Hammond T-402 organ, piano, virtual synths and programming.
All tracks composed, engineered and produced by Ian Neal ©2013.
Thanks to Dave and Chris at GForce Software
Cover artwork: Evgenia www.behance.net/eugenia_papa