“Out of the Woods” is the second album from Ian Neal. Following in the spirit of “All in the Golden Afternoon…” it displays richness in both instrumentation and imagery. Watery landscapes provide one thematic backdrop for reveries on sea storms, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Another brings to light woods and trees, and the onset of autumn. Two tracks provide poetic reflections on the theme of war: both “The Soldier” and “On the Idle Hill of Summer” feature readings of the poems by Rupert Brooke and A.E. Housman respectively, and tie the imagery to the notion of the soldier’s landscape.
T R A C K ~ D E T A I L S
* “Storm” opens the album. A narration of Kipling’s poem “The Storm Cone” is the backdrop to a strained atmosphere, until the time signature change into six-eight and the sung vocals introduces a section suggesting a moving through the storm and eventually the storm’s passing.
* The instrumental “September” envisages the melancholic passing of summer into autumn. Twelve-string guitar, Mellotron flutes and soft organ chords provide the basis of the instrumentation following the introduction which features piano and two cellos.
* “The Way Through the Woods” again features the reading of a Kipling poem courtesy of Ashley Franklin. At times orchestral in feel, the piece moves through several sections, in part suggesting the passage of life, and ending with the celebratory sequence which reminds us of natural beauty, or the imagery of the horse Kipling draws on, and the sense of its galloping journey through the misty woods.
* “Boaters” evokes a summer afternoon and the idle drifting of a rowing boat down a slow flowing river. Boaters’ arms dangle over the side of their craft, their fingers trail through the water’s surface creating miniature wakes that ripple outwards and fade to calm nothingness. Arp Pro-Soloist synthesizer, Mellotron vibraphone and choirs, and string synthesizer provides the instrumental backdrop along with piano, harp, violin and mallet percussion.
* Although purely instrumental, “The Lake”, (the most epic of all the tracks here), is also inspired by literature. Thomas Gray’s journal of his tour of the Lake District in 1769 formed the starting point for the composition. Gray’s descriptions of Lakeland are vivid – he talks of the surface of Derwent Water as “calm and smooth, like a blue mirror”, as well as offering descriptive phrases like the “jaws of Borrowdale” – all perfect inspiration and a great excuse for the grandiose tones of cathedral organ alongside the sounds of swirling string synths and minimoog solos. Research for the track included following in Gray’s footsteps and viewing Derwent Water from the same standpoint as Gray – a beautiful prospect likely to conjure up the sense of the sublime in anyone. Droning bass pedals and light guitar arpeggios mimic the varied spectacles offered by the lake, while phased string synths evoke the depths below. The sublime and majestic natural beauty noted by Gray is heralded by the bombastic finale, which more than pays tribute to the genre of 1970s Prog Rock. Full volume is recommended.
* “On the Idle Hill of Summer” drew inspiration from the poem of the same name by A.E. Housman. Wistful but also prophetic of World War One, the poem inspired the track’s oblique questioning tone in the arpeggiated, minimalist section, but also provided a companion piece for the following track, “The Soldier”.
* “The Soldier” features the poem “Sonnet V: The Soldier”, by war poet Rupert Brooke. Orchestral strings, piano, harp, flute, choir and organ provide the instrumentation, while the tenor of the track hints at the tragedy of war on the one hand, and on the other, the sense that spirituality can offer something for all those affected by the death of loved ones.
* “Winter Falls” closes the album. A more technical piece, the track opens with eerie “ebowed” guitar which continues to haunt the verses. Girl vocals and various bridge sections lead up to a wall-of-sound-chorus courtesy of Moog Taurus Bass pedals, Polymoog chords as well as Mellotron strings. The outro and long fade takes us off into the distance…and the curtain falls.
"...A perfect example of of some of the stunning music that is being created around the country [...] A dash of early Genesis here, a symphonic flourish that would do the Enid proud there, at times it's almost reminiscent of what Dave Greenslade might come up with, at others, perhaps Vangelis or Jarre."
PROG Magazine: (September 2011. p.93).
released April 2, 2011
Recorded at Endcliffe Studios, Sheffield and Beaurepaire Studios, Derbyshire, England 2005-2011.
Ian Neal: keyboards, guitars, vocals, virtual mellotron, Hammond T-402 organ, piano, virtual synths and programming.
Ian Neal blends progressive rock genres alongside contemporary sounds. Based in rural Derbyshire, England, his solo projects fashion lustrous instrumental productions, mixing light and shade with lyricism and complexity.