Thursday, November 29, 2012
Dave Kilminster - Scarlet - The Director's Cut: The View From The Fellow Atop Water's Wall
Dave Kilminster - his brilliant musicianship has been experienced in by millions in relative anonymity as the bloke who's perched atop Roger Water's Wall for the last few years tossing off incredible guitar solos. What most of these millions haven't experienced is the equal wonder of Scarlet, his 2007 solo release that has just been re-released in a remixed/remastered version by Cherry Red Records. It may be almost six years old, but it is one of 2012's most stellar records.
Joined by former Keith Emerson bandmates Pete Riley (drums), Phil Williams (bass), and vocalist Anne-Marie Helder, Kilminster has succeeded in creating one of those great documents that leaves you in wonder - not in just the songs and their performances, but in the fact that as you listen, you come away with the impression that this is his soul speaking. I doubt that he could have created any other album - it's as if the music pours out of his body like a visceral entity, his life blood mixing with the ethers.
Silent Scream starts of with some heady atmospherics that make the case for Kilminster being Waters's current Gilmour, but soon enough the songs grows into an ethereal groove with a languid vocal and the band kicks a little harder with each subsequent section - a falsetto driven bridge pulsates with a pulsing bass line before the guitars take over and the band brews up a sonic storm under Kilminster's vocal outro.
One of the wonders of the album is Kilminster's songwriting - Just Crazy could easily fit into any playlist of rock power ballads, and you'd assume it was a huge hit that you happened to miss. However, even in spinning out a melodic pop number, the band still manages to provide subtle touches, and sonic segues that expose their mastery. I love the production of this entire album - it's in perfect time, tone, and texture. In an age of rushed, cut and pasted Pro Tools production, this sounds like a great record. I'm listening to it on a forty year old system, and it sounds like heaven. My system is set to supply as close a sound as I can afford to having musicians sitting in the room with me, and Kilminster's production is incredibly beautiful, detailed, and lush.
Some of this record sounds like what I imagine Steely Dan might have sounded like if Fagen had ever woke up in a good mood. Kilminster sounds like a guy who has a pretty good grip on this human existence - Chance is as jazzy as the album gets, and its smooth fusion will suck you in, and the silky harmonies of Kilminster and Helder will enthrall. Again, Riley's stick work is sublime, and his playful pattering is the perfect foil for a bit of scatting between guitar and voice.
Brightest Star is an acoustic number of the ilk that great Brit troubadours have been doing so well for so long - names like Greg Lake, Townshend, Gilmour, and others come to mind as I listen to this one. It's just Kilminster, a guitar (OK, maybe two), some strings, and a great song.
Rain... (On Another Planet) may have been recorded back in '07, but it's one of the finest new tunes to cross my path this year. Epic. Iconic. Classic. All those words you hate to read, but damn if they aren't all apt here. Even at nine and a half minutes, he can't tire us out, and again we hit repeat. Where, and how has this song remained hidden? I love a great song about the rain (just ask Johnny Hickman), and this is a very, very nice one to add to my list. The guitar solo here is Kilminster's lengthiest on the album, and it's fan-fucking-tastic. Like the big, final payoff we've been promised - don't get me wrong, the guy couldn't find a wrong note if he tried, but this one takes off and just keeps going.
My only hope would be that his answer would include releasing some more solo material. Scarlet - The Director's Cut is a brilliant piece of work. I don't know how many copies Dave Kilminster has managed to sell from his website, or at Roger Waters's merch booth, but it isn't enough. I'm thrilled that Cherry Red has released this properly, and I would suggest that you buy a copy immediately. This will be on my top 10 records list for 2012, no matter when it was recorded.