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Baker, Dean: Constellations

Sadly in 2018 Galahad keyboard player and main composer Dean Baker inherited a large CD collection after his close friend, Ray Chiles, lost a battle with cancer. Driven to investigate the music that inspired his friend, Baker went on a voyage through the albums of artists such as Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, to name but a few, and found himself writing the music that would become his first ever solo effort, Constellations. Hence it should be no surprise that this ten track offering is in ways a homage to those instrumental synth artists, while still being linked with the work Baker does with Galahad. Aligned to a sharper fresher production than a lot of this style of music often receives, what is served up here therefore comes across as something new, yet immediately familiar.

Opening piece “Le Chat Qui Peche” sets the album’s stall out as the track most obviously showing its influences, clear links to the work of especially Jarre and Vangelis explored, but then there’s also a flash of the more melodic style offered up by Etienne Forget, best known for his soundtrack work on the French Sci-fi drama Missions. This is enigmatic fare, delivered with a real understanding for the genre and a willingness to embrace what has always made it so captivating, while gently pushing the envelope.

Where things follow type less slavishly is through the addition of a few collaborators, Galahad frontman Stu Nicholson offering up three vocals, while Anastasia Coburg brings that quotient up to four. The former of the two helps “Here And Now” become an 80s pop shimmer, while “Nuda Veritas” sits somewhere between austere Vangelis-scapes and a thumping dance anthem. The album’s title track is Nicholson’s final contribution, the singer’s clear, expressive vocals perfect for this Blade Runner-like call of despair.

Coburg, from the band of the same name, adds a wordless vocal beauty to “New Horizons”, a deeply melancholic piece sprinkled with hope, on what is one of this album’s most emotional moments. The final guest appearance comes in the shape of Lee Abraham, a progressive solo artist in his own right and also now the six string force in Galahad; his poignant, sympathetic expressions aiding and abetting Baker’s expert synth work on “Engelbrecht” rather wonderfully.

However, magnificent though they are, it isn’t the guests who make this album, the true heart of Constellations being the keyboard moods and synth layers from Baker himself. He proves that on the vocal tracks, but the instrumental moments such as the grandiose “Off The Shoulder Of Orion”, up tempo Jarre inspired workout of “Clouded Hills” and more angular “Impression No.8” all hugely impressive in their own right.

The events that brought this album into being may have been tragic, but Dean Baker has used that situation to make an excellent release that celebrates the memory of his friend, while also marking the musician himself out to be a multifaceted talent. Hopefully there’s much more inspiration to be pulled from, because it would be a real shame if Constellations proved to be a one off.

Track Listing
1. Le Chat Qui Pêche
2. Off The Shoulder Of Orion
3. Here and Now
4. Modular Seasons
5. Clouded Hills
6. New Horizons
7. Nuda Veritas
8. Engelbrecht
9. Constellations
10. Impression no.8

Added: December 8th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Galahad Store
Hits: 534
Language: english

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