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Thompson, Allister: Shadowlands

Singer /songwriter/ guitarist Allister Thompson has long been a mainstay on the Toronto indie music scene. In the mid 90's he was active in a band called Sleepwalker's Union, as well he was also an original member of 70's glam rock band Crash Kelly. After parting ways with Kelly, Thompson decided it was time to fully concentrate on his own music and resume a solo career which began with his 2006 independent release Infinities. His latest album Shadowlands finds him returning to his first love, which is 70's influenced folk and progressive rock.

The most appealing aspect of Shadowlands is how effortlessly Thompson takes little dabs of various different musical styles and subtly weaves them all together over the course of these nine well crafted compositions. The mood throughout is relaxed and laid back as many of the songs find the emphasis placed on dreamy, acoustic guitar based passages and the warm, inviting timbre of his vocals. One can detect a distinct Fairport Convention influence in songs such as "Soldier", and the melancholic sounding fiddle and guitar work on "The Drowned Girl". While his ex-band mates Sean Kelly and Gene Scarpelli show up for a bit of a bluesy workout on "The Demon Wife". The progressive elements are discreetly peppered throughout the album but become more prominent on the final two songs. "Where Will You Go?" another strong acoustic based track which is set against the layered tapestries of what certainly sounds like a mellotron. However the real surprise on Shadowlands is saved for last. "Altai" is an epic nine minute, instrumental composition which demonstrates that while Thompson's roots may lie primarily in acoustic based folk, he's also absorbed the krautrock influence of say early Tangerine Dream as well. The ice cold, jagged electric guitar solos mesh perfectly with 70's infused synth washes and sporadic cymbal splashes. I think this track not only stands out from the rest of the album (in a good way) but it's also the strongest track here hands down, just for the overall dark and psychedelic mood it conveys.

If you like acoustic folk with slight progressive overtones then I'm sure you'll find that Shadowlands is a pretty solid effort from top to bottom. While I have nothing against the folk rock influences, I'd like to see him push the psychedelic / progressive envelope a little bit more though the next time around and use that last track as a bit of a springboard to maybe takes things in a slightly different direction.

Track Listing
1) It Goes On
2) A Northern Song
3) Shadowland
4) Soldier
5) The War Is Over
6) The Drowned Girl
7) The Demon Wife
8) Where Will You Go?
9) Altai

Added: February 28th 2010
Reviewer: Ryan Sparks
Related Link: Official MySpace Page
Hits: 2111
Language: english

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Thompson, Allister: Shadowlands
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-02-28 22:13:50
My Score:

"Burned down land this Earth scorched green where once was all a virdent green. Now the war is over. Death walks the land in a long black robe, sweeping down the empty roads. Now the war is over. Spirits fllash howl across the sky far away from the place they die. Now the war is over."Allister Thompson

The words weave their way through the fabric of his music, spinning stories of war torn lands and dark, cold, seemingly lifeless places. The Canadian born Allister Thompson is able to paint pictures through his words and music, reminding me of some of the best story tellers like Neil Young and Al Stewart. On his sophomore effort Shadowlands, Thompson explores a different musical side than his other gig, the glam rock band Crash Kelly. On Shadowlands, Thompson explores the world of folk music albeit with enough progressive moments to keep readers of this site very happy. Joining the singer/guitarist are Michael Dilauro (bass, double bass, keyboards, accordion, vocals), Eric Herrmann (drums, percussion, vocals) and Teri-Lynn Janveau (keyboards, vocals) plus a few guests.

The songs on Shadowlands glisten with acoustic folk melodies, pastoral orchestral arrangements and even the occasional psychedelic moment. One of the strongest aspects are the vocals of Thompson. He has a soothing, melodic voice, and his laid back delivery really works in the context of these songs.

The album gets rolling with the subdued title track displaying psychedelic guitar sounds and vocal harmonies reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. This is not a heavy song but the band plays with an intensity that is hard to describe. In the poignant "Soldier", Thompson sings "Although I never knew you, I missed you anyway" with heartfelt conviction. The song has an Al Stewart Year of the Cat vibe, creating a dreamy soundscape of textured guitar and serene background vocals. The accordion near the end adds that much more to the melancholy mood.

My favourite has to be the progressive psychedelic folk of "The War Is Over" featuring powerful lyrics and some of the best lead guitar on the CD. The flute of Janine Susan Hogg is also featured. The album ends with the strangely hypnotic "Altai", a slow paced instrumental with an intoxicating mixture of ominous atmospherics and spacey textures ala Pink Floyd. At over nine minutes long, this is the album's longest song.

This is another album came as a total surprise and would have made my 2009 best of the year list had I got to it in time. Shadowlands is highly recommended for anyone who likes mellow melodic music filled with deep and insightful lyrics. Very enjoyable indeed!

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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