Trance band? Jam band? Space-rock? What do all of these terms mean to you? Are they all referring to the same type of music? Either way, they have all been used in reference to Sky Cries Mary's music. Funny, then, that the first music that Space Between the Drops brought to my mind was slow, laid-back, white blues, of the sort purveyed by Peter Green in his mid-seventies, post-Fleetwood Mac, period. Take an album like Little Dreamer, add some spacey synth, and then just let some of the songs jam on in your imagination....Around the same time, or perhaps a little earlier, what was left of Fleetwood Mac were also occasionally playing in a not dissimilar style- I'm thinking of the Danny Kirwan period before the personnel changes that preceded them going planetary and then astronomical with the Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums.
So, what have we here? Slow tempo music that creates ambient soundscapes in a groovy, easy, soft rhythm that lends itself to mantra, jam, trance - call it what you will. We have delightful harmonies and beautiful melodies. We have elements of blues, jazz and folk rock and, in "Four AM", we have the greatest track that Pink Floyd didn't record. Wherever you turn your ear to on Space Between the Drops you will hear lush, beautiful music: it is perfection in sound, I cannot fault it in any single way.
What surprised me, after I had been blown away by the first listen of the album, was that the band have in fact been around since the late 1980s. How can something so good stay hidden for so long? Not one of their previous releases reviewed by SoT! Are all of their previous releases – 10 CDs/EPs - as good as this? Well, it looks as if that is indeed the case because Space Between the Drops is in fact a compilation, which at first I didn't spot because it plays more homogeneously than most compilations. This presents a big problem, of course, because 10 CDs/EPs is a lot of history to catch up on! (But I'll definitely be attempting it!)
From 1992's Exit at the Axis EP - which gives us the excellent opening tracks "Cornerman" and "Elephant Song" for this compilation - Anita Romero had joined band leader Roderick Wolgamott and it appears that these two are the soul of the band, to the extent that they now share the same – "Romero" – surname. Roderick and Anita are responsible for the vocals – stunning!; Roderick does the lyrics and everyone in the band writes the music: currently the line-up is Ben Ireland (drums, percussion), Juano Davison (bass, percussion), Michael Cozzi (guitar), William Bernhard (guitars, keyboards, samples) and Kent Halvorsen (keyboards, vocals). The line-up has been fluid over the years but I'm not going to attempt to identify exactly who played what on each track of the compilation!
Just a few pointers to the individual tracks to round off. "Cornerman" feels bluesy without being a blues song, it has that "Peter Green" feel, mixed in with a bit of spaceyness, becoming mantric and ambient; these "progressive" elements fudge the true root of the music, but not its beauty. The harmonies are a joy. "Elephant Song" is similar conceptionally but introduces, as you might expect, some African/Asian rhythms. Anita's vocalisations are like an additional instrument within the ensemble. "These Old Bones" has a beautiful melancholic feel to its melody with suitable violin textures – very pretty! "Four AM" is lush – synthesizers washing away like dreamy waves, guitar floating on top, then words whispered in the background and vocalisations creeping in as the guitar takes on a more prominent role: you could make love, meditate, or just listen to this glorious music – you choose, it'll fit the bill. As the compilation progresses the bluesy feel wavers, and the "poppier" or "AOR" side gains strength; and with the "hidden track" after "Missing", the accordion brings a taste of the sea, as you dance your flamenco-ish trails.
Five stars? Well, you''ll always love every minute of it, you'll find no fault, you'll come back time and again, it'll make you smile, it'll make you happy – you want more? This music should not stay hidden – enjoy!
1) Cornerman (5:30)
2) Elephant Song (8:03)
3) Rain (8:10)
4) These Old Bones (4:01)
5) Slow Down Time (5:51)
6) Four AM (14:47)
7) An Ant, The Stars, An Owl and It's Prey (5:48)
8) Want (6:04) (Extended Version)
9) Gliding (5:07) (Remake version 2006)
10) Land of All (5:12)
11) Missing (5:24)