Here's an excerpt from the essay "The Making of Trance Visionary" by journalist Nick Smith. The full version appears in the CD booklet.
What have experimental club rhythms got in common with progressive guitar-based rock? At first glance there wouldn’t appear to be a great deal. But that’s probably because with the exception of an extremely small minority of artists, the world believes that the guitar and dance music don’t mix. Included in that adventurous minority are the legendary Wishbone Ash, who have entered the debate with the disarmingly modernistic recording ‘Trance Visionary’.
How the ‘Trance Visionary’ project came about is largely due to a meeting between Wishbone Ash frontman Andy Powell and award-winning UK- based producer Mike Bennett. This meeting happened in the studio while Bennett was winding up a remix project. He’s not a man you would immediately associate with progressive guitar bands, having made his name through a long-standing association with Manchester agit-pop anti- group The Fall. Parallel to his career producing The Fall, he’s also been responsible for a deluge of first- and second-generation music in the genres of drum ‘n’ bass, jungle and trance, and has recently been responsible for acclaimed remixes of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown and dub pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
Over the next few months Powell and Bennett were to expand the idea in order to embrace elements of trance and drum ‘n’ bass, while at the same time trying hard to maintain the project’s own originality. The treatment Bennett had given the remix project had intrigued Powell, but the difference with ‘Trance Visionary’ was that through the various discussions and creative tangents a brand new piece of work was originated from the Wishbone Ash laboratory.
If there is a problem with fusing the two disparate musical stances then the problem is all in the mind. Critics will be anxious to categorise the album, when there’s no real need - what does it really matter if people want to call it medieval dance or madrigal house? There are elements of drum ‘n’ bass and trance in there, but they’re really used as a backdrop to present the Wishbone Ash guitar. Mike Bennett calls it, "Guitar-based experimental music, with filmic qualities and evocative imagery." And when asked about the approach to the recording process, Bennett describes it as, "Deconstructing Andy Powell’s acoustic and electric guitar structures, and then rebuilding them in a trance idiom." Although making an album like ‘Trance Visionary’ is a far cry from how classics like the iconoclastic ‘Argus’, ‘Pilgrimage’ or ‘There’s The Rub’ were put together. The distinctive style the group carved out for themselves throughout that prolific period has proved to be an invaluable source of inspiration for this exciting and innovative project. Die-hard fans will recognise the traditional values, the musicality and the other-worldliness of the compositions, while dance aficionados will see more than a hint of the Prodigy here and there. It’s modern music with a pedigree - it will win the band a new following and enchant the existing fanbase. Although ‘Trance Visionary’, is different from anything this enduring group have done before, it is a logical extension of what they’re about. Everything you hear is organic and real. Enjoy!
- Nick Smith
Text ©Invisible Hands Music/Nick Smith.
Nick Smith writes for numerous music magazines, including The Mix, Future Music, Live!, Guitarist, and Total Guitar. He is former executive editor of Studio Sound and contributing editor to Pro-Sound News.
It's a strange mixture of instantly recognizable samples of old Wishbone Ash tunes and songs that seem to be more or less new compositions with hints of Ash songs like "Alone", "714" and "The Day I Found Your Love".
For your information: Songs that I could immediately find "sources" for
|On Trance Visionary:||Source:|
|Wonderful Stash||Vas Dis|
|Powerbright (Black & White Screen)||Hard Times|
|Trance Visionary||The Pilgrim|
|Banner Headlines||Front Page News|
Out the five songs listed above "Powerbright (Black & White Screen)" and "Wonderful Stash" appeal most to me (Tacye is impressive). Their repetitive vocals aren't that annoying. Miles Copeland III with his "business" in "Banner Headlines" is particularly irritating.
"Flutterby" with its ethereal sounds takes me somewhere else. I tried to make notes of each song, while listening to them but this one got zilch. That certainly means that it's something else. I couldn't "keep cool" and make more or less objective notes.
"Wronged by Righteousness" is a fascinating song. The combination of out of tune synthesized bass and Andy's guitar create an eerie atmosphere. At the same time the song is quite energetic. Something very danceable, I think. Then again I've never been a dancer or a frequent visitor of discos etc.
As a "guitar man" I've always liked music with guitars as the main instrument. Although "Trance Visionary" has a lot of guitars in it, the modern machine drum is the dominating "instrument". One thing I particularly dislike is the "machine gun" drum effect that was invented a few years ago and still utilized here and there (on "Trance Visionary" in e.g. "Banner Headlines"). A musical invention is funny once, but using something over and over (pulling it out of a drum machine's memory, in fact) isn't that innovative.
Another peculiar thing, at least for an old fart like me, is the strange combination of impatience and repetitiveness that's typical for youngsters today and the faster songs on this CD as well as other dance/trance CDs. I get the impression that it's a question of not wanting to stay in one place too long while at the same time running in small circles for security reasons.
While playing the CD my foot did stomp more often than I'd really want to confess. Therefore the CD should suite people interested in dancing.
I've heard a lot of "worse" trance/dance music than this. Most of this kind of music tempts me to either shut off the source of the music or at least change the channel (agree, it's a matter of taste). Still, I've managed to endure listening through the whole CD several times and expect to do it many times in the future. The use of guitars and samples of old Wishbone Ash favorites fascinates yours truly. Then again I'm biased with Trance Visionary because it IS Wishbone Ash.
I like the boldness of Andy Powell and the rest of the team behind "Trance Visionary". They dared to do something that many wouldn't. They must be aware of the risk of being flamed after stepping out of one's "territory". But: Do surprise Wishbone Ash fans in the future too!
This'll probably not be the Wishbone Ash album that I need a regular dose of (like "Illuminations", at least once a month). But I couldn't be without this either. When time passes on I may learn to like some of the songs too much to be without them. I just have to play the CD a few times more.
If this CD "lures" younger generations into listening to other Wishbone Ash albums, then it's fine by me. This of course requires that the record shops have available more albums by Wishbone Ash, not just "Trance Visionary".
Last update: Sep, 1998