Life This Way – Space Summit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If there is a harder working musician than Marty Willson-Piper doing the rounds today, then they need to be caught and put in a music museum to be marvelled at and studied. There may be bands or artists playing more gigs than him per year, though even in that department he is certainly no slouch, but when it comes to projects and collaborations, musical cross-pollination and the all-important merging, mixing and exchanging of musical ideas, then he takes some beating.

At the core of this album, along with Marty is Jed Bonniwell, who tends to handle vocal and lyrical duties leaving Marty to deal with guitar salvos and bass lines. The result of this meeting of musical minds is an album that runs between the jangling and joyous and a more driven and direct rock sound, between the hazy and hypnotic, the graceful and the groovesome, the delicate and the delicious, often finding its signature sound at a point where all these elements meet, sometimes creatively colliding, more often than not complementing perfectly.

I’m Electric, which kicks things off, plays with Mission-esque vibes in its blend of shimmering guitars and low-slung riffs, Ancient Towers opts for lighter but no less ornate weaves of tone and texture and Deep Paisley Underground is a beguiling blend of dove-tailed guitar patterns from the cascading to the siren-like. The Four Horses of Venice is not only a gorgeous creation but there are a few references in the lyrics (the bottom of a well, Inner Mongolia, The sun touching down, secret agents) which make me think of the author Haruki Murakami, though I might be chasing things that aren’t there, but that’s the great thing about smart yet vague lyrics, they can sometimes be anything what you want them to be.

And of course, due to the extensive circle of musical friends that he has gathered around himself over the years, it is no surprise to find the familiar faces from his many other projects helping out here. A cyberspace creation that connects the dots between America, Borneo and Sweden and projects such as MOAT and Noctorum.

They say that you can tell a lot about a person by the company that they keep and to that end, this album speaks volumes. Dare Mason produces and also plays keyboards, Phoebe Tsen sings harmony vocals, Olivia Willson-Piper plays the strings and Eddie John the drums. As always, Marty leaves sonic fingerprints all over the album, prints that are both fresh and familiar, a blend of his signature, luminescent guitar sound and his adventurous and ongoing quest to see what lies over the next musical hill.

A glorious album, a fantastic addition to his musical canon, a great collaboration, a glorious meeting of musical minds, not to mention exquisite skills, and a must for all discerning pop and rock fans.

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