Nine Skies – 5.20

Posted: 060621

Review Erik Neuteboom

Nine Skies is a French progressive rock band inspired by many influences: rock, pop, progressive, classical, jazz… The first album Return Home was released in 2017 and as a  special edition re-released in 2018. Band info. “The album relates, through the eyes of the protagonist, the lives of different characters from a contemporary big city. Sometimes metaphorical, sometimes particularly realistic, these different existences show the absurdities of our current world and the way we learn to live with our sufferings.” The second album called Sweetheart Grips is a double album released late 2019, with many guests musician, including Neo Prog keyboard wizard Clive Nolan.

Band info. “The title refers to the practice dating back to the Second World War, when soldiers were known to take precious family photos (and Pinup Girl photos) and put them under clear grips on their 1911 pistols, called ’Sweetheart Grips’. Many of the grips were made from pieces of broken plastic windows from bombers.”

In 2021 Nine Skies released 2 albums, the live CD entitled The Live @ Prog En Beauce, and the new studio album 5.20, this review is about the latter.

Band info. “The album 5.20 is an acoustic opus, Achraf El Asraoui (vocals and guitars) joined the band with this album. The personal poetry of 5.20 conjures up a dream beyond various horizons. This acoustic and very intimate opus takes us on a journey using the spellbinding charm of the string quartet, from the captivating melodies to mysterious and more introspective overtones of the album. Each moment suggests a reflection on both a universally human context and the emotional part specific to all of us: a renewed musical experience that gets more enriched with every listening of the album.”

The 11 compositions sound very mellow, often intense, and are built around slightly theatrical vocals, tender piano and folky acoustic guitars, in some tracks coloured with saxophone (jazzy in Colourblind), flute, violin and a string quator. At some moments the climates are pretty dark, like in Golden Drops (wailing vocals and violin work), Porcelian Hill (melancholical overtones by guest Damian Wilson and the violin) and Smiling Tears (most dynamic song, from dreamy to more lush, with sparkling piano and in the end a mellow saxophone solo).

A nice surprise is the presence of the Hackett brothers Steve and John, their contributions colour the music very pleasantly: Steve delivers a wonderful electric guitar solo with his trademark use of slide and sustain in Wilderness, and John plays in the vein of Ian Anderson in The Old Man In The Snow, what a sparkling solo on the flute traverse.

If you like folk prog or pastoral prog this is a fine album to discover.