Tuesday 19 August 2014


CD Review


If you want to hear musicians painting an intricate vision of a trip around the globe using only the incredible sound of their talented guitar playing then Oka Vanga's Pilgrim is the one to do it.

Angela Meyer and William Cox aka Oka Vanga
Listening to Angela Meyer and William Cox is like having a two guitar orchestra in your room.
Pilgrim is a virtuoso performance without any of the pretence, there are fantastic techniques, lush sounds, evocative chords and really gorgeous sounding guitar playing.
Beneath the Southern Sky starts very gently and immediately evokes thoughts of the Deer Hunter soundtrack but it also paints a picture of lazy sunny days in the hills of Spain and adobe buildings in places such as old El Paso.
Right from the start you can feel as much as you can hear the intricate fingering which is being used to produce the acutely imaginative sound.
South of Havana picks up the pace and immediately evokes images of villagers in a local square celebrating a festival, and while the locals dance around and enjoy the wines and foods on offer, the lone guitarist keeps all the maidens enthralled. The Cliffs of Moher/Out on the Ocean picks up the pace a little more than the previous and transports you on horseback racing along the cliff's edge with the wind whipping your face and through the mane of your steed as the ocean below washes in and out like the earth breathing. The wonderful thing about this is each track and set of sounds will evoke sometimes slightly and other times completely different images. They will move and shift as fluidly as Meyer, originally from Capetown, and Cox execute the tunes with a precision the military would love to emulate.
It's impossible to calculate the amount of time one would need to put in to be this competent with an instrument but when you listen to the clarity and range of sounds the Hertfordshire-based duo produce you become thankful there are people in the world who have done all the hard work so the listener can enjoy an absolutely sumptuous album of beautifully crafted sound.
Their new album Pilgrim
Imagine yourself alone in a field, the sun is shining gently on your face, the only sounds are those of nature and as you stare up into the clear blue sky it dawns on you that you are just part of a wondrous picture created by the elements of natural world.
These are the sort of images Wildflower conjures up and if it's possible to paint with sound then Meyer and Cox are not only doing it but they are true artists.
Their fun side comes out on Bimini Girl with its jaunty, jazzy, slightly calypso style sound and you almost get a sense, as it dances along, that it's on the album as light relief, to stop things from getting too heavy.
It's the sort of track that when you play it turn the volume up, clear the furniture out of the way and dance around like you did when you were a kid and didn't care who saw you.
Night Train is a lovely complex piece of music with the sound of the two guitars interweaving like smoke trails on performing aeroplanes, even the squeak of the fingers sliding up and down the strings seem to add something to the whole.
It's hard not to make comparisons with John Williams especially on a track such as Wasteland and even more so on the opening bars. The main difference is because they play as a duo there is more depth to the dynamics of the tracks.
It's almost as if one guitar plays the narrative and the other provides the narration so not only do you get a rich full sound but you get a fuller picture.
Pilgrim's Rest is a magnificent example of acoustic guitar playing, the layers of sound bob and undulate like waves on the sea and then almost as if the players are controlling the natural world they bring the waters raging and crashing before calming them to a breathless sheet of glass.
To include Classical Gas is a bit of a cliche and if it was to prove they could do it as good as anyone then that's incontrovertible; if it was to add something new or to modernise it then they didn't achieve it, the track, however excellently executed, doesn't add anything to the sum of the album.
Skull 'n' Bones has bloodlust
Skull 'n' Bones is the most dramatic track on the album and has the feel of a concept album just on the one tune.
It's a full-bodied, grown up sound which has more than a touch of passion and matador-like bloodlust and is the sort of track Rick Wakeman or David Gilmour would have been proud of.
You could argue calling a track Dromadari is a little more playful than calling it camel. However, they do convey a feeling of desert winds, hot sands and the mysterious middle east in their playing and interwoven are the visitors from the foreign lands of Spain, Portugal the Americas all thrown in with the feel of them coming together in the melting pot of heaving markets selling some of the most exotic goods in the world.
There is the subtle musical joke on the last track Abounding Grace which alludes to both the album's title and to the spiritual side of life.
It's a lovely playful track to go out on as the music dances lightly.
You will have to go far and wide to find better guitar playing than this. There are those who are equal to it such as Williams but others such as Reinhardt, Simpson, Feliciano, John Smith and Ewan McLennan also and if you find yourself among that kind of company then you have done pretty well for yourself.

Pilgrim is available now on itunes, Amazon and CD baby

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