Exposé Online banner

Air Craft — So Near, So Far
(Craftedair CA 30100, 1985/2015, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2015-01-29

So Near, So Far Cover art

After the death of progressive rock at the end of the 70s, some of the survivors kept their band names and turned to more commercial endeavors, or else they were driven deep underground where self-production and private releases were the name of the game. After a few years had passed, the emergence of a whole class of new instrumental music that didn’t fit nicely into any convenient pigeonholes was branded “new age music” by the music marketers with releases handled by several boutique labels. It actually had no single recognizable sound other than it didn’t sound like punk or pop or rock or anything else teenage kids were buying, so it went into the New Age section. There, one could find new releases by Mike Oldfield, Kraftwerk, Anthony Phillips, Pekka Pohjola, Jade Warrior, Do’a, and others that existed on the fringes of the old school progressive sound, as well as a number of emerging new artists embracing an instrumental approach fused with elements of jazz, classical, world music, and sounds that might be suitable for soundtracks. Against this backdrop, Air Craft was born in the mid-80s, and signed to the Catero label for their one and only LP release So Near, So Far, which is finally seeing its long overdue release on digital medium.

The group consisted of principals Doug McKeehan (piano, keyboards, chief composer) and T. Bruce Bowers (violins and programming), who handled the album’s production, along with bassist Myron Dove and drummer Jack Dorsey. The album starts with the “Opening (First Step – Vision)” track is a powerful piano-based piece with a sort of Dave Grusin type vibe that would have fit nicely on the On Golden Pond soundtrack, the second half flooded with beautiful strings and synths, and like everything here is meticulously arranged and produced. Things get even more interesting with the second cut “Pentacle,” pushing some classical piano ideas and South Asian / Middle Eastern melodic themes into a more overtly jazz setting, Dove and Dorsey keeping the pace nicely while violin and piano go off in more exploratory directions. The title track features a wandering melody with a distinct but not too obvious Asian feel and a jazzy approach at the bottom end, all driven by ever-present piano riffing. Most of the tracks are on the longish side, maybe six to seven minutes, offering the ensemble plenty of room to stretch out and explore ideas. One exception to that is the succinct and playful “Thingamajig,” with its joyful spirit and alternating rollicking roles for violin and piano, which leads directly into the original LP closer “Valley of the Lord,” a dark and powerful piece with multi-tracked strings and an engaging percussive rhythm, eventually disappearing into a long fade. “Wilderland” takes a slightly darker but orchestrated approach with powerful melodies and a pulsating bass groove at the bottom, and again, some jazz and classical all fused into something that might fit nicely into a cinematic setting. A bonus track, “The Healer,” which was intended for a second Air Craft album that never came to fruition, is a monument to powerful melodies fused with world rhythms, and hints at some of the work McKeehan would later do in Ancient Future, from the Quiet Fire album onward. If one enjoyed 80s releases like Lanz and Speer’s Desert Vision, or Kindler and Bell’s Dolphin Smiles, this very impressive but lesser-known release by Air Craft should definitely please the ears.


Filed under: Reissues, 2015 releases, 1985 recordings

Related artist(s): Air Craft

Latest news

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Aelian - The Watcher – This is one of Musea's new releases, a label which for many years I considered infallible, but in the last few years they have occasionally proven me wrong with releases like Fancy Fluid's...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues