Exposé Online banner

Kit Watkins — Beauty Drifting
(Linden Music LM 2024, 1996, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1996-08-01:

Beauty Drifting Cover art Belying its apparent simplicity, this latest album from Kit — basically a piano album with some supporting synth work, recalls the ethereal spirit and moodiness of his classic Azure. The key to the success of this album lies in its emotional content, reflected in the compositions, performance and arrangement. One would not normally think a piano album would pack this kind of power, yet judiciously applied studio techniques and synthesizer parts transform each of these introspective pieces into shimmering gems, full of warmth, delicacy, and a mystical dreaminess. Much of the material drifts through repetitive cycles where melodics play a secondary role to the overall texture, patterns, and underlying structures. Sampled soprano sax solos float over the liquid framework on many of the tunes, offering counterpoint and dynamic balance. Much like a watercolor painting, the absence of bright tonal color in favor of a more subtly complex and blended approach creates a certain sparseness to passages — a technique that Watkins first used in his HTM days on tracks like "Ibby It Is" and has mastered and perfected over his career. All taken, Beauty Drifting seems to be a very appropriate title for the album, yet another in a long line of winners from Watkins.

by Mike Ezzo, 1996-08-01:

The title of this work is as apt a description as you'll come by for this music. Using mostly grand piano, electronic treatments, a mite of sampling, and a nice sense of space, Kit has fashioned an ambient recording along similar lines to Harold Budd and Brian Eno's Plateaux of Mirror. In my opinion this style works best when it utilizes a minimum of melodic and harmonic motion. Sensitivity to repetition is equally important. And that is exactly what he has done; eschewing any kind of syrupy sweet melodies, chord progressions or song structures. My only point of dissent would be that I think an acoustic saxophone might have injected a little more venom into it. But placidity and tranquility are of paramount importance here. Like a watercolor painting or a study in pastel shading, this is an impressionistic work that captures imagery of falling snow, caverns, ripples of sand, and contrasts of light and dark. Kit is quite a prolific composer. A musical chameleon of sorts, he seems loath to getting stuck in any one manner of expression. I haven't always been able to keep up with his output, so I'm glad to have the chance to hear Beauty Drifting. I believe he's hit upon a style that will reveal more fruits.

by Dan Casey, 1996-08-01:

This one was a real surprise. Watkins has always had a broad body of work in the electronic realm, but this album is something very different from his last few efforts, ambient or rhythmic. Beauty Drifting is centered about grand and electric piano pieces, accented with VL1 Virtual Acoustic synthesizer lead lines. There is no overt sequencing or percussion. A Different View from a few years back allowed Watkins to interpret some classical pieces, a lot of which were written by Satie. That influence shows very strong here as well. However, this is not your typical new age solo piano album. It's far too atmospheric to fall in that category. Some of that is due to the fact that much of the piano is drenched in reverb. Get out your towels, this one's wet. Ex-Happy the Man core member Frank Wyatt had written a tune in the early 80s which appears here for the first time, and it's a gem. But the greatest moment of all is on the second-to-last track, "Angels We Have Known." Here, Watkins opens up in a long free-form improvised solo with a Prophet-like flugelhorn patch that could easily be his best solo since Camel's "Ice." While the album probably isn't overall as strong as his last, Holographic Tapestries, or his first and best yet Azure, Kit Watkins continues to explore new boundaries in his music, and his sheer gift for composition hasn't dulled a single bit. Kudos to Kit for another great effort.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 10 , 1996 releases

Related artist(s): Kit Watkins

More info

Latest news

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

2020-03-17
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music festival world, and music festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more

2020-03-06
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Robin Taylor / Taylor's Free Universe - Two Pack – A brilliant marketing strategy here - two 3-inch mini-CDs in cardboard sleeves are shrink-wrapped back-to-back. The first features three new songs recorded in 2010, featuring Taylor on guitars, bass,...  (2011) » Read more

Ellis Marsalis - Ruminations in New York – Piano ballads! Whether you are seducing the ladies or getting stone drunk to forget them, a languid piano ballad replete with blue notes, suspended chords, and finger rolls is a perfect tone-setter....  (2006) » Read more

Frameshift - An Absence of Empathy – Within the network of hard rock musicians there are plenty of opportunities for various players to meet, establish a working partnership and make some new music. Sebastian Bach (former lead singer of...  (2006) » Read more

Various Artists - Higher and Higher: A Tribute to the Moody Blues – Given their influence on the genre, the Moody Blues are a great subject for progressive bands to cover and I’m surprised something like this hasn’t already been tried. But leave it to...  (2007) » Read more

Phil Manzanera / 801 - Live at Manchester University – 801, lead by guitarist Phil Manzanera, deserve a pretty lofty place in the Prog hall of fame. The band was a veritable supergroup, fronted by Phil and Brian Eno, blending quirky pop songs with...  (2000) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues