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

2017-11-16
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more

2017-11-02
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Ancient Future - Asian Fusion – Around 1980, Ancient Future released two excellent albums of acoustic world-music, the second of which (Natural Rhythms) remains a landmark of the genre, with its surreal eccentricity and sonic...  (1994) » Read more

New Trolls - Tempi Dispari & L.I.V.E.N.T. – The New Trolls always only seemed to flirt with the progressive genre, only in the early 70s and then not always consistently. To sum up their career with a mere description doesn't do them...  (1994) » Read more

Tim Motzer + Markus Reuter - Descending – Guitarist Tim Motzer and touch guitarist Markus Reuter establish an instant atmospheric rapport on their first joint effort together. The first song, “1200 Sundays,” is beautiful and sounds...  (2010) » Read more

Radio Massacre International - Rain Falls in Grey – Head pixie Daevid Allen’s cover art, featuring a colorful half-toned rendition of Syd Barrett, provides the first clue as to what lies within this jewel case. Call it retro-psych, post-modern psych,...  (2009) » Read more

Syrius - Rock Koncertek A Magyar Radio Archivumabol – As best I can tell (my Hungarian is a little rusty) this release is an archive recording from 1975 that was originally a Hungarian radio broadcast. The band has a "big band" line-up,...  (2000) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues