Simon McKechnie — Newton's Alchemy
(Voyager 4, 2014, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-04-20Artists’ inspiration can be triggered by just about any experience, internal or external. (To be precise, all inspiration is internal, though it may be brought on by something in the outside world.) For London-based composer Simon McKechnie, it came from learning about the alchemical pursuits of Sir Isaac Newton — along with being one of the most influential thinkers in the history of science, Newton spent many years delving into the magical realm of transmuting elements. The result of McKechnie’s inspiration is an elaborate construction of progressive rock, nearly a one-man effort, featuring drummer Adam Riley throughout and occasional contributions from Clare Salaman (nyckelharpa) and Jan Hendrickse (bass flute); the composer plays guitars, keyboards, bass, dulcimer, psaltery, and percussion in addition to singing. Most of the lyrics come from Newton’s own writings. In keeping with the subject matter, the compositional techniques are sophisticated and elaborate, but to McKechnie’s credit it all works splendidly even without paying attention to the intellectual aspects. Musically there’s some kinship to such contemporary bands as Underground Railroad and Birds and Buildings, with the non-rock connection being more with 20th Century music than Romantic or Classical. Like a fractal design, the closer you look, the more details you make out, be they melodic fragments cropping up in multiple pieces, unexpected combinations of sounds, or off-kilter rhythmic twists. Newton’s Alchemy is an outstanding accomplishment in progressive rock, free of cliches and strikingly original without sounding stuffy or fussy.
Related artist(s): Simon McKechnie
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
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
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more