Clear Path Ensemble / Solar Eclipse / Soundway Records – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

New Zealand / Aotearoa has long been home to musicians tweaking and twerking templates from elsewhere into something unique and free-floating. You might conjure up the likes of The Chills, or Lord Echo, or Fat Freddy’s Drop, for example, were you casting about for influential outfits switching things up for their own enjoyment, and with Clear Path Ensemble‘s head honcho, Cory Champion, having played with Lord Echo, you can certainly trace some of the same idiosyncratic tendencies within the wide-ranging grooves of Solar Eclipse if you so choose.

This neatly turned out collection is Return To Forever and In A Silent Way updated and reinvigorated for the now. It’s an album underpinned by cosmological vibes, those fusionistic foundations pulled slightly left of centre, skewed out of joint and smeared with a pleasingly DiY aesthetic. Absolvo arcs into view riding skittering beats and repeat motifs, slipping and sliding in and out of focus, seeking an open-minded dancefloor upon which to land. Moody and musty, bottom-end anchored to the groove: skronky saxwork nattering away on top in a celestial conversation.

Drumatix is lissom and lithe, beats-bound and endlessly enthusiastic: Bob James going tonto, a cute concoction. The drums of course to the fore: a shifting pulse for a bumping bass, synths firing away as everyone gets down and dirty. Great stuff.

There’s Fourth World feels on Sunrise Motif – the spirit of Jon Hassell summoned from the void for one last crazy swing through alternative universes. Music-making with an intellectual sheen, a safe space for the cognition to kick itself back to life.

It all makes for a satisfyingly well-balanced jaunt through the various sonic fields. There’s plenty to snag the ear and pull the listener in – space and scope to lose yourself, sun-spangled and dazed and confused. The players are on form, the open-planned proceedings allowing everyone time and freedom to spin their lines and tell their tales.

Something for everyone, then, a sweetly-struck smorgasbord of aural delights beamed over from the Antipodes. Clearly a winner, you could say.

Clear Path Ensemble`s Solar Eclipse is out now, on Soundway Records.

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