About 500 years ago I reviewed an album in a national publication by a Scottish band called New Celeste. I knew nothing about them at the time and never delved further afterwards – but I recall it as a really cool, slinky, wry, unobtrusively sophisticated record. I think it was a mid 90s comeback after a 70s/80s career. I should dig it out and remind myself…
I mention all this because Chief of the Celestial ones Iain Fergus got in touch earlier today to say hello and to say that his band have got another of those (comeback?) albums on the way. It’s called ‘A Perfect Sky’ and nowadays I don’t need to labour over another painstaking 160 word review: I can simply post the press release and point to a youtube audio sampler. Enjoy!
PERFECT SKY PRESS RELEASE
Seven albums in and there’s still no predicting what New Celeste will conjure next. You could quite easily be forgiven if you follow the inevitable Celtic rock label that’s so often hung round their neck by the unthinking or the even more confused, generic folk rock. All of which hint at but could never define a band that’s defied expectation time and time again across more years than it’s healthy to recall. New album A Perfect Sky is an impeccable addition to a line of carefully crafted and considered releases.
Brought to life in studios from London to Skye via Oxford, Glasgow and Canada, then impeccably mixed by Bob Prowse, the core intentions strategically pieced together to create an acoustic centred, electrically driven collection which is intrinsically rooted. A Perfect Sky superbly displays the creative credentials of New Celeste, which, with the opening ‘Such a Lovely Day’, bounces along agreeable acoustic pop in every second. Seven Seas is a flamenco-drenched ode to lost love, whereas ‘Love & Freedom’ displays the band’s love of traditional themes with a typically clipped Fergus vocal and a lilting hook line that both historically and stylistically speaks of no other place than Caledonia. ‘Love Is a Strange Thing’ has a summery vibe, an observation on casual and fickle affairs of the heart, the fiddle soaring high on a feathery breeze. Instrumentally, New Celeste exhibit equal flair and understanding: ‘Petite Quimperoise’ has classical inclinations with a jazz undercurrent; ‘The Sunshower’ is a rolling chase between fiddle and acoustic guitar; ‘Jig Celeste’ a freewheeling, whirling dervish, which leads handily into ‘Sorry’, a vox-drenched, Beatle-esque construction in which twin guitars duel and twist around each other over a jumble of ponderable romantic questions.
With a steadfast frontline of founder Iain Fergus on vocals and guitar, lead guitarist Steve Reid, fiddler Gavin Marwick, and bass player Jerry Soffe with drummer Max Saidi, the range of inspiration and influence is as wide as the horizon to horizon landscapes of their Scottish homeland. There’s even room for reunions – former associates Graeme Duffin (Wet, Wet, Wet) and Rod Dorothy (Barbara Thompson) add deft touches on guitar and violin, respectively.
Iain sums it all up, “My songs take a long time to write themselves. I’m never trying to shock or surprise; to me it’s all about interest. The album took nearly a year to complete, with various ex members of the band adding important bits and pieces and some fantastic guest musicians too. Steve and Gavin wrote three great tracks for the CD and Bob Prowse played a big part – he’s a wonderful engineer.”
Look upwards, not a cloud in sight – a perfect sky. Venture forth without delay.