Album Review: Imaginary Creatures ‘The Blood of Angels’
Imaginary Creatures’ Edinburgh-recorded third album is a melodic, varied, multi-genre work of depth, intelligence, and maturity.
Imaginary Creatures styles itself as a ‘virtual band’. For this project, songwriter Brian Rice adds his skills to the core membership of founders David Scott and Iain McKinna. Jazz musicians John Burgess (sax), Cameron Jay (trumpet) make a horn section that adds supreme excitement to several of the tracks.
The album opens with the downright catchy ‘Days of Fire’. As will become common as the album progresses, this is not just a lyric, but a story. “Those were the days” of rebellion and rock-and-roll lifestyle, but then reality bites back. “No-one wants to live forever in the days of fire.”
We swing, literally, into ‘Lost in the City of the Night’, where an insistent beat, reminiscent of a 1980s police show, withdraws to reveal an atmospheric ballad. But then, “atmosphere” is a key feature of this collection.
Pianist Brian Kellock comes particularly into his own on ‘A Fateful Night in a Film Noir World’. That track occupies the prized third position on this well-structured album, from where it points out that we have entered a hearing of a work of unusual class. Pip Burnett takes the lead vocal just for this piece. She renders it pensively, plaintively, taking the listener with her through ill-lit streets of regret. “A blues-in-the-night plays / Its notes are all sharp / As sharp as the knife blade / You stabbed in my heart.”
Saxophone Right Here
‘Lonely Never Again’ opens with a respectfully Baker Street sax solo. The featured instrument enhances, rather than steals the show. This is fine writing – the composers know that good as it is, the saxophone’s riff should adorn, not dominate. The song itself revels in a style of its own, but hinting at influences somewhere between Gerry Rafferty and New Order.
The sax also opens ‘Chance Meeting’ as the pace quickens. Here, as in ‘Days of Fire’, past experiences are lyrically revisited and mined for their stories.
The variety of musical styles on the album is explored further, from the dynamic pulse of ‘Shades of Grey’ to the pragmatic blues of ‘Homesick Blues’. This album is not stuck in any one genre; the carefully produced guitar rock of ‘After Midnight in the Villa Diodati’ is as far from the jazz purity of ‘A Fateful Night’ as it gets.
There is a distinct feeling of finale as we reach the final two tracks. The listener has been taken on a journey, and now it’s time for the dénouement. In ‘Don’t Stop Me Dreaming’, the writers insist that this is a happy state.
Lastly, it’s all players onto the stage for the rocking and rousing ‘Book of Dreams’, with “I write the book of dreams / The tangled skein of schemes / Where nothing is as it seems.” Repeating that message, it rises to a climax of dueling lead guitar and saxophone, before fading to silence. I’m no lover of fades normally, but here it is appropriate, indeed even to the pan of the album as a whole.
Intriguing Imaginary Creatures
Imaginary Creatures ‘The Blood of Angels’ is an intriguing work. It would seem the band has instinctively latched on to the creative freedom offered by its ‘virtual band’ status. It doesn’t just have to fill its repertoire with dance tunes to please a crowd. As a result, this truly excellent album rocks in places, soothes in others, twists and swings, and always challenges. It is consistent throughout in quality of performance, composition, and lyricism. Its depth makes it worth numerous hearings. OK, there is in this collection no compositional classic, but it rises above most of its contemporaries and is thus worth your money and then some.