Cirrus Bay are a band that just took me by surprise this year. I first heard their music on their bandcamp website. And it didn’t flow with me at first. But then I listened to it again and I realized that this was something out of the ordinary. I knew I had to check their music out right away. The band started out in the late ‘90s with Bill Gillham and Chelsey Mann. Bill played the instruments and Chelsea sang. They did several shows and recorded several songs before Chelsea’s departure and Sharra Acle took over.
They have released four albums and through various line-up changes it wasn’t just the influences, but the spellbinding musical arrangements that blew me away. When the new arrivals showed up on The Laser’s Edge website which has been my go-to site since 2008, I went ahead and bought the album straight away. And from start to finish, I knew something special and something magical when I put the CD in my CD player with my headphones on.
Their music displays the styles of Symphonic-Canterbury music through the styles of early Genesis, Renaissance, Caravan, and Landmarq. Bill Gillham’s wrote all the music and with eight tracks, he is not just an amazing composer, but he knows where exactly he wants the band to head towards. He’s very much a conductor and heading in the right direction.
Dimension 7 is this cross between Gilgamesh, Hatfield and the North, Rick Wakeman, and Egg’s The Civil Surface-era and I could tell that Cirrus Bay know a bit of their Canterbury techniques into their music as Mark Blasco channels the virtuosity of Phil Miller’s playing. Now Tai Shan’s vocals, just sends me into a goose bump mode with her arrangements in her voice.
There are times where Tai channels the styles of Tracy Hitchings, Annie Haslam, Sally Oldfield, Anneke Van Giersbergen, and Robert Wyatt. It’s evidential on the opening title-track where it’s shade of Genesis Wind & Wuthering-era as if the band were having Earl Grey Tea in the winter of a tiny little cottage with In the Land of Grey and Pink-era of Caravan with Annie Haslam doing vocals for the sessions.
Song Unheard, I get this feeling as if it was written for a Disney Animated Movie in the late ‘80s or a non-Disney film of The Swan Princess done in a Rock Opera format with the rhythm of a melancholy piano as Horseback to Hanssonland is dedicated to the late great Bo Hansson. There’s electronic drumbeats, galloping rhythms to another world, Brendan Buss’ jazz saxophone improvisations, and beautiful textures of the flute, organ, and bass that rides into this mystical and mysterious land before the swirling sax fades out.
First Departure is an acoustic course for lift-off into space with guitars making the course for light-speed as Tai’s vocalizations brings essence of It’s a Beautiful Day as the closer of Second Departure begins with the Northettes vocal arrangements, mourning organ as it head towards the golden light. And the piano is swirling in the styles of Tony Banks and Hackett-sque acoustic/electric guitar and ending with a symphonic/orchestral pastoral end.
Cirrus Bay for me, in my opinion, have succeeded. This is for me the band I’ve been wanting to check out as their fifth album, Places Unseen is one of the most emotional and story-telling albums I’ve listened to this year. If you love Symphonic and Canterbury music, then I recommend Cirrus Bay’s Places Unseen. You won’t be disappointed.