When UK based Vienna Circle’s album White Clouds arrived I was immediately struck by two things which raised questions in my mind. Firstly, there was the album’s beautifully effective artwork. Then there was the band’s intriguing name.
The first was more easily answered. The cover was designed by Paul and Jack Davis the two brothers who form the band. However, the name Vienna Circle took me in an altogether different direction.
I’m ashamed to admit that The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy is not high on my list of bedtime reading, otherwise I would probably have already known the answer. The wise tome informs me, via the internet, that The Vienna Circle was a group of early twentieth century philosophers “who sought to reconceptualise empiricism”. Of course.
So it’s a bit of a cop-out to blithely say that I like the name after a weighty introduction like that, but the simple truth is, I do. Vienna Circle seems to fit the style of the band perfectly. Furthermore, style is a thing that they possess and display in abundance throughout this confident debut album.
Lead vocalist, guitarist, and keyboard player Paul Davis and his bass playing brother Jack tell me that they were heavily inspired by Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and latterly Neal Morse, formerly of Spock’s Beard. Forming Vienna Circle they embarked on writing a concept album in the truest sense of the word. White Clouds is the highly impressive result.
It tells the story of a man who moves from the south of England to Berlin just as World War I was breaking out. Joined by drummer Russell Wilson, Paul and Jack have produced a conceptually brave debut album that has taken residence on my iPod. It somehow manages to reveal something more of the music and its story with every additional play.
It opens with “White Clouds (Beginning)” as the main character decides that he must leave England. A flock of seagulls, along with cymbals of crashing waves introduce the atmosphere that is an endearing feature of the album.
The excitement and hope of his arrival in Germany is the essence of “First Night In Berlin”. It captures the eager anticipation of his first day in the city that will become his newly chosen home. Five months later as war is declared everything changes and he becomes torn between his two worlds.
“Friends now ignore me” sings Paul as he becomes isolated in his adopted country. Swooping guitar marks the conflict in his mind as he decides whether to stay or be forced to leave.
“Stars Of May” sees him moving on within a piece that highlights the attention to detail, vivid imagination, and impressive musicianship that Vienna Circle possess. With a strong nod in the direction of Pendragon the track builds towards a memorable finale.
As the story on White Clouds begins to unfold each turn ensures that your attention and imagination follow closely behind. Compelling lyrics, and infectious melodies and choruses, abound throughout.
This is excellent musical story-telling with enough authenticity and rapidly moving developments, both musically and lyrically, to keep you well and truly locked in. Vienna Circle pull the whole concept together with an ability to fire strong visual images within the listeners mind. Each well constructed track is literally like turning the pages into a new chapter.
The magnificent “The Morning Fields Of Amber Grey” takes us along a war damaged road amid some more excellent Floyd-esque guitar which sits perfectly aside a haunting chorus. Suddenly we are transported back to the war torn Europe of the period and yet we arrive surrounded by the sense of beauty lost. This is a near eleven minutes journey through a world of high quality melodic prog.
The voice-over passage that introduces “Argonne Wood” shifts the attention to the all too real horror of the war on the front line. It reminds us of the unimaginable evil of the gas attacks in the trenches. Meanwhile, “Falling” captures the conflict that he now finds himself involved in. Berlin and England are both behind him, and he is left wondering where he belongs.
“A Break In The Clouds” and the inspired slowly building drama of “Conquered Air” move the panorama forward. There is a sense of helpless loss, despair, and fear of the battle lines drawn by others but fought by those born into that time that radiates from every note.
“Her Green Eyes Blew Goodbye” reflects on how the world was destined never to be the same again. With lines as emotive as “look at the people time’s erased”, and “the world is a ruin, take me away”, it’s powerfully effective.
The emotionally charged “White Clouds (Finale)” returns to the opening theme of hope. He returns home, having gone full circle, after the madness of a war he has felt and experienced from both sides.
“We have found quite a unique sound in our first album” explains Paul Davis on the promotional material, before adding, “I’m excited to hear how our music will progress in future albums”.
In saying that he seems to be expressing how the music takes on its own life form and evolves into the finished album we experience here. This is the real triumph of White Clouds. It is an album with a remarkable sense of being, and a solid base of inspiration that seems to fire the music along an artistically inspired, and hauntingly melodic journey.