David Gilmour might have ended the Pink Floyd we loved, but his creative instincts made it into a different, perhaps better band. His solo career has been sparse, yet impressive, with three albums in two decades. In his most recent work, On An Island, one rediscovers much of the old magic of Pink Floyd, while uncovering new, pleasantly surprisingly aspects of the musician's art.
The opening instrumental collage, Castellorizon could be two or more songs blended together. The layered fog-horn like beginning gives way to delicate harmonies, before a segue into numerous sample-type riffs that alternately remind one of Castelan, Hindustani and Celtic melodies, finishing off with a classic Floyd-style solo, soaring and frangent with chart-topping music today. Orchestration is provided by Zbigniew Preisner, with much classical flair, though not the Sibelius-style work he's done for Krzysztof Kieślowski.
The next song, the title track On An Island, has become a favorite and appears often on my pseudo-random iPod playlist, perhaps because of its nostalgic lyrics, tones, memories of times lived and unlived — a malaise, one believes, of one's third decade. The harmonies are arranged by Graham Nash and David Crosby, and lyrics supported by Gilmour's wife, Polly Samson. The orchestration is a bit over-powering and the solo tablature could have been borrowed from Division Bell, yet it's a bourgeois-satisfying track.
The Blue retains the leisurely mood, but the lyrics are trite enough to have been written in a teen-romantic blue period, following an AABB rhyming scheme. The solo section fits with the mood, turning into a plaintive lament for an approaching encounter with the abyss.
Take A Breath varies the tempo, and changes the mood, reminding one things can go wrong, terribly wrong. The song breaks pace in the second half, making a point, as it were, and providing an effective build-up to the instrumental perfection that follows. "When you fall from grace your eyes in blue/Your every breath becomes another world/And the far horizon's living hell."