So, much like Y2K and many other end of world predictions, December 21, 2012 began and ended the same way every other day did: the sun rose and the sun set and the world kept spinning around the sun, no one died, nothing changed. Thankfully we get to listen to Burnt Belief and not drown, burn, or worse, so that’s good. Burnt Belief is the new album and collaboration between Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin and guitarist/composer Jon Durant. Edwin had previously performed on Durant’s last album Dance of the Shadow Planets but this is a true collaboration. The title of the project and album comes from the Leon Festinger book When Prophecy Fails, an account of the UFO cult craze that began in the 1950’s and where we get the term cognitive dissonance. How does a treatise on delusion, religion and science translate into an instrumental album? The duo’s music crosses cultures and genres with Edwin’s fretless and fretted bass and electronic rhythms coupled with Durant’s guitars, keyboards and effects, creating a thought-provoking and soul-invigorating audio journey.
The album opens with Altitude, swirling effects meet synth pulses, bass thrums and forlorn sounds, keyboards and dance beats step in, guitars soar, gaining in intensity, lifting the spirits, then cooling off as if the sun is setting on a warm day. Balthasar’s Key puts a little slink in your step with hand percussion by Jerry Leake, backing a noirish setting of jazzy bass and keyboards and a flute lead by Geoff Leigh, Durant’s grinding guitars helping to bring to mind visions of an exotic desert locale at night, the sand blowing down dark alleys as underhanded deals are made in shady bars. Impossible Senses continues the mysterious, mystical feel with a more direct percussion loop, lively guitars and Durant’s dramatic guitar lines taking center stage.
Prism begins with hesitant keyboard chimes and spare percussion, the duo laying on bubbly bass, guitar effects and fills, going in circles in a pleasant way, Durant finishing up with a haunting vinyl-stringed guitar melody. Semazen opens with quiet piano and Leake’s light hand percussion, joined in the melody by Edwin’s propulsive bass and an insistent beat as Durant plays a ghostly guitar lead. The playing picks up in intensity, the guitars building a sense of wonder, playing off the keyboards as your mind starts to swirl into a dervish of colors. Uncoiled is appropriately named, as piano plunks, percussion drips, guitars whisper and vibrate, bass slithers in and flutes fly around the sound-scape. Melody and rhythm appear from the ether at their leisure, as the performances compress and intertwine like people slowly filling a party, meeting and starting conversations, arguing and laughing and moving about the room in an unchoreographed dance. The Weight of Gravity closes the album, the first half dark and slow, you’ll be looking for movement out of the corner of your eye, segueing into a thrilling second half with Edwin’s bass laying a repetitive rhythm to Jon’s scrawling, scratchy and soulful lead, electronic percussion pumping the blood, the song then fading out with a final flute flourish.
Burnt Belief is hopefully the beginning of an ongoing musical relationship between Colin Edwin and Jon Durant, and their self-titled debut is a wondrous and moving adventure of the senses.
(by Bret Miller)