Treading the sand, touching the sun
I returned to my office this morning, overlooking a city I now call home, to find the secret door was still there. Stepping inside, two brothers dressed in white silk took my hands and led me across the warm sand towards a temple of golden trees. A dreamscape of eastern-infused hallucinatory music filled the mystical. balmy air…
This is the world of Ajantamusic, composed, presented and almost-literally dreamed together by Paul and Rob Simon – musicians with a hidden history of influential associations and peripheral infiltration. They were there at the Speakeasy in 1976, and have drifted through the years via Radio, Magazine, Ultravox, Cowboys International and Visage to come ashore together in their own right in Balearic clubland. Paul and Rob’s first release as Ajantamusic was the instrumental album ‘And Now We Dream’ in 2006 followed three years later with ‘Beyond The Cloudline’ and gathering on the way influences, ideas and support from Matthew Seligman (bass), Dave Formula (keyboards) and The Camera Club’s Bruce Woolley on Theremin. ‘Cloudline’ also introduced the evocative and charming vocals of classically trained soprano Gina Watson bringing rich new strata and depth of expression to the band’s emerging characteristic sound.
The Secret Door is Ajantamusic’s third album, performed by the core trio of songwriters Paul and Rob with Watson on vocals. Matthew Seligman again plays bass, and the addition of extra guitar layering from Jürgen Graf (of German power metal band UDO) and Tony Lowe (who has worked live with David Cross of King Crimson and Mark Brzezicki of Big Country) opens up a whole kaleidoscope of new horizons. Other guest musicians this time out include engineer Tony Bywaters, whose virtual instrumentation and optimised effects make The Secret Door a significant progression from ‘Cloudline’.
The ten-strong album opens with the band’s ‘Snow On The Beach’ anthem to Ibiza, a rich infusion of intricate eastern sampled melodies, rocking guitar and trance-like dance rhythms leading into a wonderfully upbeat and powerful mix of ‘Her Colour Is Golden’. A complex track that captures every element of the band’s coming-of-age and progressive intent.
The quiet man of post-punk and pseudo- electrician John Foxx (with Rob Simon in Ultravox) has long championed Rob’s guitar work, describing it more than once as ‘spine tingling’ and suggesting he can ‘stretch’ a sound like no-one else. The Secret Door showcases the genius of the ‘Prince of Plectra’ in every way, and his ability to take a song in five directions at once is nowhere more apparent than on the velveteen pop art that is the outstanding ‘TV Sky’ and the delicious psychocandy of ‘Curtain Call’.
These tracks lead into the Persian-tinted ‘Mirage’ and weave intricately through the confident instrumental they call ‘Arabella’, the technicoloured psychedelia of ‘Dream (Within A Dream)’ and the wonderful twangy wigout ‘Scirocco’.
Time is indeed Backwards in this exotic world, and it moves in a multitude of fascinating simultaneous directions.
Bewildered, I nervously confessed my inadequacy and underestimated what to expect behind ‘The Secret Door’. It beckoned me, and I stepped through – but whither am I bound?
The brothers at each hand smiled graciously, poured me a deep intoxicating liquor and everything began to sway. The sand before me was bathed in light and my eyes swam in the shimmering haze of their achievement.
Translated from birdsong by Martin Smith – June 2013.