Released around the same time as Soundzero (and I mean "around": a couple of months before it in Europe, and a couple of months after in America), The Rooms establishes Philip Clemo as a producer first, a composer and guitarist second. Still an unknown name outside a small circle, and a musician's musician, Clemo proves to be the textural, detail-driven type. This album consists of a smooth-segueing sequence of nine ambient-world-fusion-jazz pieces featuring 22 guest musicians, among whom are ethnic flute player Clive Bell, Gong-family saxman Theo Travis, pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole, and a host of string players. The first and longest track on the album, "The Place," has a strong affinity with the Cinematic Orchestra, and not only because the music is assembled out of separately recorded contributions. It's the same electro-jazz mood with a soft ecstatic build-up. Elsewhere, the music gets a bit jazzier at times, a little spacier at others, but The Rooms basically falls alongside the Cinematic Orchestra/Jaga Jazzist continuum. "The Shifting Patterns of Sunlight" and "Taking a Hand (In the Company of Angels)" (the latter featuring singer Chloë Goodchild) provide the other highlights, but the album doesn't have a single dull moment, although you must be prepared for long stretches of quiet soundworking and slow developments. Though the work of a guitarist, first and foremost, this album doesn't put the guitar to the fore, the instrument being worked into the sonic tapestry as only one of several strands. Despite the above references, Clemo goes his own route, creating a highly personal form of spacy electro-world-jazz, and the results are nothing short of beautiful, with a mesmerizing quality that will have you coming back for more. ~ François Couture, Rovi
Clemo Will Drive You Out Of Your Musical Coma
London’s Philip Clemo uses an enticing blend of jazz and progressive rock on his latest album The Rooms. Clemo experiments with unique sounds throughout the album by providing different “atmospheres” for the background of each song. As a result, The Rooms is an example of hypnotizing experimentation that breaks away from the traditional.
The Rooms begins with the 17 minute opus “The Place.” Here, Clemo lays down a humming background atmosphere that gives you the feeling of floating through space. Clemo’s floating, psychedelic guitar sound only enhances this feeling. The minimalist piano and horn melodies of the track provide the perfect back-up for Clemo. Despite its length, “The Place” keeps your attention with trance-inducing distorted sounds.
Likewise, “Dream of Shattered Glass” also has a hypnotic quality. Clemo bounces between psychedelic guitar distortion and jazz riffs on the song, creating the perfect balance of experimentation and melodic sensibility. The droning organs that rule the background of the track provide the perfect atmosphere for the laid-back, but highly exciting melodies that come in later.
One of the strongest parts of The Rooms is “The Shifting Patterns of Sunlight.” The song begins with the echoing of the distorted drum atmosphere. The sound established is surprisingly delicate, and the melodies of the song match perfectly. Clemo does a great job with a guitar and complimenting horn melody that moves from being so quiet that it barely exists, to suddenly dominating the song. “The Shifting Patterns of Sunlight” shows Clemo’s engaging song-writing as well as any track on the album.
If you enjoy the experimentation of The Rooms, “Shadows From The Walls” will leave you in awe late in the album. It’s amazing how Clemo brings a delicate melody out of chaotic cymbal crashes on the song.
Ultimately, The Rooms is an album of ambitious experimentation likely to be similar to nothing that you’ve heard before. Clemo’s arrangements push his sound to the limit, but still show a beautiful melodic sense. If you’re tired of the same old thing, Clemo will drive you out of your musical coma.