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Review: Blue Lily Commission – 'Four Journeys' (Released February 28, 2016)

Blue Lily Commission was started back in 2000 as a solo outlet for psychedelic rock group Mooch’s main man Steve Palmer to explore world and electronic styles of music. Four Journeys is the thirteenth release for the prolific Palmer as he continues to put out unique music that combines drones, complex rhythms, deep ambiance and exotic instruments used to create his particular intermingling of electronica, space rock, meditative music and psychedelia. Four Journeys is one of Palmer’s most ambitious projects to date. As the title suggests, the album consists of four extended pieces, all over 17-minutes long. Each one is a multi-layered sonic odyssey that takes the listener on both earthly outings and space expeditions.

First track, The Journey begins with a cyclical spiraling of notes and gradually builds into a lengthy passage of exotic variations using instruments such as flutes, saz and laouto. At times it reminded me of Vangelis’s early album The Dragon. But where The Dragon tended to riff along on the same rhythm, The Journey is ever-changing, restless; it draws the listener along on pathways leading to far off lands, taking many colourful detours along the way. Near the end, the piece transforms into a vast sonic ocean where birds squawk in the distance, and dark, ambient textures coil and churn, reminding me a bit of the middle section of the Pink Floyd song Echoes. It allows the listener to glide off into a dreamy haze, that is, until the second track begins.

The Trip, aptly titled, being perhaps the trippiest piece on the album, is also the most upbeat track. It starts off with a strumming acoustic stringed instrument and distant, echoing flutes; even noise textures! But then it drops out into Tangerine Dream like electronic sequences and melodies, gradually building into a glorious extended space rock jam full of groovy rhythms, astral ambiance and sweet, lysergic melodies, eventually returning to the original theme that started the piece, bringing it all full circle to a nice conclusion.

Third track, The Voyage, is dominated by a lengthy drone based section, yet it starts out with a striking, percussive opening that resonates with the sounds of the Far East, woven together with space textures and strange alien melodies. The entire rest of the piece is cosmic electronics, blissful ambiance and subtle, mysterious tunes drifting through deep space drones producing a vast interstellar tableau.

And while The Voyage may take you out to the farthest reaches of the universe, the final track, The Excursion brings it all back to Earth again. Sounds of rainstorms and birds exist high in the mix as beneath it, misty landscapes of sound roll by, and distant, enigmatic voices chant deeply, tracing the connection between nature and cosmos. A final passage takes on an orchestral feel, serene and stately, drawing the album to a close.

Four Journeys takes the listener through four remarkably different realms, yet each one bearing the unique sound of Blue Lily Commission. It’s an exotic feast for the ears, but tingles the other senses as well, with visions of distant lands, the smell of incense, delicious foods, and the feel of rain upon your skin. It’s earthy and cosmic, grounded and flying high. It can get right inside you and dwell there, or take your hand and lead you forth onto adventures into the unknown. The price of one ticket gets you four rides. All aboard!

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