Category Archives: Curved Air

Curved Air: Air Conditioning (1970)

Kronomyth 1.0: A BREATH OF FRESH AIR. At the fringe of the Woods of the Seven Trees, peer animals not to be believed: velvet moles and gentle giants and wander-giraffes of static science. Venture in a little deeper and you’ll discover another creature, one of air and strings and sound, tempter and tempest, queenly crowned, a spirit of air that curves between trees and blows through the brain like a crooked breeze. I have, it seems, lived an arid life until now, content to walk along the fringes and mistake it for a proper venture. (See what a fool I’ve been, I haven’t lived my dream!) If you enjoy the music of Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator and have yet to make the acquaintance of Curved Air, lungfulls of Air Conditioning are in order. There are, sadly, just a handful of such treasures for the hearty traveller to discover beyond the known wonders (Yes, ELP, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Rush, etc.). Gentle Giant and VDGG are among those first unexpected encounters, and more than a few would-be explorers have made camp there and gone no further, certain that they’ve hit upon Solomon’s Mine (and, in a sense, they have). But delve deeper into the woods and you’ll discover smokecurls of strange voices and violins intertwined with pot and Pan. It would be easy to point to the music of Renaissance and John Cale for a parallel, but Curved Air arrived at the same time, and so you might see this as a broadly sweeping muse who put her benediction upon a multitude at once, from whence strange flowers grew called Cale and Renaissance and Curved Air. In Air Conditioning, you’ll encounter a different sort of siren on the roxyfied “It Happened Today,” a bit of calesthenics on “Stretch,” the sisyphean “Screw,” the weird and wonderful “Blind Man,” the classical colossus “Vivaldi,” and that’s just on side one. The second side includes more of the same: “Hide And Seek,” “Propositions” and “Situations” might all be considered classic Curved Air tunes, with a winsome instrumental (“Rob One”) and classical coda “(Vivaldi With Cannons”) thrown in for good measure. It’s a pity I didn’t turn on Air Conditioning sooner instead of fanning myself with the same old records. A better beginning you couldn’t ask for; now if I could only find what happened to their happy ending…

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Curved Air: Second Album (1971)

curved air second album cover“Sonja put it very well once when she said, ‘You have the whole of your life to write the first album, and six months for the second.’” – Francis Monkman, in a 1998 interview.

Kronomyth 2.0:  A WOMAN DREW HER LONG BLACK HAIR OUT TIGHT AND FIDDLED WHISPER MUSIC ON THOSE STRINGS. Second albums are often problematic as bands struggle to create within the pressurized environment of the music machine. It’s a kind of curse when your dream becomes your job. (There are worse curses, of course.) Signs that Curved Air was caving under the pressure can be seen in the fact that the band had effectively split into two creative camps. It wasn’t a division of vision, so much as an effectual means of generating new material for the next album. Darryl Way and Sonja Linwood struck up a songwriting partnership for the first side of Second Album and scored their biggest hit with “Back Street Luv.” Francis Monkman’s eccentric, wordy and wonderful ideas are explored on the second side. Despite this division, there was nothing in the music to suggest that the band was going in different directions. If anything, they sharpened their collective aural attack on Second Album. Monkman’s work on the VCS3 stands as some of the most sophisticated keyboard prog of its time (he’s also an underrated guitarist) and the rhythm section of Pilkington-Miksa and Ian Eyre gives the music a very solid bottom end. Where the first album featured Linwood and Way on vocals (an approach that occasionally invited comparison to Jefferson Airplane), Linwood is the lone voice here most of the time, which allows the listener to luxuriate in her subtle shades and tones. Listening to “Young Mother,” “Back Street Luv,” “Puppets,” “Everdance” and “Piece of Mind,” one can only marvel that music listeners didn’t carry Curved Air home on their shoulders and declare them kings. Their first two albums are certainly as good as anything to come from the established masters (Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, etc.) and, in fact, slightly ahead of most of them in terms of sophistication and execution. [Note: This is a placeholder review, since I’ll really need to inhabit this music before I can come back with a decent report of it.]

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