W&H were really sold on AIDAN BARTLEY'S 2003 album 'Listen to the Soundwaves' and its' equally accomplished 2005 follow-up 'Vaudeville'. Both were accomplished and emotive affairs showcasing Bartley's compositional skills and lush, orchestrally-inclined arrangements and both have remained firm favourites ever since.
Although both of these albums featured a brace of top-drawer songs, an equally satisfying aspect of Bartley's work were the instrumentals co-existing on these records, so it seems a logical step for their creator to have pieced together an entire album's worth of wholly instrumental outings. Ergo 'Fragments of a Daydream': a vivid and beautifully-realised project which captivates even allowing for the absence of voices.
Admittedly, there's an inherently cinematic quality to Bartley's work and, yes, you can imagine pretty much all of these wonderfully atmospheric set pieces working in conjunction with movies: especially ones of a noir-ish intent, preferably set somewhere Middle European, such as Prague or Aidan's adopted home base of Berlin.
Crucially, though, you don't actually require any visual counterparts for 'Fragments of a Daydream' to work as its' own entity, for its' melodies are both subtle and bold on their own terms. Opener 'Bartski' draws you in: the cyclical guitar patterns being buoyed up by Snorre Schwarz's galloping drums and the band sliding in magnificently behind. It's a great, drama-filled introduction and sets the tone beautifully for the shape-shifting landscapes visited by the album as it rolls along.
Such are the strength of Bartley's melodies that many of the tracks impinge very quickly indeed. 'Orphan Train', for example, instils some welcome funkiness courtesy of its' syncoptated beat and spidery basslines, while the Tindersticks-style bossa nova brilliance of 'Reopened' and the nocturnally jazzy 'Perpetuum Mobile' (with its' clicking percussion redolent of Stewart Copeland's 'Rumblefish' OST) are immediately memorable.
The pacing is also superb throughout, with understated tracks like the Harry Partch-style marimbas of 'Shop of Curiosities' leading the way for the dummies sold by 'Smoke and Mirrors' with its' Blixa Bargeld-style guitar swiping and Eastern European accordions and the delicate guitar and cello workout of '21 String Salvo' working as the perfect counterpoint to the full-blooded 'Priest Hole' with its' tumbling, neo-classical pianos, Latino guitars and brooding Hammond organ.
'Fragments of a Daydream' then, finds Aidan Bartley and his talented cohorts in fine form. The album's title might suggest something sketchy and vague, but the resulting fourteen tracks are fully-realised, chameleonic and frequently sublime.