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Serene | self-titled (Arena Rock/Rykodisc)
It fetches up at the dog end of the year, a time reserved for greatest hits and novelty records, a graveyard shift fit only for hibernation and migration and it's ushered in on a raincloud darker than A Fallen Angel or the already gloomy sky, cloaking the whisper of voices, words pummelled to the ground in the torrent around them. Then a gap appears, blue, light, hope. They speak softly, but they carry a big stick, or, rather guitars and they kick in big time. Now it is notes that shower down, but with warmth and the misery of winter is banished by the shimmer pouring from this CD. Soon you're on a beach, drawn by the Beggars Of The Sea, drowsing in the sun as the tide rumbles, it's roar mixing with the chatter of the world around, all cares forgotten. You might want to wake up and observe, but for now your ears are all you need, nothing else matters but the aural, the ups and downs of the tempo, the change of intensity and pitch correlating to every wisp of cloud covering the sun as you drift along. A cool breeze here or there still leaves your hair unruffled as it washes over you, barely breaking the tranquil disposition of your mind, for you know The Angels Are On Our Side and you're in safe hands as the transition from track to track is imperturbable, just a smooth flow of beautifully composed sounds and words, the odd scream of vocals above the calm causes no panic, you are as impassive as ever, placid in a world of your own, nonchalant in the reverie and floating away in the music. You're gone now, wrapped in the Myths And Fables that they sing of, your soul collected by the Last Words Of A Fallen Angel, wrapped in their spell and "blinded by their beauty" as they spiral around in an easy dervish. The calm Internationals ease you back to the world while friends chatter all around leaving you poised on the brink of reality, but still clinging to the escape within, holding on until Autumn comes with its gentle strumming and only giving way to the probing voices from outside until the very last, when all the instruments are downed and the door closes behind the players. What you awake to is your own business because, when you need a release, just hit the play button and you can have serenity now.

Laurence Arnold
June-July 2003