Dave Sturt has played with Bill Nelson, Gong and the re-formed, 80s version of underrated band Jade Warrior, so it’s little surprise there’s a whiff of an exotic, Fourth World feel to this collection.

When Sturt’s formidable bass is to the fore his free-rolling melodic figures and harmonic sparks make up the melodic meat of the track; they’re not just an exercise in flash. Each piece only has a few major elements, such as drifting keyboards and guitar on the lovely Transcendence, but the compositions always feel substantial, and there’s texture too. Initially just double-tracked bass and brushed snare drum, Hollow Form becomes a delicious, song-like piece thanks to Theo Travis’ sax melodies. Bill Nelson guides the sweetest guitar lines through ruminative bass and reverbed piano notes (White &Greens In Blue); Kavus Torabi’s E-Bowed guitar drifts sleekly through the brief bass meditation ((In My Head) I’m Swimming). Steve Hillage’s echoey guitar meshes in with the percussion and found sounds on Jaffa Market, and Unique And Irreplaceable is given a sonic depth of field by the late great Daevid Allen’s ever-mysterious glissando guitar. Dreamy.

Prog magazine

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“Listen to the album a few times, form your own thoughts, then, if you want to know where my head’s at, read this…..”

Not my words, but the opening line from the booklet accompanying Dave Sturt’s first solo album. As it happens, it’s pretty much coincides with the pathway I like to follow with albums for review. Listen, absorb, make notes, listen again, write review, listen again, research, re-write, listen again and then finalise. This saves merely reiterating the artist/band’s own perception of their music and as a consequence, hopefully, offering a different perspective. It doesn’t always follow this path, sometimes, as was the case here, it followed a – listen, listen again, keep on listening, just one more listening… I really should turn the music off and write the review. OK just one more listen…

So after several weeks of rather intense listening I can safely say that Dreams and Absurdities is a wonderful and absorbing album and in particular the first twenty minutes are just sublime. Truly atmospheric and cerebral music. Something Dave explains rather neatly in the second paragraph of the album’s preface.

“This album is not a demonstration of virtuosity – it’s about a state of mind. Those moments between sleeping and waking (or vice versa) when the active mind is subdued and the subconscious roams free.”

All of which means, in my book at least, that although Dave is an immensely gifted bass player Dreams and Absurdities is not going to be an avenue for him to confirm this fact, but rather offers an insight to the man himself. The music is therefore more contemplative and as a consequence somewhat atmospheric in nature.

We might therefore consider Dreams and Absurdities as a travelogue for the subconscious mind, and one I begin, as the liner notes might imply, on a warm summer’s eve in southern Asia with the instrumentation capturing and evoking that tranquil setting. As the sparse but hypnotic layers of percussion gradually unfold, Dave ensnares the listener with his Eastern flavoured fretless work, whilst Waqas Choudhary charms us with the floating timbres of the bansuri (a type of wooden flute). Wonderful stuff.  In contrast Dave would have us imagine standing in a vast cathedral for Transcendence, however I remained in the Indian subcontinent, imagining nightfall and the gradual emergence of the solar system. But that’s the beauty of the music – it frees up the mind and allows you to be wherever you wish to be. Concluding this remarkable opening trilogy is Hollow Form. Rising from the atmospherics of Transcendence, Dave’s superb and delicate bass work, evident throughout the album I might add, gives ground to a hypnotic rhythmic loop, some soothing soprano sax courtesy of Theo Travis and more of Dave’s melodic work.

Now I’m not entirely sure where the “absurdities” come from, however Bouncing Like Gagarin does change the mood with its slightly jarring strings, double bass accompaniment and spoken word from Jennie Winson-Bushby. Another track that seems to break the mould is the intriguing and wonderfully ‘absurd’ title track. I have absolutely no idea what the spoken voice loop is saying, not that it matters, but, at two points, it forms a jarring counterpoint to the delicate atmosphere created by the strings of Clare Bhabra and Deirdre Bensic, which in turn form the backdrop for some evocative bass work from Dave. From my initial reaction of “what on Earth is this”, the title track turned out to be a favourite piece from the album.

Across the album, Dave has invited guest musicians spanning across his career; the late Daevid Allen, Jon Field, Steve Hillage, Fabio Golfetti and Kavus Torbai to mention just a few. What is gratifying is that each musician has grasped the intent of the music and recorded parts that are truly sympathetic. White & Greens In Blue, for instance, is created by a spacious texturing of heavily effected piano, initially complimented by the bass, before featuring one of those many guest musicians.  Here Bill Nelson adds some delicate guitar to the music which sits comfortably within the floating atmospheres.

I find myself wanting to comment on each of their performances and in turn, each of the tracks, however I doubt this would ‘sell’ the album to you. Another option would be to include a video or audio sample within the review, however, and although there is an official teaser for Dreams and Absurdities, I’m not sure it fully captures the essence of the music. A link is included below, however the album really should, and needs to be, listened to in its entirety to fully appreciate the detail, structures and subtle nuances.

In many respects I enter the ambient world with a healthy degree of caution, as a lack of any detailed knowledge fuels the sceptical mind, however if all such labelled music was of the calibre of Dreams and Absurdities then I would have no hesitation stepping in. The music here is hugely diverse and as engulfing as a black hole.

Bob Mulvey

The Progressive Aspect

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