The Big Dream by Lonely RobotRelease date: April 28, 2017
Label: InsideOut Music
It can’t be denied that John Mitchell, the erstwhile protagonist of Lonely Robot doesn’t have ambitious ideas, and here, on his second release under that moniker, he finds time to elaborate on the continuing adventures of his creation The Astronaut.
For those who haven’t kept up, The Astronaut formed the core story of debut album Please Come Home. Here, on The Big Dream, the character finds himself in yet another conceptual situation, this time on terra firma, in what Mitchell describes as a sort of mirror against A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That plays comedy aspects certainly don’t cross over though, and what we have is a rather serious piece of work.
Maybe it’s that seriousness that makes this album a cold listen at times. Putting aside the storied concept, you have an album of music which is clinically delivered to the point of bleaching out all warmth. Superlative musicianship aside, and any album featuring the playing of Craig Blundell (drums and Frost* cohort) is always going to be a prog fan’s wet dream, there is a lack of human warmth that gives a kind of detachment.
In a way that plays into the concept though and from the opening dream sequence of ‘Prologue (deep sleep)’ the sci-fi stylings filled with cinematic music sets the scene. This all kind of comes crashing down to earth with ‘Awakenings’, a song bordering on the humdrum as Mitchell’s vocals fail to make it come to life. It’s not until ‘Sigma’ that we see the full range of Lonely Robot as the epic arena bluster fills the room.
It’s in the quieter moments such as ‘In Floral Green’ that we get to appreciate the ability of the band as they build from a piano led lullaby into a gorgeous orchestral symphony. They repeat this trick later on with ‘False Lights’ and then the super ‘The Divine Art Of Being’ which feels like a new dawning after the perils of the music before. By now you are complicit in The Astronaut’s dream and open to whatever may take you. The elegiac instrumental ‘The Big Dream’, filled with sublime soaring guitar lifts the second half of the album to something quite special after a clinical first half.
If technical ability and deep concepts are your cup of tea then you’ll find much to enjoy here. For those who like their prog to have a bit of warmth and humanity you may struggle to attach yourself to it. There’s no doubting the pedigree of Lonely Robot and at times this album is literally out of this world. A little less concentration on the finer aspects of the concept and we would be looking at one of the best prog releases this year. For this reviewer it falls slightly flat.