Luminous City: Inbound/Storming Heaven

Well, let’s make this the repository for everything I might have to say about the various Luminous City songs and compositions I’ve released into the veld of public consumption.

M’boy Dan had a listen to Movement Along A Path the other night and told me that he thought that album was cinematic in scope, despite the stripped-down instrumentation. (I’m not going to take that album song by song here in this blog, only because everything that need be said about those songs is already contained in the liner notes [link to follow shortly].) I think that descriptor is probably even more apt when used against this album; I did have certain images in mind, shot in high-def CinemaScope and playable only in my third eye. I’ll describe some of them to you in the blog posts that follow, but please feel free to come up with your own if you so desire.

Inbound is the title I gave to the drone that begins the album under assorted ambiences: a plane flying overhead, a foghorn, a ship at sea, traffic building to a climax. People are aware and yet unaware that something is coming.

Storming Heaven begins with the initial guitar riff. The seeds came from an instrumental piece written (at least in part) by Radiant City’s guitarist, Pete Crane. (The astute, or at least the long-memoried, among you will recall Radiant City was the precursor to @Fulcrum.)

His coming into the band was a story in itself. The three of us– Josh, Paula, and I– had been auditioning guitarists who were less and less appropriate to the kind of music we wanted to play: speed merchants mostly (I mean, right? Prog rock demands a hot-shit guitarist who can above all other considerations play faster than God), and of those who weren’t, technically daft or socially ill-fitted. There was one guy who might have worked, but I think we didn’t see eye to eye on a personality level.

So when Pete walked into the music store where Josh was working at the time, and struck up a conversation about (I think it was) Yes and Genesis, Josh invited him along to have a jam. Our jaws dropped when he broke out a hollow body electric and started playing Wes Montgomery licks over Tender Friend. Thinking outside the box, technical proficiency, actual melody, not beholden to fast licks but capable of them every so often.. clearly this was the guy.

Shortly after he joined, Pete played me the finished model recording of the piece that became Storming Heaven. This model also had an actual bassist and drummer on it, whose names I never knew. (Nor do I know whether they helped him write it. I presume they did not.) My recollection could very easily be faulty 15 years downstream from my original memory, but in that memory the model consisted of the opening guitar riff repeated over and over with some interesting guitar embellishments here and there, the 7/4 movement which currently supports the synth solo, and the eight descending chords joining the two sections.

7/4. Paula laughs now to recall that basically she was paying tribute to Phil Collins’ drum work on The Cinema Show (I would guess the live version from Seconds Out, which I saw recreated magnificently in late February at the Ridgefield Playhouse when The Musical Box were in town).

Sufficiently inspired by the model, I wrote the remainder of the piece from there. I added the first two verses to break up the guitar chugging, and then the stately closing section, when (in my mind) the offstage fleet of roadies would crack open the dry ice canisters, surrounding everyone but Pete with mist as he peeled off his Comfortably Numb solo to ride the song out, swatting adoring groupies out of the way as though his Strat were a five wood.

The interweaving kalimba lines (in three different meters, I think 15, 19, and 23, or something similar involving dovetailing prime numbers) were supposed to represent data streams flowing down a wire and becoming something new in the process, recontextualizing with each iteration against the other two lines. I had just discovered the Internet in 1994, and (irony of ironies) it did indeed seem at the time like it was going to be the vehicle for global change and community. And what better messengers of human unity than a band– especially one with a navel-gazing lyricist (e.g., me)? Cultures listen to their musicians, don’t they? The health of the nation is gauged in part by how well it treats its artists, isn’t it?

Thus the album begins. The band arrive in town, in the Luminous City, and declare their intentions to observe how people are to one another, and eventually to deliver a hopeful message.


2 thoughts on “Luminous City: Inbound/Storming Heaven

  1. I am most definitally happy with the way we collaborated on this tune. The verses you came up with did indeed break up the main guitar riff before it became too manotunis and gives the first section life and space.
    Love the synth solo in the 7/4 part. I wrote that section with a ripping synth solo in mind and you sure did deliver. My favorite Rick contrabution to this tune was the last part. I loved soloing over it. I had the same idea as you (jamming out a solo to hundreds of adoring hot chicks, but in my mind, I wasn’t swatting them out of the way. LOL

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