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Parker Gray Parker Gray
Album: Luminous Darkness
Label: Gallway Bay Music
Tracks: 11

Not a person, but rather a collaboration between singer- songwriter Peter Gallway and synth maestro Harvey Jones whose CV includes Sting, Robert Fripp and Carla Bley, that, often spoken rather than sung, serves as an atmospheric musical setting (just guitar, synth and programming) of the former's poetry collection Big Mercy, inspired by, among others, Leonard Cohen, Raymond Carver and Charlie Smith. Gallway describes the album as Eno meets James Blake meets Cohen

Employing looped sound from a clothes dryer, it opens with 'Romance Comes', evoking the otherworldly hush of city streets in that ethereal moment as the night fades but just before the dawn breaks, Gallway's woodsmoked voice sounding somewhere between Rod McKuen and, yes, Cohen and as he intones the words.

Sparsely semi-sung to a minimal backdrop of keyboard notes and synth wash, 'A Younger Man's Hands' is a portrait of his father ("a strong man, a gentle man") that also muses on mortality before a drum machine lays down the pattering rhythm for 'Poetry', part reflection on time spent in Hollywood, where he declares "It's the poetry that drives me, the good and the bad. It's easy to come by, the ink is cheap" and that within it "the truth lies waiting". Appropriately, it's followed by a cinematic reference with 'Breathless', a number inspired by the seminal Jean-Luc Godard noir game changer, Nate Birkey adding to the mood with his neon streets stained sax like the ghost of Mingus while Gallway's partner, Annie Gallop does her best Lauren Bacall to add the spoken passage midway.

The sensuality seeps over into 'Tango' with its deep nighttime sway into the intoxication of a kiss in waiting as cheek brushes cheek before another autobiographical note is struck with 'Rolling Stones 1964', the first true, live rock and roll concert he ever saw, at Carnegie Hall, as a 17-year-old and which changed his life forever. Birkey's sax returns to haunt the strung out jazz cellar vibe of the title track where Gallway mentions Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald and muses how "Musicians live like lifers without parole."

A slow Latin groove returns for the Cohen-infused 'Spanish Is Spoken Here', an image of coffee in a real cup in a west side LA café and the glimpse of a woman caught in a late shaft of sun, her shoulders dancing. Mortality makes another appearance to the metronomic ticking that persists throughout the ethereal and somehow calming sonic miasma of 'The Uninvited Guest', Gallway's path wandering to Paris and Montparanasse for the almost prayer-like 'Impressions' where, in 1909, the Expressionist painter, Modigliani set up a studio, as he speaks of pale pastel colours, vibrant and alive with light, and of silence. And it's that hush that brings the album to a meditative close with 'Quiet', Gallway at his most Cohen-like as he talks about the unpredictable transitions of life in images of rain and clear skies, busy and empty roads, a seeking for the balm of silence away from the turmoil, a contemplation of the years slipping way, of time becoming precious in the acceptance that "One day there will be only the quiet, a book on your chest in the soft light. One day there will be only the quiet/It will stretch forever".

Very much one for a niche market and best soaked in, seated and relaxed in dim but warm-lit solitude, shuttered away from the static of the world as the waves of sound and the melancholic intimacy of Gallway's voice weaves through those emotional and mental fibres.

Mike Davies