Monday, 1 December 2014

Darkness Into Light - Relayer

The Steve Wilson Remix.

For Yes aficionado's the music is rather well known, so the question is does Steve Wilson shine a different light on this music for us.

I have listened to the Blu Ray 5.1 DTS Surround Sound Mix and the Compact Disc Remaster (the latter offering is a refreshingly simple programme, a remix of the original LP with two encore singles).

Relayer and in particular "Gates Of Delirium" is challenging music in the way the final two sides of Topographic Oceans are challenging. Unconventional, angular, muscular and aggressive in an entirely different way to the Bruford Bands music. As a result clarity of transmission is crucial. The reality is the original production of Relayer was unhelpful and over the years has received highly critical remarks from the band themselves. The production was cold the drums did not breath, the bass lacked warmth and depth and Steve's switch of guitars to the Telecaster was over lit and produced a highly unsympathetic group performance. Patricks keys to often where not properly lit.

Well Mr Wilson seems to agree with all of this because his remix has transformed the listening experience. The drums still have that clarity of attack but there is "air" around them so they sound more organic with depth and warmth. Likewise Chris 's bass has more depth and therefore warmth so the mid range is much better represented. This is immediately apparent in the early verse sections of the suite after the glorious multi keyboard intro. However the White Squire rhythm section are still years away from capturing the immaculate accuracy of the Bruford Squire years, that was to come on Drama. This is still dense music.

There is a much better balance between the keys and guitars. By removing the echo and reverb from Steve it is as if during the battle we have night vision glasses and the detail of the battle emerges. The middle section is no longer difficult on the ear, or the mind, it progresses logically and the unhinged nature of war now communicates itself in a more immediate and emotional way. You are inside the battle, rather than witnessing it from the outside not quite clear about what is going on.

When the huge Sibelian resolve emerges they are .. no longer huge. The keys and slide guitar are offered in a more focused and disciplined way so you can here the responses to the soloist properly with for instance some neat rhythm stabs from Steve answering Patricks swirling solo. As the war dissipates there is a gorgeous percussion effect which fades into Steve's wonderful slide work and then Jon's guitar emerges much more strongly.

As with the instruments Jon's voice has more depth sounds more musical and the more passionate colloquial accent he adopts on the suite and Sound Chaser are perfectly captured.

Side 2 was always easier to listen and now all the elements lift these two pieces alongside Starship Trooper and Siberian Khatrue as classic Yes music. The cha cha cha's have a wonderful earthy response now and instead of an impressive speed freak chase and a lot of showing off it sounds like a performance of an extraordinary piece of music which has life.

In 1974  I was nineteen and Relayer was another disappointment after Tales. Tales now has its place in my heart as a work of art but it is far from perfect. Relayer ending with the spiritually uplifting beauty of To Be Over now sits alongside Close To The Edge as a great set of music brimming with timeless ideas which I will play half a dozen times a year and love it unreservedly rather than see it as part brilliant part musical chore. Bravo Steve Wilson.