Hampshire and Foat ‘Galaxies Like Grains of Sand’ LP/CD (Athens Of The North) 4/5

Have you ever missed someone so much that it actually hurts? Well, if you have, my advice would be don’t sit on your own listening to this album late at night with nothing but a large glass of whisky to keep you company. It’ll only make the pain even worse. If on the other hand, you’ve had a great weekend and you want to round off your Sunday night in style with a nice slow drink and some melancholic cosmic grooves, then this is the album to put a contented smile on your face.

Pianist Greg Foat has teamed up with multi instrumentalist Warren Hampshire to collaborate on “Galaxies Like Grains of Sand”. With touches of folk, Jazz, Americana, contemporary classical and chill-out minimalism, this is an album of gorgeous soundscapes, filmic in quality, uber-cool in outlook. Think maybe Zero7, Cinematic Orchestra, Eno, Ennio Morricone and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. It’s like a 60’s Italian film soundtrack wrapped softly in a rarely heard 70’s and 80’s subtle electronica-based atmospheric chill-out album.

Recorded all analogue onto 2″ multitrack in Edinburgh, mixed down by Mattias Glava at his studio in Gothenburg, then mastered and cut in Helsinki, this album is a truly European affair. Musicians include Clark Tracey on drums, Philip Achille on bass, Konrad Wisniewski and Rob Mach on tenor sax, Trevor Walker on trumpet and flugelhorn, Julian Appleyard on oboe, Kate Miguda and Sinead Gallagher on viola, Justyna Jablonska-Edmonds on cello and Feargus Hetherington on violin. Warren Hampshire plays guitar, Autoharp and vibraphone. Greg Foat plays piano, keyboards and vibraphone.

Each of the 8 tracks has its own feel and consciousness, with everything fitting nicely together as a whole. Stand-outs include the title track, with its echoes of a “Low” era Bowie/Eno piece, combining with a hidden landscape of rocky mountainous outcrops and a worn-out Mexican gunslinger hanging up his guns in favour of a Spanish guitar, reflecting on the unseen nature of things, the futility of his life, and the grains of sand that fell through his hour-glass way too quickly. “Lullaby” evokes thoughts of love and loss, watching the waves come in on some long forgotten shore. I have to confess I don’t know if it’s a trumpet or flugelhorn, but the delivery of said instrument on “How the nights can fly” is one of the most hauntingly beautiful things I have ever heard. What a stunning piece of music. Strings and brass combine with such emotional power that it makes my heart flip.

And so as darkness draws in, the deepest of blue fills the night sky and once more my whisky glass needs refilling. Think I’ll put this album on one more time, I’m in that kind of mood now.

Mike Gates