top of page
  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ANDY PICKFORD: Shadow at the Gate (2017)

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

“I don't know how he does, but his music acts like a solid ear-worm that makes us simply addicting”

1 Shadow at the Gate (Pieces I-V) 1:11:12 2 Shadow at the Gate (Pieces VI-X) 1:11:12 3 Shadow at the Gate (Pieces XI-XV) 1:11:50 4 Drone Alone 14:26 Andy Pickford Music

(DDL 3:48:40) (Minimalist, melodic, ambiospherical and slow beats) Quite impressive this Andy Pickford! Since his comeback in 2015, he made 4 albums with Binar as well as a series of 5 EP, on the bases of the adagio, and finally 4 solo albums among which 2 of an exceptional length of more than 3 hours, though this SHADOW AT THE GATE eyes the 4 hours. Too much you will tell me? No, if we are a fan of the AP phenomenon! Old stuff recycled? Absolutely not! And I don't know how he does, but his music acts like a huge ear-worm which makes us simply addicting for each of the 71 minutes that last the 3 main acts of the sonic saga SHADOW AT THE GATE. A little as Harmonics in the Silence, SHADOW AT THE GATE proposes an immense sound collage rich in tones and in rather dark ambiences on which Andy Pickford grafts rhythms which are situated between a soft Electronica and a more melodious side of the England School with airs as catchy as the rhythms. And the contagion is also crawling as in Harmonics in the Silence. And even more! That begins with an explosion of sounds. Vaporous fragments and nebulous mists are dragging there. We even hear murmurs and layers of choirs which float above the destruction of the sound elements. Little by little, our sense of hearing perceives a wave quavering while a very nostalgic piano spreads a bed of romance that an Elfish voice surrounds of charm. In the background, the quivering wave becomes a jerky movement. Little by little, the mosaic of Shadow at the Gate (Pieces I-V) takes shape. On a slightly inviting rhythm, the strummed melody circulates with effects of synth which hoot in a quirky and in a sharpy voice. Heavy, slow and finally lively, this first part of Shadow at the Gate (Pieces I-V) takes the shape of a good down-tempo which mobilizes our senses with a minimalist approach which leans the 8 minutes. The piano runs out of this sound mass to evaporate in one of these bridges which bind the diverse forms of rhythms of this work as impressive as imposing. Cosmic and supernatural effects dress these sound bridges of a textural wealth which feed this madness of the sounds' eaters whom are, at the base, the lovers of EM. Of this 2nd phonic ashes rise a series of circular sequences of which crystalline tints get melt to some distant riffs of guitar. Straightaway, I insist on writing that, Andy Pickford reveals here his major component, his breathtaking hymn of SHADOW AT THE GATE. Ghostly torsades of synth, slow and lively percussions as well as a guitar which throws the gloom as our soul throws of some lest to survive, this wonderful 2nd part of Shadow at the Gate (Pieces I-V) is going to obsess you. Tomorrow the day after and even farther to have experienced it. One would say a marriage between Darshan Ambient and AP, so much the mesmerizing melody of the guitar, and its perpetual addicting buckles, cry on a cosmic bed and on a rhythm to rub our belly on that of our loved one. A wonderful cosmic slow dance which lasts beyond the 10 minutes and which we would want still endless. This stage stretches its melody which melts into another bridge of tones and of which the ethereal atmospheres bring us towards a more lively electronic structure. On a hopping rhythm, this 3rd piece of Shadow at the Gate (Pieces I-V) is fed by sound elements which circulate as in a gallery of starving specters. AP masters this structure with so many nuances in the tones, avoiding the traps of the minimalist redundancy of the structures which are a little less magnetizing. And it's the strength of Andy Pickford here; the art to measure well and to understand well which moment will be the most attractive for his fans. I would say that the 2nd attraction takes out of a intriguing sound corridor around the 45th minute. On a slow circular rhythm well dosed by good effects of percussions, the sequences shine and sing a melody as well kiss-curl as that of the 2nd part. Shorter, this passage empties its feelings in another soundscape filled with sibylline winds before a solid rhythm machine-gunned by an acid approach ends Shadow at the Gate (Pieces I-V). Embracing the same rules, but in a very thick weaved tonal envelope and which lets filter few oxygen, Shadow at the Gate (Pieces VI-X) evolves between its 5 phases with a crescendo approach always so charmingly. The first structure of rhythm gets up after the 4 minutes and its approach is very cinematographic, that reminds me Geoff Downes in his immortal New Dance Orchestra, with a wall of orchestrations flooded in a very compact sound mass. It's very intense! Another little jewel? We climb until the 16th minute with a heavy slow dance tempo decorated of celestial voices and of azure winds. The electronic effects are always so intense and relegate this bewitching structure in the background, but the charm remains formidable. The 3rd phase of rhythm is in pure England School signed Pickford. The melody is forged on an anvil while the structure of rhythm is sculptured in a meshing of sequences, its stroboscopic shadows, and percussions which skip such as a hip-hop which eats the asphalt of its rebel feet. The whole gets drown, with a fascinating correctness in the timing, into another delicious phase of atmospheres. We get our breath back there because from the 45th minute, Shadow at the Gate (Pieces VI-X) offers another jewel of slowly stroboscopic electronic rhythm which is so stuffed in sounds and in tones that it has given me the taste to listen to the hyper attractive and melodious Mike Oldfield's The Song of a Distant Earth (what an album this one is!). The last electronic waltz of Shadow at the Gate (Pieces VI-X) ends by a similar approach but with more vigor in the rhythm with a strangely Oldfield guitar in it. To present 2 so solid hours is quite a whole tour de force, so imagine my unbelieving ears when I put Shadow at the Gate (Pieces XI-XV) in my Pioneer Elite N50! I won’t go in all the details because the way it is sounds just like to two other tracks, but the superb fluty melody on a slow tempo that much enigmatic drags us into the mazes of EM's enchantments. The synth extirpates a melody more synthesized than the flute which dances in a soundtrack so intense as a heartbreak which goes and comes. The second structure is a tribal intergalactic rave-up always so fed than all these ambient phases which tie-up these rhythmic gyrating crossroads, whereas the third part offers this fabulous spectral and oneiric mixture which encircles the majority of the melodies of SHADOW AT THE GATE. The crescendo is very poignant here! After a kind of Acid-House structure (may I have to remind that I am not such a connoisseur in Electronica), Shadow at the Gate (Pieces XI-XV) loops the loop with one heavy mid-tempo as devastating as lively. And as if it wasn't enough, Andy Pickford offers a title brought out from nowhere in Drone Alone; a long music piece (well kind of...) served on a rather gloomy mood. The rhythm is soft and follows a rather evolutionary bend at the level of its intensity while the fragments of melodies which are grafted here and there go and come with a very reserved approach. The synth sounds like guitar, or vice versa, which shouts in a night jammed by a heavy phonic veil filled with a good dose of emotion. It’s a little bit difficult to survives the 3 monuments of SHADOW AT THE GATE, but the very melancholic approach of Drone Alone succeeds to shine in this work simply colossal of Andy Pickford. Sylvain Lupari (April 23rd, 2017) *****

Available on AP Bandcamp

19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page