British musicians Robin Guthrie and Mark Gardener both have long and productive careers in music behind them. The former’s history with the industry goes all the way back to when he was playing his first sold-out shows as part of his band Ride in the early nineties, while the latter released his first album at the age of nineteen as a member of Cockteau Twins all the way back in 1981.
Most recently however, the veteran duo have joined to forces to put together a collaborative compilation called Universal Road. The ten piece album begins via the mellow riff of its title track, which is soon met by light percussion before a soft and solemn harmony. It gains a little more momentum during an airy chorus that reverberates gently through the air. The serene sound it exhibits rests easy on the ears, getting things off to a peaceful start.
“Dice” fades fervently into warm and affecting instrumentation ahead of a tranquil harmony. There’s quite an ethereal atmosphere prevalent during the first verse before the tempo is raised for a dreamy chorus. Remaining pleasant and placid, it also conveys a lot of depth and enthusiasm. “Amnesia” follows upon a resolute acoustic riff that runs alongside a meaningful melody. The instrumentation erupts into a plethora of passionate percussion and psychedelic guitars as it enters its second minute. It’s a busy and contemplative composition that maintains a frantic undertone.
The slow rhythm and tender piano keys of “Old Friend” arrive next to precede a hushed harmony which soothes as it drifts through the senses. It keeps itself discreet and unobtrusive throughout, resulting in a calm and collected creation that’s really rather relaxing. “Yesterday’s News” begins by way of a more upbeat and jovial riff afterwards, soon adding in a cheerful melody. It proceeds to truck forward at a steady pace, radiating a consistently contented atmosphere that’s fairly uplifting.
“Cry for Survival” is another bright and buoyant offering, brought to life by restrained instrumentation and subdued vocals. It doesn’t seem to have a care in the world as it glides along lazily, taking its time developing while keeping its attitude easy-going and optimistic. “Sometime” succeeds it with a combination of urgent and exotic instrumental elements that break through a sedate but serious harmony. It’s a very laid-back undertaking that still feels ominous and pressing, despite its nonchalant sound.
Fast and forceful guitars guide “Triumphant” towards a delightfully energetic melody with which they combine to forge an effervescent air. This produces an exuberant offering, the euphoric aura of which is very absorbing. The incredibly cool introduction of “Reason” eventually takes over to set the scene for a tender and touching effort. An assemblage of resonant vocals and infiltrating instrumentation gives it a heavy celestial feel. “Blind” unfolds similarly in its wake, but adopts a more sombre disposition. This delicately delivered serenade brings things to a suitably elegant end.
Guthrie and Gardener’s team up has resulted in an amiable and inoffensive collection of soft rock songs. Its exquisite and extremely accessible execution makes for an enthralling listen. You can find Universal Road on iTunes now, while hard copies can be purchased via the shop tab on Guthrie’s official website.