Downes Braide Association – Halcyon Hymns (Album Review)

Review of the Downes Braide Association – Halcyon Hymns out on CD/DVD February 5th, 2021, and 2LP White Vinyl edition on March 26th, 2021.

Downes Braide Association, the unlikely duo formed by Yes/Asia/Buggles keyboard icon Geoff Downes and pop hit-maker Chris Braide, have proven to be a worthy team over the last few years. The pair now return with their 4th studio album titled Halcyon Hymns, out on Feb 5th. The album is the follow-up to their 2017 release Skyscraper Souls. The group’s sound had so far been rooted in electronic music with keyboards not surprisingly taking center stage. But here on their 4th outing, the group shift their approach, relying largely on guitars and organic instrumentation and the results are exquisite.

On their previous albums, there have been tracks that were the centerpieces on which the material was focused, mainly the title tracks, but on this one there is more of an underlying musical theme. The material is more cohesive with the song sequencing and transitions working perfectly. Additionally, there is narration that appears throughout the album which also ties the material together, culminating in a larger spoken word section in the album’s longest track, the penultimate “Remembrance.”

However, simply put, it is the glorious and undeniable melodies that make this such a joy to listen to repeatedly. Each song has a special hook that seems to sneak up on the listener. It is subtle but sublime. From the perfect acoustic opening single “Love Among the Ruins” to the upbeat pop of “You Heart Will Find A Way” to the slightly prog-infused and perhaps the albums best track “Holding the Heavens”, you might find yourself humming these songs at various times, wondering how it got there. Even the brief “Beachcombers” sounds like a track from the Rabin-era Yes years with it’s high-pitched backing vocals. “Today” is a touching piano ballad that yearns “I know it’s not a perfect world my love” yet offers optimism beautifully.  The Roger Dean artwork is notable as well, another brilliant touch to a great album.

Halcyon Hymns is more an interesting pop record than a prog album. But for this reviewer, it is one that is immensely enjoyable and perfectly uplifting for these difficult times.

The CD/DVD is out on February 5th, 2021, and 2LP White Vinyl edition on March 26th, 2021.

Pre-order Halcyon Hymns: CD/DVD https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-cd-dvd-edition/

2LP White Vinyl: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-limited-edition-2lp-white-vinyl/

DISC ONE: CD
1. LOVE AMONG THE RUINS
2. KING OF THE SUNSET
3. YOUR HEART WILL FIND THE WAY
4. HOLDING THE HEAVENS
5. BEACHCOMBERS
6. WARM SUMMER SUN
7. TODAY
8. HYMN TO DARKNESS
9. SHE’LL BE RIDING HORSES
10. LATE SUMMER
11. REMEMBRANCE
12. EPILOGUE

DISC TWO: DVD
1. ROGER DEAN PAINTING SESSION
2. LOVE AMONG THE RUINS
3. YOUR HEART WILL FIND THE WAY
4. TODAY

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