‘Quadrivium’ is the latest solo release from Sheffield based, highly acclaimed guitarist, Nick Fletcher who, as anyone who has seen him can testify, is a very accomplished player who can not only shred with the best of them but is also a player of taste and style. So, it is with little wonder that even Steve Hackett regards him very highly, possibly sensing a kindred spirit and, finding in Nick, a musician who strives to be the best he can be, whatever the situation in which he is found.
Well this album is particularly fine, it is entirely instrumental and it is very fusion focused. Within its tracks you can find many references and nods to those gods of fusion, from Al Di Meola, Alan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny and, of course, Jeff Beck, to point out the obvious ones. There are also a whole slew of others that Nick has drawn upon in his style and playing and this is all put together perfectly into a melting pot with this album emerging as the result. This release is a musical journey that demands listening to as a whole, you need to clear fifty-five minutes in your schedule and settle down to enjoy this masterful slice of fusion pie. It is also an album that uses lots of atmosphere and nuances to punctuate is dreamy sound, in between the bluster there are gentle moments of almost serenity occurring, this gives the album an even pace and allows individual contribution to shine, like the excellent bass work of Tim Harries who is there at every turn, propelling or pushing the bear along as needed. His sympathetic playing adds greatly to the overall dynamics and sound, he also provides a solid platform for Nick’s fiery guitar flights of expression and frees him to really soar,
This is fusion for today with nods to the past but generally forging ahead in new directions and pathways, it is extremely musically strong and focused. I doubt if you will hear another fusion album that burns this hot, it is almost incendiary such is the firepower contained within its grooves, this is blistering in its intensity and depth of vision. Now, if fusion doesn’t usually grab you then, don’t worry as this is more than just fusion, it has great rock sections as well and some truly jaw dropping guitar playing, enough to make you sit up and even to put away your own guitar in envy. The album has eleven tracks ranging from the very brief Ziggurat Of Dreams Parts One & Two to the longer tracks like Aphelion and The Journey To Varanasi, the songs changing in style, often within the same track.
Nick is aided by several of his good friends like Dave Bainbridge and the aforementioned Tim Harries, who provide excellent keyboard and bass support. On the drums Nick has enlisted Anika Nilles (who was previously in Jeff Beck’s last band and is also a drum teacher and has her own band as well). She is very much an up and coming fusion star in the making and adds strong syncopation and delicacy along with the powerhouse drive as required. Anika is like a young Billy Cobham in style at times, in short, she is a truly exceptional talent and really makes her mark here.
The album has a theme as Nick is very interested in philosophy and especially the works of the Greek masters, Plato, Aristotle and the like. This record is based on Plato’s four noble arts, these being mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy. Well, the music relates to either mathematics, geometry or astronomy and the whole album is music, the fun is spotting which track relates to which! There is a lot of fun to be had by doing that, so I won’t actually tell you and leave you to find out for yourself but look at the track titles for clues. The use of Google might be of use in this task, at least you will learn something new in the process.
I always feel that, for me personally, knowing and understanding the background to a music piece aids my enjoyment and enriches it significantly. Not for nothing is the maxim that knowledge is power quoted. However, don’t let the concepts behind the music stop you from listening to this extremely masterfully delivered release, instead let knowledge lead you onwards in your journey from the inner soul to the edges of the universe, life and beyond, onwards into eternity. A very entertaining and illuminating concept for certain but also a very worthy one for our modern age.
There are so many highlights on this album from the gentle introduction of A Wave On The Ocean Of Eternity that had me in mind of Beck’s The Final Peace, with its emotive guitar lines. The Indian styled The Journey To Varanasi has some very heavy guitar parts featured prominently, in all it is a very rewarding listen and does bear repeated listening thereafter as it has many depths to be uncovered as you absorb the music fully. I also appreciate that this album ends as it begins, delicately as the circle is completed.
This album is really rather a revelation in sound as it sounds absolutely gorgeous and is extremely well recorded and produced, with a full and clear production that allows room for everything to be clearly heard. There is excellent definition with good separation between the instruments, alongside which you have really great sympathetic and skilled performances from everyone that all combines to make this an astonishing musical accomplishment. Kudos must also be given to Nicks co-producer Caroline Bonnett who aids him in this crafting so diligently and adds some fine keyboard work too.
‘Quadrivium’ is an absolute stormer of an album, most impressive and very highly recommended and is my fusion album of the year so far. There is so much to discover, to embrace and to enjoy in this mighty fine stew.
Released 15th September, 2023.
Order the album from the artist’s website here: