Review: Diagonal ‘4’

I will confess to having largely forgotten about Diagonal’s existence since the self-titled caught my attention back in 2008 thanks to Bad Acid zine and unsettled a much younger me with the idea that… maybe, I, like prog? Through the intervening years I lost track of this lot, probably, in part, because it seems there have been considerable gaps between records and didn’t particularly tour much.

Diagonal '4'

However, they seem to have kept some cred among afficionados of UK progressive rock and so are not exactly returning from obscurity with this fourth offering. I quickly returned to my largely anti-prog assumptions until my ears were recently given a nudge by my beautiful friend introducing me to Motorpsycho, but synchronistically the name Diagonal popped up again, and I was driven to investigate.

Is this a more mature band than that long-ago self-titled? Certainly the sound is more clear and clean than I remember, with an immediacy in opener Amon that somehow calls to mind Masters of Reality. Things shimmer more in Chroma, its descending figure asking a question, answered in due course by a slinky sax solo over clave work that recalls some of the new school of afrobeat bands we’ve seen come up in the UK in the past years. We’re sitting between different musical worlds here, jazz, psych and more groovy material, moderated and blended tastefully.

another deft work of progressive, but not overbearing rock, deploying rhythmic complexity without becoming overly bookish…

My alarms are slightly raised by the risk of it all being a bit too nice at this point, but I’ll quieten that narky voice for now. Spinning Array comes with the funk, but the vocals and later use of woodwind are full acid-folk or classic Canterbury, with their joyously geeky refrain of ‘Supernova!’. Things get slightly more muscular with Stellate as the guitar takes a bit more space rock edge and the sax lines play off against a steady rocker of a beat and distorted bass. It’s not surprising to read that this piece came about as more of a jam as the band trade in some of the considered structure of the rest of the album to cut loose and set heads nodding.

The ethereal guitar echoes that open Totem pull us back to Diagonal’s peaceful explorations, in this case pulling some stronger gravity in a spiral towards some more fried psych, but the group back away from the centre of that star and the record fades out.

This is another deft work of progressive, but not overbearing rock, deploying rhythmic complexity without becoming overly bookish, and pomp without pomposity. There is careful melody and repetition that develops gradually forward and outward, a moderation that occasionally spills over into enthusiasm and above all a sense of a group of musicians going skilfully about their business.

Label: Cobblers Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp

Scribed by: Harry Holmes