Peter Meechan’s decision to study at the RNCM in Manchester in 1998 has proven to be both fortuitous for the composer and brass band movement alike.
By his own admission, his musical hinterland did not encompass repertoire from a genre that almost immediately captured his imagination, and which has since resulted in a body of significant output that has been startling in its forceful originality.
His compositions absorb an eclecticism that encompasses iconic figures such as Ennio Morricone, Steve Reich and Olivier Messiaen to Miles Davis and Pink Floyd – influences that infuse his writing with an enticing musical osmosis.
At 32, he is now in the vanguard of an exciting generation of compositional talent that is not stymied by adherence to the suffocating confines of traditional brass band compositional structure and form, the result of which could - if fully embraced, shape the movement’s musical future for decades to come.
On this release we hear significant ‘contest’ works performed by a Foden’s Band that shows itself to be fully at ease with the composer’s striking musical architecture; one built of shining planes of clear minded thinking that jut alluringly out of absorbing deep seated textures.
For instance, 'The Legend of King Arthur' is a colourful soundtrack to a very modernist understanding of a mythical storyline – something of a mini rock opera that fits somewhere between The Who’s ‘Tommy’ and ‘A Knight’s Tale’ film.
It bubbles with energy and friction, dark undercurrents and scabrous intrigue; revealing a bold personal interpretation of a tale we all think we know so well.
So too 'Fire in the Sky' – inspired by another group of ageless legends - Deep Purple, and their iconic take on the smoky drift seen by bass guitarist Roger Glover rolling across Lake Geneva in the aftermath of the infamous Montreux Casino concert fire of 1971.
Sparky elements of Zappa, Stravinsky, Miles Davis and even Freddie Mercury - as catchy as any that set fire to the rattan roof that night, flicker and glow amid the complex layers of an engrossing musical atmosphere.
The composer’s ability to bring into sharp focus the darkest elemental power of Shakespearian tragedy is fully realised with ‘Macbeth’ – a work built on a foundation of growing apprehension, venal distrust and moral corrosion.
Meechan’s intuitive admiration of Morricone is heard in the wonderfully laconic central ‘Lament’, which aches with soulful despair: All that is missing is a dusty desert backdrop, a nameless cheroot smoking hero and a tinkling music box.
There is also an oddly Shakespearian reminder of an iconic ability to ‘kiss the instrument of their pleasures’ with Jens Lindemann’s explosive delivery of ‘Starlight’ – which has a power laden Moorish beauty in more ways than one.
Meanwhile, the emotional impact of immense numbing loss is chillingly felt with his twin ‘Epitaphs’ – one that recalls the criminal tragedy of the Hillsborough Disaster and the other of the heroic D-Day Landings.
Both leave a lasting, deep seated emotional imprint on the mind.
In contrast comes ‘B of the Bang’ - inspired by sprinter Linford Christie’s famous pre-race remark, but perhaps now more resonant of the moment so brilliantly captured in the much missed Manchester sculpture by artist Thomas Heatherwick.
With Foden’s delivering such convincing, compelling performances under Michael Fowles this is a release of quality and influence that deserves the undoubted accolades that will surely come its way.
1. The Legend of King Arthur, 16.31
2. Epitaph (for Hillsborough), 6.56
3. Fire in the Sky, 13.05
4. 2nd Epitaph — Across the Water, 5.19
5. B of the Bang, 4.02
6. Macbeth, 13.59
7. Starlight, 4.05