On and On, the debut long-player by British psych-rock quartet Syd Arthur, is an inspired journey not unlike Herman Hesse's classic novel Siddhartha, to which the band's name cheekily refers. Self-produced and recorded by the band, the album is remarkably fluid in its style and construction. Boasting a rich and heady display of prog, jazz, pop, and psychedelic fusions, On and On distinctly carries a torch for the group's '60s and '70s Canterbury forebears like the Soft Machine, Gong, and Caravan. Though rooted in the footsteps of past pioneers, Syd Arthur are by no means a revival act. Their quirky time signatures and elegant folk-funk are uniquely of their own design and represent a studious group of players reaching far into their collective id, then refining their explorations into something more subtle and accessible. The ten songs are complex with unmistakable progressive tendencies, but most clock in at a digestible three or four minutes, relying on impressive but concise arrangements rather than outright jamminess. Singer and guitarist Liam MaGill plays with a distinct and breezy, jazz-influenced style, but it's violinist Raven Bush (nephew of art-pop songstress Kate Bush) whose tasteful adornments on both violin and mandolin truly set the group's sound apart. From the initial riff on the buoyant opener "First Difference," it's clear that this is a thoughtful and engaging record full of quality songwriting by a well-rehearsed band and not some loosely rendered pysch experiment by trendy stylists. Songs like "Edge of the Earth" and "Promise Me" are laden both with pop hooks and crafty diversions as MaGill's distinct tenor threads melodically throughout. In fact, Syd Arthur's brand of prog remains so tight that by the time the sprawling, nine-minute closer "Paradise Lost" has concluded, it's almost a relief to have heard the band stretch out with a bit of overt psychedelic indulgence. On and On is a wonderful and dynamic debut by a group who could easily be seen as heirs to the fabled Canterbury scene. That the band is signed to the resurrected and influential Harvest Records only adds to that mystique, but it would be disingenuous to write them off merely as young scions of British prog. They may have built their foundation on a classic style, but the future is theirs to invent.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger