[Review] Elegant Simplicity – The ghost of a smile

Elegant Simplicity is the project of the English composer, arranger, programmer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Steve McCabe. Created in 1992, this project has since released 22 studio albums, the latest of which is “The ghost of a smile” released on November 29, 2019 via Proximity Records. The album consists of 7 medium to long-lasting tracks featuring some guest musicians. The album opens with “Transfiguration” which begins with synth and guitar melodies that intertwine on a rhythmic session with a deep bass and an elaborate drum. Everything changes quickly and continuously and with the entry of the flute and the mellotron the sound reaches another level. In the second part the initial theme alternates with instrumental sections where guitar and keyboards intertwine, a good start. “Heart beat of the nation” begins with organ and acoustic guitar and a pleasant violin, with the electric guitar taking the stage. In the second part the violin guides the sound giving a cheerful touch to the melodies and a good insert of keyboards brings us to the end. “Seeing Magic” has a melancholy departure with slow rhythms and dark melodies, the first narrated section of the album enters. At 2 minutes the song becomes more intense and more elaborate and than enters in a central acoustic section with orchestrations only. At the end the instruments return with the protagonist keyboards, a well-executed piece, which in my humble opinion lacks incisiveness. “Avoidance mirror” begins with calm tones and always melancholic atmospheres, to transform with a change into a more aggressive song. The electric guitar offers a good test and duets at best with the keyboards, creating elaborate and never banal melodies. In the second part, everything becomes more sophisticated by alternating the theme of the song with more jazzy inserts. “Connected” is a short passage of almost 2 minutes with orchestrations and electric guitar on which a short narration is inserted. “The ghost of a smile” is the song that gives the title to the album which begins slowly. The intensity increases with passaging the track, focused in the first part on keyboards and guitar. So the violin enters and with the return of the instruments the synth draws a nice solo. An acoustic detachment and a final violin and guitar intertwine on layers of keyboards. “Fateful fancification” is a song that begins with an acoustic guitar and a pastoral flute, which remains on positive melodies. The orchestral backgrounds of keyboards and the inserts of flute and electric guitar embellish the song, which in the second part increases the intensity. The keyboards and wind instruments interchange in the solos, closing the song with the resumption of the initial theme. A sliding album, with some short narrations and entirely instrumental, the atmospheres are largely soft and symphonic. The development of the songs lacks a little of incisiveness, resulting at times too soft, but still a pleasant listening.


1. Transfiguration (7:03)
2. Heartbeat of the Nation (4:23)
3. Seeing Magic (8:16)
4. Avoidance of Mirrors (5:38)
5. Connected (1:55)
6. The Ghost of a Smile (11:31)
7. Fateful Fancification (8:49)


Steven McCabe / Guitars, Keyboards, Composer & Producer

William Stewart / Violin
Barbara Bolivar / Flute
Jim Wells / Trumpet
Hector Ruano / Bass 
Maurizio Antonini / Drums
Jody Smith / Narration

Elegant Simplicity |Official Website|Bandcamp|Twitter|Soundcloud|Spotify|YouTube Channel|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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