With “The Laws of Nature,” we’re afforded an intriguing window into this buzzy project, which finds an amazing collection of prog-rock guest stars working alongside producer Sherwood — who now leads Circa, after earlier performing and producing stints with Toto, Paul Rodgers, Wetton and Yes, among others.
“Laws” begins with a series of aggressively interesting squiggles from violinist Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs), a galloping bass line from Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon), a billowing orchestral swirl and a reliably committed vocal from Wetton (Asia, King Crimson, UK), but the track — at least early on — can be best described as directly reminiscent of Sherwood’s most recent work as a solo artist and on Wetton’s 2011 release Raised in Captivity. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing terribly surprising, either.
The tune goes on in this way, until the appearance of an unusual (and sizzling hot) turn on guitar from Sherwood — who has more often played keyboards or bass with Yes and Circa.
Then, at roughly the 3:45 mark, instead of catching a second gear (the expected thing), “Laws” swerves confidently, surprisingly, thrillingly, into a minor-key rumination. From there, it becomes as enveloping a moment as Sherwood has crafted — maybe ever. Goodman takes a central role in this second-act counterpoint, even as Wetton’s vocal softens into a dreamscape gust of melancholy.
The violin pulls the song, then pushes it, adding a richly colored Beatle-espque psychedelia that’s only complimented by Sherwood’s layered vocal treatment. Levin’s late-period connection with Lennon is brought to bear, as he gooses the song along from behind, giving it an episodic propulsion.
When the song then comes to a crashing halt, some seven minutes after its beginning, there is narrative sense of completion — like a lengthy journey has come to an end.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Billy Sherwood discusses his decade-long tenure with the legendary prog-rock band Yes, and how it all fell apart.]
Only, it’s just beginning, of course: The Prog Collective — which also features Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Geoff Downes (also members of the Yes family tree), Alan Parsons (of Project fame), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), John Wesley (Porcupine Tree) and Colin Moulding (XTC) — is due August 14, 2012 from Purple Pyramid, a subsidiary of Cleopatra Records.