Something Else! sneak peek: Billy Sherwood, "Drone Deciphers" (2012)

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“Drone Deciphers,” the lead single from Billy Sherwood’s forthcoming solo album The Art of Survival, is a tweeked-out piece of space-age alienation that has more to do with Peter Gabriel than Sherwood’s time in Yes — a very good thing.

See, there’s always been a lot more to Sherwood, even if he’s continued to reference his tenure with the legendary prog rock band while on tour with Circa, both through well-placed cover songs and the presence of fellow Yes alum Tony Kaye. Dig deeper into his solo efforts — and they usually are just that, with Sherwood playing and singing alone — and you find these interesting subcurrents. Projects with Cleopatra Records have provided additional glimpses too, in particular his forthcoming fusion effort.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Billy Sherwood on his working relationship with legendary Yes bassist Chris Squire: “I got a chance to join my favorite band.”]

“Drone Deciphers” doesn’t break the same ground with its subject matter, as Sherwood continues to try to sort through the difficulties of managing life in a world of technological encroachment — a favorite topic. But he’s pushing his musical craft to new places, and that reanimates the subject matter.

After setting up a dream-like atmosphere, complete with a sweetly conveyed sense of reverie for simpler times, Sherwood mixes in a series of smeared otherworldly effects, recalling Billy Thorpe’s thunderous starship landings. An insistent mechanical voice starts intoning “target acquired,” and soon Sherwood is encircling the song in vocal reiterations of the initial theme. Finally, as “Drone Deciphers” moves into its final movement, Sherwood settles into a confidential, very Gabriel-ish whisper. He continues asking big questions, and answering those questions with still more, until “Drone Deciphers” comes to a sudden stop.

It’s as if being awakened from a dream, so complete is Sherwood’s hypnotic musical spell. Let’s hope the rest of the album pushes this hard against his own perceived musical boundaries.

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‘Art of Survival’ was written, performed, produced, recorded and mixed by Sherwood, who has just returned from a South American tour with Circa. The album will be available in the coming weeks at http://billysherwoodhq.com/Store/. Circa is set to play next on August 11, 2012, at the Joint in West Hollywood.

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