Rob Reed: Sanctuary
Homage or appropriation? Though each listener might respond slightly differently, there's one thing about which they'll all probably agree: Rob Reed's Sanctuary is so similar in style to Mike Oldfield's early output—specifically the albums from Tubular Bells to Incantations—that Sanctuary could easily pass for a pastiche of unused Oldfield out-takes from the ‘70s. In his defence, Reed comes by the homage honestly: captivated by Tubular Bells upon hearing it in 1973 at the age of seven, Reed harboured a life-long dream of producing something similar. Aside from vocal contributions from The Synergy Vocals choir and singer Anghared Brinn, Reed plays all of the instruments on the thirty-nine-minute Sanctuary and resisted any urge to simulate their sounds with synthesizers, of which none were used on the recording.
It's one thing, though, to revisit the idea of fashioning a one-man album product featuring two side-long pieces; it's another to reproduce the sound of Oldfield's music to such a note-perfect degree. Not only do Reed's instrument selections—grand piano, guitars, bass, mandolin, glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba, timpani, banjo, recorders, organ, and tubular bells—mirror Oldfield's, Reed even replicates the signature sound of Oldfield's electric guitar playing.
“Part 1” opens with a pastoral section that, heavy on recorder and acoustic guitar, sounds like an alternate opening for Hergest Ridge before moving on to bravura guitar-and-percussion flourishes reminiscent of Incantations, a pulsing, bass-prodded episode suggestive of Tubular Bells, an entrancing Ommadawn-like acoustic part featuring vocals and marimbas, and—but you get the idea. Reed even includes in a snippet of “Good King Wenceslas,” reminiscent of the way Oldfield worked “The Sailor's Hornpipe” into the end of Tubular Bells. “Part 2” is, in moments, a tad less derivative of Oldfield's sound, though the connection is still undeniable. Though none of Sanctuary's melodies is a direct copy of Oldfield's, Reed's material evokes Oldfield's in every other way.
However well it succeeds as a replication of Oldfield's music, Sanctuary does fall short of Oldfield's 1970s opuses in one way, and that's in the way the material on Ommadawn, for example, develops so organically over the course of its two long parts. Reed's, by comparison, often feels like a patchwork of sections stitched into a sequence that's certainly listenable but whose transitions sometimes seem abrupt. Apparently, Oldfield collaborator Simon Heyworth, who mastered Sanctuary, told Reed that “when he heard it, he closed his eyes and he was back in Manor Studios in 1973.” That won't come as any surprise to listeners intimately familiar with Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn, and Incantations, echoes of which reverberate throughout Sanctuary. Whether they do so to too great a degree will be up to the individual listener to decide.