The gorgeous cover art draws one in. The marine colored vinyl sets the template. And the music seals the deal. Pool is a gorgeous meditation on life at sea, adorned with sounds from a tanker in the Adriatic Sea. Nick Goss‘ residency there inspired not only painting, but music; when paired with the genius of Jim Wallis, the result is a wave-filled album.
Conversations are overheard in the early going, a sprinkling of different languages spoken by those on board. The machinery of the ship can be heard as well. We’re not sure if Goss attempted to paint while on board; a choppy sea can spoil a brushstroke. The swirling lines indicate a steady hand. On the cover, a solitary figure rows across a sea of currents without any apparent agitation. These tracks unfold in the same way. Electronic signals bounce like Morse across the speakers. Synthesizers ebb and flow. Wallis’ guitar is like the oars, confidently chopping through troubled waters. The piano suggests the ocean deep, the deepest notes a foghorn’s lonely cry.
When the strings arrive on “Seventh Man” across a backdrop of sea static, the album takes on a wistful tone. Staring at the blue expanse can lead to rumination or dreams. In Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name, a man struggles to overcome feelings of guilt involving the loss of a friend in the ocean. Thankfully, the piano of “Beach Night” leads the listener back to balance.
The gulls sing on “Express,” circling the tanker, awaiting an easy meal. A dour listener might hear an albatross. The strings return in “Baker’s Dolphin,” bearing a sense of wonder akin to watching a pod ride the wake of a boat. If this album tells a story, it is of surviving a storm. The blue above is attached to the blue below, the hull swaying ever so gently, the swells lulling, not breaking.
And now all is calm. The rower continues to row. The painter picks up his brush, the guitarist his guitar, the fisherman his pole. The sailor no longer dreams of the shore, but parks his heart in the sea. (Richard Allen)