FUTURE CLOUDS AND RADAR as part of the Fontana North night at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, June 7), 9 pm. $15, free w/ $28 NXNE wristband. www.nxne.com. Rating: NNNNN
Robert Harrison has finally reappeared.
His promising power pop crew Cotton Mather, which counted Oasis as fan club members, seemed to be poised for an international breakthrough when they suddenly vanished from view not long after the release of 2001's The Big Picture (Rainbow Quartz) album.
Harrison recently resurfaced, sans bandmates, with a stunning double-disc set of brilliantly orchestrated psych-pop bearing the name Future Clouds And Radar. Strange, yes, but not at all uncharacteristic of Harrison. That's just how he rolls.
"Cotton Mather was an ever-changing loose collective that settled into being a pretty solid rock 'n' roll band, but I felt that that group of people had done as much as we could together. The Big Picture was a good summation of our collective noise, so the time was right to change things up and try working again with a solo mentality."
Public sightings of his new project have been rare, as one would expect from the attention-shy Harrison, but now that word is out that he's been rehearsing with a 19-piece orchestra, the dearth of tour dates is a little more understandable.
He'll be fronting a more compact version of the band for his NXNE showcase likely a five-piece rock 'n' roll combo but any Harrison performance holds immeasurable promise, particularly with material as strong as that recorded for the ambitiously conceived Future Clouds and Radar debut.
"The recording is really a voicing of some personal growth and strife. I wrote the songs while recovering from a chronic spinal problem that left me physically confined for a period of time during which I was unable to play the guitar. But when my daughter gave me her ukulele, the songs just came tumbling out. The themes of spiritual longing, hope and healing all made sense to me as a story in which I could be the narrator.
"My physical challenge turned out to be a great gift, forcing me out of my old ways of thinking and doing things. I had the choice of sitting around and being a victim or making a change. In my mind, for music to be good and moving, it needs to be an expression of freedom, not confinement. The path for me was clear."