Piano Magic Writers Without Homes

London-based collective Piano Music only have four permanent members, but with more than 12 other people (including the likes of Simon Raymonde) involved with their sixth album, Writers Without Homes, they spin epic soundscapes that bridge many different genres of music. There's no doubt that because of the long list of guests there will be inevitable comparisons to 4AD's other similar project This Mortal Coil. And those comparisons appear to be justified, on the first listen at least, but after spending time with the album, it reveals unexpected strengths and weaknesses that carry it in other directions. Most obviously, it falls short of the epic nature of This Mortal Coil, with many of the songs relying on similar tricks to conjure up the much-needed atmosphere. And while this isn't a problem when you are composing a film score (as on their previous album, Son De Mar), it does make for an album where too many songs merge with the next. Yet there are moments where it all come together, most noticeably on "Crown Of The Lost‚" a very pretty piano melody featuring the first new vocals from Vashti Bunyon in almost 30 years, and "The Season Is Long‚" an epic piece reminiscent of latter-day Dead Can Dance. So the ambition that drives the whole project is very much present, but at the end of the day, Writers Without Homes doesn't live up to the promise that it appeared to have. It tries incredibly hard to be something very special and falls short too often to be recommended. (4AD)