What’s to like?
Stop-gap release of material left on the cutting room floor from the previous Lunatic Soul album Fractured, but good enough to merit a listen.
The low down
Lunatic Soul is the darker, ambient side-project of Mariusz Duda, the bassist and singer for progressive rock band Riverside. It allows him the creative freedom, outside the traditional confines of a group, to pursue a more personal and experimental form of musical expression, and in some ways it’s proved to be cathartic experience for him (and for the listener) as he exorcises recent tragic events in his life.
Not only that, but it’s allowed him to grow as a musician and a composer, and his audience has also grown exponentially, with Lunatic Soul becoming a respected musical venture in its own right. The number of albums is quickly catching up with his day band too, as Under The Fragmented Sky clocks in as album number six.
However, the music here consists of pieces recorded during the same sessions for the previous album Fractured, but left off that album because they didn’t fit the flow that Duda wanted to achieve. His instincts were right, as the resulting album was excellent, and you can read about it here.
As Duda explains, “these more classical pieces have been waiting for their own time which has now come”. So, now that these pieces have been more fully worked up, Under The Fragmented Sky has been released as a supplement to Fractured, but also with the intention of becoming an artistically independent release with its own character and identity.
“It’s a very unexpected and spontaneous release” says Duda. Initially, he had thought of releasing the Fractured track A Thousand Shards Of Heaven as a maxi-single, with a couple of the leftover tracks included. But on reflection, he felt that the leftover material was worth evolving further, resulting in an album’s worth of brand new music.
So has he produced a worthy sixth chapter in the Lunatic Soul legacy, or is it a case of sloppy seconds?
Well, one thing’s for sure, running for a mere 36 minutes it’s not an album that’s going to outstay its welcome. But then this seems to be a running theme at the moment, as Kscope label-mates TesseracT have also just released their new album Sonder, also clocking it at 36 minutes! (You can read my take on that album here.)
Let’s hope the record label isn’t starting to feel short-changed by its artists…..
Still, what this album may lack in length, is certainly made up by the quality of the music on offer. There are no great surprises here, if you’re already familiar with the earlier albums, with the expected mix of looped vocal parts, simple piano and keyboard lines, minimalist bass lines and sparse percussive effects.
It’s a very easy album to sink into, and manages the feat of offering a relaxing background listen if that’s your mood, or, you can approach it as an engaging exploration of sound, especially effective on headphones. The more you listen to it, the more layers you peel away and the greater the appreciation of how skilled Duda is at creating and building these pieces of music.
He seems to know instinctively how long to let a part continuously repeat before it outlives its effect on the listener, and then adds another layer of instruments or takes the music into a different direction without losing the piece’s momentum or the listener’s interest. And the effect is all the more enjoyable with an outstanding sound mix, with plenty of detail, clarity of treble and deep bass when it counts, all perfectly balanced and mastered at a sensible volume.
Under The Fragmented Sky is very much a collection of musical pieces though, rather than songs, and it has more in common with the largely instrumental third album Impressions, where there are no obvious or discernible melodies, but rather an enjoyable mix of sounds and rhythms.
However, if you consider that Duda’s next album will be with his Riverside bandmates, and will be focussed on more conventional song structures, then it does seem fitting that the closing track on this album – Untamed – is probably the nearest thing to a song on this release.
And it might represent a succinct and subtle way of telling listeners that he’s moving on from the traumas that inspired the past two solo albums, and is ready to commit to the next chapter of Riverside.
Duda’s experience and skill as a composer and arranger continues to evolve with each new Lunatic Soul album, as does his confidence to experiment and gently push further out of his comfort zone. He plays every instrument here, with the exception of drums on the closing track, and then pulls the whole thing together before the mixing team sit down with it.
Under The Fragmented Sky is another fascinating step forward for this respected musician, and it’ll be very interesting to see what his learning curve on these last two solo albums brings to the next Riverside album which will be out later this year.