Review: Afterthoughts (2013; Kscope Records). It can be ordered here.
Listening to a Nosound album (original, live, or compilation–they come in every variety and always possess the very essence of quality itself) is so much more than a moment or an event. It’s an immersion into something immeasurably deep and wide and beautiful. It’s a mystery. It’s liturgy. It’s possibilities. It is eternity.
Looking over the reviews of the first three studio albums–Sol29 (2005), Lightdark (2008), and A Sense of Loss (2009)–a few words appear repeatedly and unmistakably. Ethereal, intelligent, contemplative, flowing, organic, psychedelic, spacey (as in Pink Floyd space rock), progressive, artful, ambient, flowing, melodic, painted, cinematic.
If one had to label the music of Nosound, it might be something like: neo-classical, Hollis-esque, Shoe-gaze prog. Certainly, the spirit of Mark Hollis lingers over the music of Nosound, but, as with most bands loved and admired by Progarchy, Nosound is its own band, and the sound it creates is its own.
Some have labeled the music of Nosound minimalist, but this is simply false. While it might have the feel of Philip Glass at times, Nosound is about a wall of sounds as well as about the absence of sounds. Just as Arvo Part uses amplifiers when necessary to make the music he needs, so does Nosound. If a synthesizer is called for, a synthesizer is used. But, if a real stringed instrument is appropriate, the stringed instrument is used. Everything has its place, and every thing supports every other thing.
Afterthoughts (2013; Kscope)
In less than a week, Kscope will be releasing the fourth studio album from Nosound, Afterthoughts. When it was first announced, I ordered the three cd-version immediately. Very graciously, Nosound sent us a promo-advanced copy of Afterthoughts. I’m not sure how many times I’ve listened to it over the past week and a half. It is every bit as captivating as the first three albums, and I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated and been made better by my immersion in this latest work. It is a glory, to be sure.
It is certainly Nosound, but it is Nosound plus.
The nine songs of the album are: In My Fears, I Miss the Ground, Two Monkeys, The Anger Song, Encounter, She, Whatever You Are, Paralysed, and Afterthought.
As always, the album ebbs and flows. Though I grew up on the treeless and waterless plains of Kansas, I imagine the music best represents the ebb and flow of the tide. Just as with the ocean, one must imagine creatures populating the water well beyond anything we know, and we must imagine the edge of the world just over the horizon. When reaching it though, one does not fall into nothingness but into everythingness, life itself.
The words flow as beautifully and as meaningfully as the music itself, and the lyrics only take one further into this sacramental reality. The listener feels the joys, the anguish, and the incomprehensibilities experienced by the lead singer, Giancarlo Erra.
While every song presents and exists in its own form of majesty, the album especially reaches its highest highs in the second half. From the longings of Encounter (the fifth track), Afterthoughts climbs to ever greater heights, reaching eternity sometime in the middle of the eighth track, Paralysed.
The mastermind behind the band, Roman Giancarlo Erra, is as intelligent and as talented as he is kind. An artist in the purest sense, Erra writes for himself, but he never forgets his audience. Yet, unlike so many in the larger rock and pop world, Erra keeps that sense of traditional relationship between artist and patron (his fans and those who purchase his CDs). He never–in any way, shape, or form–dumbs down his art, but he remains responsive to his audience, incorporating them joyfully in his own art.
As the greatest of Anglo-American poets, T.S. Eliot, explained at the very end of World War I:
And he is not likely to know what is to to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living.
Though 94 years early, Eliot must have been writing about Erra. Certainly, we can consider Eliot’s voice prophetic. Erra embraces the moment while never forsaking what he has inherited. Indeed, Erra willfully and lovingly embraces the past in the present, and the present in the future. As with Eliot in the greatest work of art of the twentieth century, The Four Quartets, Erra stands in the middle of his art and looks outward. He observes the world from within the miracle.
Unlike so many those pretentious artists of the last century who often stood aloof from all of those around them, Erra, again, invites all listeners into this world of majesty. They might not accept his invitation, but the invitation remains, nonetheless.
As I would with Greg Spawton, Matt Stevens, and Robin Armstrong, I would give much to sit down and have a drink with Giancarlo. It wouldn’t matter if we had a coffee, a beer, or a glass of red wine–the conversation, I assume, would be spectacular and meaningful. We’d certainly talk about music, but, if I’m judging Erra correctly, we’d talk about everything under the sun and, perhaps, beyond.
Probably, Erra’s work will be remembered someday more as an early 21st century equivalent of Arvo Part and Henryk Gorecki rather than it will be with, say, Marillion or Oceansize (both bands I love).
Regardless, the work of Nosound is a must-own for any person celebrating this current return of prog music or any real lover of any kind of music. And, not just Afterhoughts, but every studio album by Nosound. You can also go beyond the studio albums as well. Happily, Erra never stops releasing EPs and other assorted good things. At the Pier, Clouds, The World is Outside, and The Northern Religion of things are well worth owning as well.
And, perhaps most interesting of all is the mixing of Nosound and No-man in what is arguably the finest name ever for a band, Memories of Machines. Erra’s music has its own place within the current revival of prog, and it’s as important as the music of Big Big Train, Gazpacho, Matt Stevens, The Reasoning, Neal Morse, and a number of other acts Progarchy cherishes.
Thank you, Nosound. You ably capture the essence of the music of the spheres, and we living in this vale of tears can do nothing but smile and appreciatively wait for more glimpses of all that is eternal.