IZZ, Everlasting Instant (Doone, 2015). Tracks: Own the Mystery; Every Minute; Start Again; If It’s True; The Three Seers; The Everlasting Instant; Keep Away; Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV; Illuminata; Sincerest Life; Like a Straight Line.
Birzer rating: 9/10
Concluding their trilogy—which includes the brilliant The Darkened Room and Crush of Night—Everlasting Instant is full of wonders. Though I rarely employ labels, this album makes me wonder if this is more art rock or more prog rock? Like much of the music once made by Talk Talk and now by Gazpacho and Elbow, IZZ produces densely layered and atmospheric albums, mysteries in and of themselves. Lyrically, the album offers the highest of poetic visions, calling us to things much greater than this realilty.
Perhaps most impressively, IZZ sounds at once like a group of very talented individual musicians as well as a cohesive and intense community of like-minded persons. Few bands can balance the individual talent of the musician with the force of the group as a collective. IZZ can and does. And, it does it very well.
Electric piano begins the first track, Own the Mystery, accompanied by a soft but firm male voice. Drums and a woodwind join at just under the minute mark. There’s a John Barleycorn and Colour of Spring feel to this opening track, but IZZ is never derivative, simply respectful of those who came before and also brimming with taste. A woman’s voice joins, and a dialogue—not unbecoming an T.S. Eliot play—begins. Does age slow us down, or does it make us wise? Perhaps, at some level, it does both. Most importantly, do we “own the mystery,” accepting the beauty and flaws of ourselves and those we love? Or, do we simply glide through life?
Track two, “Every Minute” is instrumental, a short guitar- and keyboard-driven meditation, followed by “Start Again,” an actual rebirth of the album, truly a second beginning to this conclusion of the trilogy.
This rebirth, however, comes in darkness. Someone has abandoned us, left us to bleed, alone, and on the floor. In isolation, the protagonist cries in agony, but an agony that stems from the soul rather than the body.
If It’s True, the fourth song on the album, finds us in a skeptical nightclub of mellow upper-class tipsy folks, all awaiting papers from their lawyers.
“The Three Seers” begins with a Simon and Garfunkel vocal (gorgeous) and grand piano. Visions hover in the air. Are the visions fanciful or true? If the latter, a game change lingers in the room. The middle part of the song, interestingly enough, resembles some of Keith Emerson’s less over-the-top playing, the song reaching its apex a little over three minutes into it, as drums and spacey keyboards join. The Three Seers ends gently, moving without a break into the soft electronica of the title track. The voice is now female (actually two voices), and the song seems to put the listener in a faerie tale told in the nursery. Lyrically, the words continue to discuss “hovering in the air,” and the songs becomes full-out rock (IZZ style) at about 1:27. Swirling guitars and drums and bass blast forward, and the song reaches perhaps the most intense moment of the entire album.
Keep Away is another contemplative number, keyboards awash. Guitar and bass predominate about two and one half minutes into the song, and the bass, especially, resembles Chris Squire’s magnificent playing on 1975’s Fish Out of Water. As with almost every song on the album, a number of changes take place, include a middle section again resembling the best of ELP. To make it even more interesting, however, a strong female voice comes in during the ELP/electronica part of the song, warning us not to “wake the sleeper.” Further, as the voice of Sybil, she warns that one must “swallow his pride to save his soul.” Dante could not have stated it better.
Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV, of course, finishes the three earlier parts of “Can’t Feel the Earth.” The bass, again, is outstanding, sounding, however, more like Tony Levin than Squire here. A driving song, everything jams here: all of the instruments and the voices. The lyrics praise “inspiration” as the motive for greatness, beauty, and becoming.
Illuminata is a bizarre song. Still excellent, but truly bizarre. Again, throw in some ELP, musically. The reason it’s bizarre, however, has more to do with the lyrics than the music. The lyrics are at once blatant and esoteric. They plead for an honest evaluation of self, but the lyrics also claim this will lead to “illuminata”? I have no idea what this means, aside from the word being a form of Latin regarding revelation. Is this Catholic, new age, pagan? I have no idea, but I feel like it must matter—perhaps a critical point in the album.
The penultimate song, “Sincerest Life,” has a Jon Anderson atmosphere, and IZZ proclaims “this world is love.”
The final song, “Like a Straight Line,” a quiet piano and voice number that becomes quite theatric and hopeful, of course, concludes the trilogy. Again, while it’s clear that IZZ is proclaiming the never-ceasing love of some kind of holy figure, it’s equally impossible to know who that holy figure is. Is this Mary, Star of the Sea, Jesus, or someone else?
Everlasting Instant is an absolute gem. Of course, nothing IZZ does is unimportant, but this album is even great by IZZ standards. And those standards start near the top of Olympus. Still, Olympus might be accurate. The only real flaw of the album, and, hence, the 9/10, is simply that the lyrics are incomprehensible toward the end of the album. It’s one thing to be artful, but it’s quite another to be so open to any interpretation as to become meaningless. Let’s hope Galgano and co. explain a bit more what’s going on here. They don’t have to give away the store, but it would be nice to know the prices of the merchandise within.