Dimitri Toonen, Leave My Mind Sometimes, November 20, 2020
Tracks: 1. Shameless (6:41), 2. Not Home Today (4:01), 3. Ganges Story Part I: Tragedy (9:49), 4. The Destruction of You (2:27), 5. Leave My Mind Sometimes (5:43), 6. Us (4:16), 7. Ganges Story Part II: The Other Place (2:23), 8. The Day I Stopped (9:56), 9. Desolation Suite I: Early Days (2:12), 10. Desolation Suite II: Choices (7:45), 11. Desolation Suite III: A Dark Chapter (9:27)
Dutch artist Dimitri Toonen’s new album Leave My Mind Sometimes was a pleasant surprise as we start to wrap up the year in music here at Progarchy. It ended up being one of the best releases of 2020. Toonen’s main instrument is guitar, but this isn’t a “guitar album.” Rather the music supports the stories the songs tell. The album is structured in a way similar to Steven Wilson’s The Raven that Refused to Sing. The music also happens to be in that vein of progressive rock.
Apart from the drums, Toonen plays all the instruments on the record, and he wrote all the lyrics. Acoustic and electric guitar are prominent, but synths, bass, and drums play an important role as well. Toonen is an excellent guitarist with a fantastic electric tone. His acoustic work is also exceptional, adding a warmness and richness to the overall sound. Toonen’s vocal delivery provides an emotional touch to his lyrics, and the frequent vocal harmonies add depth.
The biggest musical influence I notice is Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, although his music isn’t quite as dark as Wilson’s can be. There are also similarities to the work of someone like Bjørn Riis and Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief). Despite those similarities, Toonen clearly makes his music his own. He isn’t copying anyone. Rather he’s expressing his stories in a way that bears the influence of the music he finds moving.
Toonen’s lyrical content can be pretty heavy, but I don’t find that Leave My Mind Sometimes leaves me emotionally drained after listening to it. I love Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson’s solo work, but a close listen to those albums requires a lot from the listener. Nevertheless Toonen brings passion to the album both through the lyrics and the music. In particular, that punch into the soaring “home” in the lyrics “why didn’t you come home?” brings a powerful emotional impact to “Not Home Today.” The feelings of loss, loneliness, and rejection build over the course of that track to a beautiful crescendo.
A longer track like “Ganges Story Part I: Tragedy” has the chance to grow and mature with various musical movements. The music effortlessly moves in and out of heavy and calm moments in a way mastered by Porcupine Tree. Toonen has similarly mastered that effect, and it makes Leave My Mind Sometimes an interesting album on repeated listens. The final track, “Desolation Suite III: A Dark Chapter,” is a prime example of it. There’s a wonderful build-up to a really heavy moment that brings the album to completion before a brief calm ending. Over the entire album I find that Toonen inserts instrumental sections, often with a soulful electric or acoustic guitar solo, right when the listener needs a moment to reflect.
The album has a cohesive flow, making the shorter tracks blend into the whole. “Ganges Story Part II: The Other Place” acts as a sort of brief reprise to “Ganges Story Part I: Tragedy,” thus helping to knit the album together. The similar musical themes helps move the listener along on a journey through these stories.
Overall Leave My Mind Sometimes is a mature and full-sounding album. The fact Toonen did everything but the drums himself on the record is a testament to his talent. There’s a wonderful balance to the music and the vocals that can often be lost in purely solo endeavors. Toonen avoided that pitfall and created a beautiful album filled with excellent music and compelling stories. I highly recommend you give this record a listen. I found it to be the best release of the final months of the year, and I’ll definitely keep it on frequent rotation.