Psychoanorexia by t (Thomas Thielen)

by Frank Urbaniak, Progarchist

Symphonic Modern Progressive Rock (we will skip the word Neo) with rich, dense instrumentation and melancholy lyrics/melodies for fans of Marillion-Brave Era, PG, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree (SD, LBS Era), Bowie, Floyd, VDGG.  

PsychoanorexiaRecommendation:  Highly Recommended

Art is a bitch, and so is literature – and music. They always present us worlds well out of reach – pipedream kingdoms of epic journeys, heroism, boundless yearning and lots of all the things we are, well, let’s face it, not. Art is, insofar, simply destructive for your everyday middle class John Doe. It makes him long for things he neither really wants or needs: danger, uncertainty, lovesickness, bleeding hearts, je ne sais quoi. – t on anti-matter poetry.

2013 is looking to be another great year for progressive music with Steve Wilson, Lifesigns, BBT, Riverside and Cosmograf all released by mid-March.  The sheer volume of quality releases makes it easy to overlook an artist who cannot easily be googled ( t ), has long gaps between releases and does little or no touring.  t /Thomas is classically educated in piano and voice, but switched to guitar early in childhood when he realized that ‘most girls in his class fancied guitar players’. Psychoanorexia is his fourth solo CD since leaving German art rock band Scythe, and he plays all instruments, sings, arranges, produces and mixes his work. His two most recent CDs, Voices and Anti-Matter Poetry, each about 3 years in the making, received critical acclaim in some quarters but failed to achieve the overall recognition they deserved. This is likely a result of two factors:

  • t music is not always an easy listen, but as Kinesis said, ‘t takes the listener into an alternate musical reality, and after the album concludes, you may need to pause and take several deep breaths before returning to waking reality’.  The music is sometimes dark and moody, offset by beautiful, melancholy melodies often delivered through heavily processed vocals and dense instrumentation so it is not a easy casual listen.
  • t is a deep thinker and a poet.  He focuses on the alienation we experience as society and technology advance, the impact on our relationships and our ability to stay linked and loved. Lost loves, disconnected lovers, feeling alone and alienated while being with someone, the multiple influences that affect our everyday lives and therefore our relationships is not always happy stuff.

From t:

“This is the time when ringtone applicability equals musical quality. This is the place where the greed of being a pop star has replaced the sublime experience of creativity. This is the era in which democracy means mass phenomena, not choices. When we have become too lazy even for subterfuges. And too busy to feel the loss.”

Psychoanorexia consists of only 4 songs, three epics and one shorter track. His lyrics –which fill several pages of the CD insert, are complex and interesting but not always easy to understand due to the amount of vocal processing. The opening track, the three-part The Aftermath of Silence, is a beautiful seventeen minute love story with very accessible melodies. Aftermath begins with a long and haunting instrumental passage leading to the refrain

‘ So this is the day, the sky too blue.’

Slow and sad, the opening moves through an interesting set of musical progressions reminiscent of Marillion, concluding with:

‘We came back, but we never recovered

We always reminded ourselves of each other’.

Kryptonite Monologues, the most complex and challenging track, continues the theme of love lost by abandoning the mood of the previous track with a frantic opening section named ‘Breakfast Cataclysm’. This is the most symphonic track, with hints of Yes, Van Der Graaf Generator and Crimson.  After a soaring instrumental section with some pounding drums and heavy guitar lead t moves to a bombastic operatic interlude he describes as part comedy (Monty Python), hinting at the absurdity of it all, collapsing into a lovely classical section named ‘Borrowed Time ‘with soaring strings.  Driving percussion builds to the haunting climax ‘The End of the World’ with echoes again of Marillion’s Brave.

The third track, The Irrelevant Lovesong could be a lost track from somewhere between Peter Gabriel’s Scratch and Us periods, and is a short, moving poem describing the growing gulf between two people:

‘All through the nights

Though cold and blind

I hold you here

But no, I love you not

No, I love you not’.

The CD concludes with Psychoanorexia in two movements, ‘Bedhalf Exiles ‘and ‘The Stand’.  The music again alternates between attack and reflect, the gates are locked and defenses up in an effort to save all that is worth saving.

‘Save our souls

And guard all the doors we closed

And promise to stake our hearts

Lest one of our oaths could last’.

The song ends with a barrage of frantic drums and a vocal chant reminiscent of mid-70’s Genesis in tone.   The journey is tiring but rewarding, challenging but gratifying.  I thought that his previous were highly personal stories, but here t seems to be more of an observer, reporting on the irony of our (or his) existence, the decay that comes with progress.

Psychoanorexia is modern symphonic rock at its finest, rich, inventive and always interesting. I love the dense instrumentation, vocal effects and overall presentation.  t’s biography mentions his obsession with sound and he is obviously proficient at all instruments, but it is his keyboard prowess and engineering skills are what enables him to deliver on his vision. t also uses electronic drums more effectively than most, and in many cases you are hard pressed to recognize them as electronic except the cymbals, which at times sound too separated (crash cymbals should not be left or right speaker only) and a minor quibble, sound a bit ‘spitty’.  Psychoanorexia  is an obvious labor of love by a unique musical poet and this outstanding effort by t is one I highly recommend.