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Maudlin Of The Well - Bath CD (album) cover

BATH

Maudlin Of The Well

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.18 | 211 ratings

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Figglesnout
5 stars maudlin of the Well - Bath

Let's start this one off with a glaring, yet somehow nearly completely truthful, hyperbole: This album is perfect.

Yes, maudlin of the Well--the origins of the slightly better known Kayo Dot, and an earlier brainchild of Toby Driver and his companion (and death growler) Jason Byron--have crafted something truly magnificent, an unequivocally mesmerizing piece of art, something nearly unmatched in music, something completely boundless and ominously beautiful and ethereal. Something spiritual and transcendent, illustrious and entirely unique; serene, placid, tranquil, hopeful, and yet, simultaneously dark, morose, and evil.

The point of all of those long-winded and pretentious adjectives was to show how pointless and repetitive words can become when trying to describe something unfathomable; something like this album is to me. It is the group's second studio album, preceding (despite their essentially simultaneous release) Leaving Your Body Map, this album's counterpoint and essential second disc; and proceeding the clunky, rough, developmental--and yet still satisfying--debut My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible. Where My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible was rough and unpolished, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map (both were recorded in the same sessions) sound smooth, highly polished--refined--and dreamlike, reflecting their subject matter in their production.

The obvious thing that makes this review difficult, at least singularly, is that both Bath and Leaving Your Body Map are essentially just two parts of one whole, which makes more than half of what I say about one applicable entirely towards the other, and also makes focusing on just the singular one tiresome. What makes this review a bit less difficult, however, is that, in my opinion, Bath is the superior album; therefore, it is a bit easier to lavish hefty, almost uncontrollable amounts of praise upon the work.

As I said, I consider both albums to be but two parts of the same unified whole, and many things prove this, from the musical links in sound from one to the other, the simultaneous recording sessions and releases, the similar production, the reflective album covers, the tracklistings even; all of these go to prove this idea; Bath and Leaving You Body Map are one album split among two discs; they even run the same length!

But what really drives this two parts of a singular whole nail of mine into the wood is the lyrical (and musical) subject matter, and it is this same nail that helps the album to root so deeply into the emotional strands of the listener.

Driver has said in several interviews that the music of maudlin of the Well was, to say the least, inspired by two phenomena known respectively as lucid dreaming and astral projection. The first is a relatively common thing concerning dreams in which the dreamer, at some point, consciously realizes he/she is dreaming, and, as a result (with practice), is able to manipulate said dream as if it were a new kind of reality. The phenomenon is common in lower states; almost everyone--usually in childhood--has had a lucid dream. What makes these dreams difficult is the retaining consciousness while sleeping bit; it takes years of practice, using meditative and circulative forms of relaxation and psychological manipulation, in order to attain the skill to dream for lengths of time, lucidly.

Astral projection is related, but a bit different. It involves dreams--lucid dreams even--but is a bit more spiritual in nature, and also places emphasis on your dream-self being an out-of-body persona in your dream, and in lucid dreams being a form of out-of-body experience, one which traverses through the unknown, or astral, plane. There's more to the both of them, but that's enough of a gist to get through what I'm trying to say.

Driver claims that the origins for the music of Bath and Leaving Your Body Map came from, or were entirely produced within, lucid dreams of his. There is one track in particular (Interlude 4 from Leaving Your Body Map) that Driver claims was entirely composed within a dream. The lyrical content, which is mostly handled by Byron, evolves from this concept of drawing inspiration of their music directly from and within dreams, dreams being treated as another world entirely, a world which, as Driver once put it, yields to an infinite abyss of art, from which our music is drawn (This quote is a paraphrase, as I can't remember the actual word-for-word quote.)

It is likely that, with all of this overblown explanation you have stopped reading for one of two reasons: the length is getting to you, or you cannot help but think something along the lines of Wow! Toby Driver sounds like a pretentious ass! Both of these accusations may be true, but I ask you to bear with me. The music will come, and, one of these days, I'll find a way to end this review!

Anyway, where was I? It comes to mind that this whole story of where the music is from plays a huge part in creating. the impact and quality of the music itself. Instead of a metal album(s), in Bath we have a deceptive, clever, elusive, dreamlike album; it is something that assuredly, in almost every way, reflects the concepts that influenced the making of the album(s). The reason I explained all of the album background is simply that it is essential in understanding the subject matter, tone, and REASONING behind these strange, mystic pieces of art. I never fully grasped what the music was trying to say on this album until I realized what Byron was Shakespearically rambling on about; until Driver's mystic musings started to make sense; until the shifting, surreal tone of the album found its niche in my mind; until I listened through headphones and absorbed the fantastical, mysterious production the album rides upon. After this, it all fell into place, piece by elusive puzzle piece. And now, after about two years of back and forth listening to these two albums, I comprehend them, and I love them. Only now do I fully realize the stroke of beauty each note of these albums configures and portrays.

My point is, Bath is simply beautiful. And now, after some 1,000 words of text, I think I am justified in reviewing the music on this album, and in taking a shot at describing what the album musically and stylistically represents.

So here goes. Now, the music:

maudlin of the Well is a metal band, assuredly. This is entirely impossible to deny, what with the screeching riffs that sometimes shine through, the death vocals which permeate several songs, the wailing, painful yelps of Driver that climatically send shiver after shiver down the spine, and the impregnable presence of the multiple guitar layers that drive the album. Taking this information in tow, it is important to note that Bath is actually the band's least metallic album.

The music on Bath is very relaxed, but is also very varied. At times, it is even very avant-garde and seemingly uncontrolled. At other times it is very straightforward and organized. The difference between these variations among the musical fray with this band, versus others that may be grouped into a similar genre, is that maudlin manages to retain control, structure, transitions, and yes, beauty throughout each genre-flop they attempt, and successfully. pull off. The music may hop around from an intense, loud, organ solo to a double-bass-flopping, screaming death nightmare, and then all again into an acoustic, water-drenched balled-of-sorts; however, rather than this sporadic style sounding unfocused, it all sounds very crystalline and natural, and this is a feat the band surely deserves to boast of. Nothing on this album or its counterpoint sounds forced or unstable; it all works brilliantly and cohesively.

And this is the style of the band's music. Unpredictable, surely, yet never uncontrolled. This is also, perhaps, what makes the album as surreal as it is. It's like seeing many fleeting mirages in a desert, and trying to recall them later; like dreaming several times throughout the night, of things evil and of things beautiful, things mysterious, and things concrete. It is, as I said sometime at the beginning of this too-lengthy review, (near) perfect.

From the opening post-rock of The Blue Ghost / Shedding Qliphoth to the concluding, and immensely emotional closer Geography, this albums shines an ethereal light upon the senses of the listener. Whether or not the listener believes in the controversial existence of the astral plane this music is said to have origins in, he/she will certainly feel as if he/she has visited it after a listen to this album (especially though headphones!).

The undeniable presence of the musicians certainly deserves a mention as well. The guitar-work is fantastic, and the colorful flutes, clarinets, saxophones, and what-have-you that dot the album are what give it its subtle beauty. the vocal work--all four styles (death growls, clean Driver vocals, Driver's screams, and female vocals on The Ferryman and Girl With A Watering Can)--is very good across the board, and as varied as the music itself. All of the pieces this album is built upon are utilized brilliantly, and work cohesively to form one beautiful whole.

The best song on the album, in my opinion, is Birth Pains of Astral Projection, which fully deserves the special mention I am giving it. It encompasses the complete style of the band in one, 10-and-a-half minute semi-epic of monstrous proportions. The song, or suite it could even be called, works through power and innocence, beauty and climax, dry and wet (sounds strange yes, but I believe you'd understand my use of these words if you heard the song), all of these things in one fell swoop. The results are impeccably immense, and ridiculously awesome, for lack of better words (I've used enough adjectives in this review already!)

I don't really know how exactly I should end this, as I've said so much. I'm scared to start writing in truth again, for fear that I'll never stop...So, I'm forcing myself now, for my own sake, this review's sake, and the reader's sake as well, to stop.

I've gushed enough over this amazing album, and all that's left to do is to assign it with the obvious rating it will receive. It's like a 9.8 or a 9.9 on my scale, and certainly 5 stars on this one, without question. The album is hard to find, and harder to endure on the first few listens, as it is rather slow-paced, some would say. The band will, sadly, continue to be under-appreciated, or rather under-heard, despite how many words I write about them. So I'll finally leave at that....

5 stars, without a question or doubt in my mind. Listen, hear, comprehend, and then you will love, and assuredly understand better what it is to live--what it is to dream.

Figglesnout | 5/5 |

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