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Mark Hollis - Mark Hollis CD (album) cover

MARK HOLLIS

Mark Hollis

 

Crossover Prog

3.78 | 51 ratings

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Lewian
5 stars Mark Hollis died 25 February 2019 and that made me revisit this album that in the years before I had played much less than the material of his former band Talk Talk. Undeservedly, I must say. On re-listening to it I find many of the same qualities on it that make the last two Talk Talk albums landmarks of progressive music, with a bit of development in the direction of more transparency and somewhat thinner arrangements. There are some striking similarities, of course Hollis' voice and his withdrawn approach to singing, but also the natural and vulnerable sounds of guitar, harmonica, piano, clarinets etc. Even the straight drumming, although not by Lee Harris this time (which is hard to believe when listening to this) sounds very much like Talk Talk's later days.

Although slow and calm, this album is not quite as silent as some other reviews could make you believe - Hollis has not become a second Asmus Tietchens or Richard Chartier. Most songs have a clear structure and development. They are laid back and some have very minimalist parts in between, but they don't break down, and some parts of the album have got into my "inner ear" through the backdoor after months and years and have become intriguingly familiar without playing the album all too much.

The "silence" reputation probably comes from the fact that the listener has to wait 17 seconds into the first track before the music actually starts. "The Colour of Spring" (not taken from the earlier Talk Talk album of the same title) is a calm song mostly carried by the piano, with a melody that grows if you give it some time, and some nicely meandering, surprising but still organic chord changes. "Watershed" is started by the drums and has a very different, acoustic guitar oriented instrumentation, gentle and pleasant. "Inside Looking Out" starts again with the piano. Like much of the album it has a very classical, chamber musical feel. It takes the voice more than 1 1/2 minutes to start and the arrangement changes at that point and is carried on by the acoustic guitar with some more instruments joining in later. There is an instrumental part that goes in different directions harmonically, before coming back, leading into even another harmonic place in the end. "The Gift" is piece with strong rhythmic spine, this time faster and well supported by the tasteful double bass. At the end of "The Gift" and then the beginning of "A Life (1895-1915)" there are masterfully composed gentle clarinet/bassoon parts; actually the often stunningly beautiful use of woodwind is a distinctive feature throughout the album., particularly in "A Life", which reveals its compositional intricacy with some patience. "Westward Bound" is another guitar-oriented song without drums and a very withdrawn melody and voice. This one is for me the weakest track, although it fits well into the atmosphere of the album. "The Daily Planet" is another woodwind-driven highlight, probably the highest one, with a mysterious chamber prelude that is after 50 seconds artfully woven into a rhythm. After 2 1/2 minutes then the voice, coming in like sunrise. This has the most intense singing but also fairly long instrumental passages with a harmonium solo reminding us of the The Colour of Spring album. Once more Hollis guides the on the surface transparent and repetitive harmonies carefully away from the old paths whenever an impulse is needed. The last song, "A New Jerusalem", is on the more vulnerable side again, until it changes tack around about 2:20 with a short jazzy rhythmic part that doesn't stay for long before the listener can again enjoy delicate woodwind composition, and silence returns around 90 seconds before the official end.

The album maybe even more difficult to get into than Talk Talk's last two, at least for those who don't share from the beginning Mark Hollis' philosophy about playing notes only as much as really needed, and who don't have the antennas for all that subtlety, but ultimately it is once more underlining his uniqueness, and who has the patience to explore it will be rewarded with the potential for healing (whatever there is to heal) and occasionally almost unbearable beauty. Nothing less than five stars will do. Rest in piece, gentle man! Too bad that there is hardly anything more after this album, but maybe there wasn't anything anymore that could follow this.

Lewian | 5/5 |

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