September is always a month of anticipation for me; I count down the days until the start of the football season, as well as the cooler fall weather and the afforded excuse to wear flannel. Adding to that, it seems every three years will bring the release of a new album from THE CONTORTIONIST. And everything pales in comparison to my elation for new music, especially when it’s from the artists that produced my pick for top album of 2014. Clairvoyant, the sextet’s fourth album for eOne Music/Good Fight Music hits stores September 15.
This one picks up where its predecessor left off, continuing the motif of embracing atmosphere over brashness. However, the album expands further into the phonic realm heard on Language, creating a diverse terrain, plush with walls of sound and meadows of ambient melody. The result is a dynamic composition that falls on varying spectral extremes, standing as complex as it does open, and as boisterous as it is airy and surreal.
The disc is bookended by “Monochrome”, in both “Passive” and “Pensive” versions, with the former providing an instrumental build to the climactic proceedings to follow and the latter adding vocals as well as tying in elements heard on the other eight tracks. “Godspeed” enters the ears with a candid nature, providing a forthright and up-tempo glimpse at the more accessible side of their music. This can also be felt on “Reimagined”, a simpler, more stripped down piece than what is generally offered by the group; however, that simplicity allows the vocal to shimmer graciously. The title track traverses the peaks and valleys that encapsulate what the band has become, layering subtle elements along a foundation of heavier ones.
The midpoint of the record, aptly titled “The Center”, finds the fellas constructing a towering monolith from thinly layered segments. It’s a droning kaleidoscope, playing out like a montage of some distant memory. To put it frankly, the song encompasses the aural equivalent of how it feels to have a psychedelic trip. “Absolve” stands out as one of the more poignant mellow tracks; and it is about this time when the listener realizes that save for a few background sections, buried deep in the mix, there is, essentially, no screaming vocal to be found.
However, this is not problematic, as Mike Lessard’s voice can easily support the needed sonant delivery. This is made evident on “Relapse”, a song that subtly croons through softer versus, but features a hook that could easily catch major attention on radio airwaves. Moving towards the end of the record, the group plays with minor chords and dissonance on “Return to Earth”, the album’s second single and one of the moodier selections offered.
It’s interesting to see the trajectory followed by THE CONTORTIONIST since their debut. The group has completely rewritten the definition of their artistic identity, which very well may be the definition of what progressive music is: the ability to channel different directions and influences to create a hybrid style of music that transcends definition or labels. Clairvoyant is metal, but it’s not. Though it’s not quite a rock record, either. It’s something far beyond and everything in between.
Every piece is precisely situated with clear, crisp calculation. Plain and simple, it’s a truly phenomenal piece of music. In fact, my only wish was that there had been a few more spots for Mike Lessard to showcase the more resonant side of his clean voice. Still, this one is perfect. It’s the record that you need in your collection. Thank me later.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM