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Ludi, John: Mistakes Have Been Made / Soft War: Soft War / The Quiet Earth Orchestra: The Quiet Earth Orchestra / World Without Words 2

I don’t know if you’re ready for this shock news, but John Ludi has retired. Not, I’m guessing from whatever pays his bills - although I might be wrong there and if he has, well done him - but from music. I know, I know, what you’re asking is, John who? He made music? How can he retire when we haven’t even met him yet?

Well, that’s because John Ludi has been making largely unheard and unheralded music for a long time. Years, decades, yes, let’s go with decades, I doubt we or he can claim longer than that. No matter the length of the compositional time, this guy has been busy. Very busy and by way of cashing in his chips before he ever really sat at the table, he’s not only been sending out physical copies of four of his albums which come from three of his different projects for folks like me to hear, but also those four albums plus another six on a multi-media disc. Phew!

Now, in truth, I’m only going to focus on the four physical albums here because listening, digesting, differentiating and then writing about 10 albums from an artist I knew zero about previously is a pretty mammoth task, but safe to say that having sampled what I have, to delve deeper is something I am emboldened to do over time.

The three projects covered are a ‘solo’ album (I think everything could really be classed as a solo album, but you get what I/he means) that sits in, for want of a better phrase, progressive singer songwriter territory, Soft War, which is maybe best summed up as progressive pop, and The Quiet Earth Orchestra where one album sits in classic 70s prog surrounds and the other a more instrumental synth situation.

Titled Mistakes Have Been Made, the John Ludi album, as all of these recordings do, emits a dissatisfaction and in many ways disconnection from the modern world and a lot of its views. Lyrically a lot of ground is covered and agree with John or not, everything is thought provoking on a level that makes you nod in appreciation. Musically, for me, this is the least engaging of the four physical albums, with a simpler bent than elsewhere highlighting the restrictions these recordings were made under, and, for me, the main weakness across three of the outings, John’s voice. It’s not that the singing is bad, more that it doesn’t really add much colour in my eyes and when the first three songs on this disc are all pretty slow and expressive in nature, a voice with a little more power or passion could have made a whole lot of difference. As it is, Mistakes Have Been made is maybe the most readily accessible, if hardly mainstream, album of the quartet and yet it’s not my favourite. (3/5)

The connection between the previous album and the Soft War outing is slight, at best, and barely existent at worst, but that’s no bad thing. Here this self titled effort sits in a much more rock oriented vein, although when the sampled Led Zeppelin beat kicks the album into life, the countrified bent that follows on “There Is The Wind” isn’t really what you expect to happen next. Oddly neither is it particularly representative of what follows, where everything from The Police to REM are bitten off, chewed around and then spat out into a sound that doesn’t sit all that close to either of them. “Fate” is maybe the best example of this style, with its lively beat popping and mood constantly hopping, whereas the pulsating “Together And Isolated” adds a Talking Heads bent to proceedings to pretty good effect. Personally I’m not so sold on the likes of “Futile Rockets Fail”, where an acoustic setting brings back some of the main issues I’ve mentioned previously regarding the vocals. In terms of style I’d suggest that Soft War is the album that I’d reach for least often from this foursome and yet if any of the above floats your boat, then I’d suggest giving it a go. (2.5/5)

Then come the two albums from The Quiet Earth Orchestra, which you might expect to stand close to together sound wise due to them coming form the same project, and they do, but then they don’t. The self titled offering finds John behind the mic, while World Without Words 2 is fully instrumental, however, the former contains, for me, the best vocal performance of the three albums here to feature lyrics, John much more engaging vocally when he’s being forceful and punctuating the more sprawling music. Keys and synths often dominate, but there’s also some tasty guitar work thrown in for good measure, with opening cut “History Ends Here” a truly enigmatic introduction to the album where a strange but welcome melding of Saga and Jean Michel Jarre works in a much better way than you might expect. “Simple” adds a more restrained drama to the overall outlook, while “Singularity” hints at an 80s Rush sound without ever relying on it too strongly to gets its message across. (3.5/5)

It’s World Without Words 2 where things, for me, really come together, a moody landscape of more electro-based sprawls allowed to grow and breathe in a way that really makes them instantly involving, yet capable of evolving into broader ideas as you get to know them, with pieces like “Optimism Unlimited” showing off the true musical skills that this clearly talented musician has at his disposal. The track names may make this all feel a little convoluted and, dare I say, pretentious, as they alternate between the “Optimism…” pieces and those from “The Thing In The Wood…” but as a musical experience, thankfully the flow and instrumental storytelling comes across as much more natural. This is an album I can see myself going back to regularly, with the clever construction of the tracks and album as a whole making for a varied, involving and impressive journey. (4/5)

As you’ll have gathered, my own personal tastes lead me to the more progressive end of what John Ludi has to say, and my lack of connection with his voice makes the instrumental selections even more appealing. Although I’d also add that through the lack of lyrics on World Without Words 2, the compositions are made to work harder to fill that void and everything benefits as a result.

There are hundreds - no thousands - of talented musicians out there who never really manage to get their music heard, so hats off to John Ludi for, even during his ‘retirement’, making efforts to make sure that his work finds an audience. There are many ways to explore his music, with lots of it to be found on YouTube or SoundCloud and a quick click of the link below will open up some of those options and a whole lot more detail about this artist than I have been able to impart here.

Track Listing
John Ludi: Mistakes Have Been Made

1. Kings 2. The Traveler 3. Wild Is The Wind 4. Everybody Here Gets Stupider 5. Frozen Souls 6. Go Along To Get Along 7. Goodbye Catbird 8. This Time 9. The Caretaker 10. Whisper In The Wind 11. Weightless Saint 12. Mistakes Have Been Made 13. Afterlife

Soft War: Soft War

1. There Is The Wind 2. Fate 3. Absent Memory 4. Supplication 5. For This We Bleed 6. Fear Of Flying 7. Relentless Love 8. Futile Rockets Fail 9. Together And Isolated 10. Sense And Denial 11. Tiny Murders 12. Futile Rockets Fall 13. Angry Blue Planet 14. Win

The Quiet Orchestra: The Quiet Orchestra

1. History Ends Here 2. God 3. Limitations 4. Simple 5. The Prophet 6. Singularity 7. Slow Down 8. The Madness Of Crowds 9. Cicades 10. The Prophet’s Theme

The Quiet Earth Orchestra: World Without Words 2

1. The Thing In The Woods 2. Optimism Unlimited 3. The Thing In The Woods Buys A Guitar 4. Winter Cedes To Spring 5. The Thing In The Woods Sits On The Seashore And Ponders Eternity 6. Optimism Interrupted 7. The Thing In The Woods Meditates In A Cave 8. An Eventual Ascent 9. The Thing In The Woods Adopts A Couple Kittens 10. Optimism Terminated 11. The Thing In The Woods Orders Chinese Takeout 12. Brontosaurus 13. The Thing In The Woods Contemplates The Interlocking Cycles Of Time

Added: June 4th 2023
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: John Ludi online
Hits: 1066
Language: english

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