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Lunatic Soul: Lunatic Soul

Lunatic Soul is the solo project of Mariusz Duda, the bass player and singer of the acclaimed Polish band Riverside. This self titled debut is quite far removed from the music of Riverside but there are some common threads linking the two together namely the vocals of Duda and the album's dark theme. If you are expecting music in a heavy vein you will be surprised with this release as there are no electric guitars to be found. Do not let that scare you off. I do not miss them in the least, and I appreciate the crunch of a guitar as much as the next person.

What does come across loud and clear is the darkness that pervades much of this release. This is a concept album about life after death. Do we exist in the afterlife and what becomes of us after we die? These are imposing questions and you can see how the subject matter is somewhat foreboding. This album tackles large concepts much in the same way as the first three Riverside albums.

For this release Duda, besides vocals and bass, contributes acoustic guitar, percussion, kalimba and keyboards. We see just how talented and varied Duda is as a musician. He is able to blend a variety of musical styles including gothic, folk, ambient, jazz and rock and make it sound very nice indeed. He also has help from various guest musicians providing drums, percussion, flutes, keyboards, Hammond organ and e-bow. Although the music is mellow it does not mean there is no intensity here, actually, quite the contrary. I really like the build up of percussion and keyboards which often creates lush walls of sound, and contrasts beautifully with the more softer parts. This is a record of many themes and moods and while not overly complex, everything comes together exactly as it should, with no wasted passages or notes. Acoustic guitar is used extensively to glue these pieces together, while keyboards, percussion and sound effects help solidify the sound. A special mention must be made of Duda's voice. As we would expect, his voice is in fine form, varying from soft and pastoral to more intense and angry passages.

The album's first track "Prebirth" is a short instrumental piece featuring Middle Eastern motifs and nightmarish sound effects, which completely suit the album's dark theme. "The new Beginning" boasts excellent percussion and lovely chant-like background vocals with intermittent flute passages. The build up of percussive sounds adds to the intensity, contrasting with the laid back vocal approach. The distorted and clear vocal delivery in "Summerland", along with effective layered vocals add to the song's emotion. The song's sparse arrangement adds to the feeling of darkness and desolation the song conveys. The lyrics of Duda question people's motivation in the darkest of times:

Black procession in the rain
Lovely brand new hearse
Everyone cries
Everyone cares
Or maybe just pretends

And Duda goes on to sing:

Cold at heart
Thought they were your best friends
Tears & flowers
From the one
You never would expect

Perfectly capturing the essence of loss and the cold heart of humanity.

The album's title track offers another slab of atmospheric bliss and is one of the album's best songs. Poignant keyboards, subtle Hammond, the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar and some well placed sound effects bring a Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree feel into the mix. Duda's vocals are some of his strongest yet, varying in degrees of feeling and intensity. This is emotional stuff. The strong drumming of Wawrzyniec Dramowicz adds to the song's flavour. There are other songs I could praise as there really is no filler to be had.

I consider this to be a fine work of art. If I could compare it to other albums, Opeth's Damnation rings a bell. Not that it really sounds like that album, but both albums are heavily acoustic orientated and at times remind me of Floyd's softer works.

So there it is in a nutshell. If you like any of the bands mentioned and appreciate calm yet intense music with a dark theme, do yourself a favour and get this release. You can thank me later.

Track Listing:
1. Prebirth
2. The New Beginning
3. Out on a Limb
4. Summerland
5. Lunatic Soul
6. Where the Darkness is Deepest
7. Near Life Experience
8. Adrift
9. The Final Truth
10. Waiting For the Dawn

Added: April 5th 2009
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 4711
Language: english

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Lunatic Soul: Lunatic Soul
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-04-05 12:57:30
My Score:

Lunatic Soul is a new outlet for vocalist/bassist Mariusz Duda to express himself and experiment with different sounds and songwriting systems. It differs vastly from Riverside, and rightly so. I have always believed that artists' solo projects should operate outside of the patterns of their respective bands, and in that aspect Lunatic Soul does not disappoint me.

Built around largely acoustic and psychedelic sounds, the album maintains a mellow flow, leading to plenty of instrumental breaks and making use of a wide array of instrumentation. The absence of electric guitars has given way to myriad synth textures, performed brilliantly by both Riverside keyboardist Michal Lapaj and the insanely versatile Maciej Szelenbaum, who is also credited as a songwriter on some of the tunes. Besides keyboards, he contributes piano, harmonica, and flute as well to broaden the width of the compositions, best noted on "The New Beginning," which stands out for his subdued flute arrangement alongside Duda's soft, fragile whisper-like singing.

Those familiar with Indukti know how diverse the drumming on their songs is. Wawrzyniec Dramowicz provides the ethnic percussion and tribal drum beats to great effect, deepening the essence of "Summerland" where Duda's vocal lines constantly shift from Porcupine Tree-like processed parts to clean, dark vocalizations. There is more -- the dramatic finale of the beautifully performed "Out on a Limb," where a female voice softy cries beneath the ubiquitous acoustic guitars transpires atmosphere matched only by those like Ulver.

For lack of a more apt comparison, parts of the album recall Opeth's Damnation, utilising a blend of Hammond organs, eerie percussion, and throbbing bass lines. This all culminates in a thick soundscape punctuated with dark themes and lyrics which revolve around the theme of death and afterlife. None of the tunes actually 'rock' in the sense of Riverside, but all of them are painstakingly composed, hardly containing Duda's restrained vocal outbursts on the title track. Though, on the whole, the album retains its dreamy feel and pace, best highlighted on the multi-textured "Adrift," complete with a pretty e-bow motif courtesy of Quidam guitarist Maciej Meller. The way the tune grows from minimal acoustic passages to a huge yet strangely soothing and beautiful soundworld proves that Duda is a masterful songwriter.

It would be a shame if this remained a one-off project.

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