"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

An Extraordinary Piece of Music

The Inconsolable Secret, the new two-CD release by the progressive rock group Glass Hammer is now out, and I can summarize my reaction with a simple exclamation:

Wow!

The album went on sale yesterday (sound samples are available here), but I have had a copy for about ten days. (Full disclosure: I helped edit The Lay of Lirazel, the lengthy narrative poem written by composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Steve Babb, on which the concept of The Inconsolable Secret is based, and which is included as a .pdf file on disc 1 of the set.)

The music is composed by Fred Schendel and Steve Babb, and the lyrics are by Babb. Schendel plays numerous keyboards and guitars, and Babb sings and plays keyboards and bass guitar. Matt Mendians is the band's superb drummer, and Walter Moore sings primary lead vocals, with Susy Bogdanowicz providing additional voice parts. Several guest players provide additional instrumental and vocal accompaniment.

I have listened to disc one about a half-dozen times now, and am finally beginning to assimilate it. It includes only two songs, one of which is about 15 1/2 minutes long and the other almost 25 minutes in length. Both songs are highly complex, with musical themes arising and recurring in varying instrumentation and unexpected combinations. The disc includes the basic progressive rock setup employing drums, bass guitar, a wide variety of keyboards, guitars, a variety of male and female vocals, etc. The meters change unpredictably, and the vocal melodies are anything but simple. Gaining a full understanding of the two songs has proven highly challenging to me. However, I am coming to the conclusion that the two songs are truly brilliant—classics of the form. I believe that I will require another half-dozen listens of that disc before I can review the album for a broader public. But I will do so soon.

I've just listened to disc two for the first time, and all I can say about it is that it is stunningly beautiful. This disc has grabbed me immediately. Combining very complex progressive rock instrumentation with beautifully written and arranged orchestral sections, the eleven songs of disc two hang together perfectly as a long musical suite following the narrative of The Lay of Lirazel. The musical styles on this disc range from intelligent art rock to classical and early romantic music, with several passages reminiscent of early twentieth century composers such as Ravel and Debussey. It has the beauty of great classical music.

Disc two appears to me to be a new step in the realm of popular music. It is that important. All told, The Inconsolable Secret strikes me as being something very, very special indeed, a true work of art. I greatly look forward to being able to assimilate it sufficiently to write about it in detail.

To Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, and the rest of Glass Hammer: Bravo!

1 comment:

Scott Carson said...

Sounds just like Spinal Tap in their The Sun Never Sweats period.