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The Psychedelic Ensemble - 2010 - "The Art of Madness"

(56:28, Musea Records)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Prolog Ecstasy 5:40
2.  Panic 3:08
3.  Fantasy 4:26
4.  Dream 2:26
5.  Delusion 4:18
6.  Moon Mad 9:07
7.  Despair 7:23
8.  Apparition 4:01
9.  Breakdown 5:24
10. Sedation 3:32
11. Revelation Epilog 7:03


‘The Psychedelic Ensemble’ – all instruments and vocals

Prolusion. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is a solitary US-based composer and multi-instrumentalist who has deliberately chosen to stay anonymous. His debut effort was initially self-released in 2009, but following negotiations with a number of record labels the artist decided to sign for Musea Records, which issued this CD on its sub-label Musea Parallele in 2010.

Analysis. The subject of art and madness has been an ongoing topic in the world of art for a long time, and at least most modern cultures readily acknowledge that there is a thin border that divides divine creativity and insanity. The mysterious figure behind the moniker The Psychedelic Ensemble apparently became intrigued by the topic following an exhibition at the Living Museum in New York in 2008, and subsequently started working on what was to become his debut album after that experience. "The Art of Madness" is a concept album dealing with that topic, and much to the joy of aficionados of this kind of production it's constructed as one continuous composition. The chosen genre for this venture is probably best described as art rock, mostly made up of relatively laidback symphonic progressive, often closing in on a sound rather similar to what a band like Pink Floyd explored in the second half of the ‘70s. More energetic symphonic territories are explored as well though, and with Apparition we're also treated to a piece with classical chamber music as the stylistic foundation, albeit liberally spiced with keyboards and featuring a myriad of subtle dissonant and disharmonic textures not that prevalent in the genre at the core of this particular part of the composition. Most of this creation has a strong emphasis on harmony and melody. Richly textured arrangements are common features throughout, where dampened guitars and lighter, often lush, tangents provide the main contrasting element. Careful but frequent use of dissonances and disharmonies is the main effect utilized, mostly to give a musical voice to the state of mind and soul we commonly describe as insanity or madness, which by and large is a rather logical choice I'd imagine. Heavy guitar riffs take the lead on a few select occasions to add additional darkness and gloom to the proceedings, first and foremost on the part named Moon Mad, while instrumental bursts are effectively used throughout, adding dramatic flair. The various parts and themes explored contain many fine passages that might be described in minute detail, like some intriguing guitar and organ harmonies and clever use of spirited bass lines supporting gentle but richly layered keyboard textures, but overall this isn't essential when describing this composition. Details worth noting are that the distorted electric guitars tend to be placed back in the mix, while the acoustic and undistorted electric forays are given a more prominent place in the arrangements. The soloing tends to be of the atmospheric variety, with ones provided by the guitar often reminiscent of David Gilmour's in sound and expression. The overall sound is warm, tends to be somewhat subdued, and the composer opts for the use of a sophisticated approach rather than a boundary-breaking and highly challenging one.

Conclusion. The Psychedelic Ensemble has made a promising and rather intriguing initial effort with "The Art of Madness", and in terms of a target audience I'd imagine that those who have a soft spot for mid-‘70s Pink Floyd might be ones who will find the CD to be most interesting. But those with a general liking for elaborate art rock made with subtle finesse might also want to find out more about this disc, in particular if they are generally interested in concept albums.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 7, 2010
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Musea Records
The Psychedelic Ensemble


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