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(54:21; Melodic Revolution Records)
Belgian band Transport Aerian started off as a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Hamlet Tinae, but by the time he had reached this his fifth album in 2017 he was still providing much of the instrumentation, but this time around he decided to bring in many guests to help him fill out the sound. To say this is dark, complex, ethereal and majestic actually doesn’t do justice to the music. It feels fragile, as if the glass has been shattered but not all pieces have fallen yet, and when they do then the listener will be required to walk barefoot over the shards. The themes of the album are dedicated to the emotions of the mind, torn by different assets of mental illness in the context of quickly developing the world on the brink of the war, social and economic catastrophe, and it certainly feels like the output of a broken mind. It also feels incredibly cinematic, and it wasn’t a surprise to discover that one piece of music, “The Abstract Symphony” (here in five parts) was a set of songs and instrumental pieces based on blind improvisation by those involved. Nobody knew what the other musician would play, as they were only given a theme to describe and photographs to emphasize the visual in the sound. These musicians include Paul Sax (Curved Air, Praying for The Rain), Elvya (Ayreon, Elvya), Marco Ragni (solo), Peter Matuchniak (Gekko Project), JoJo Razor (Gekko Project), Stef Flaming (Murky Red, Ocean 5), Darren Brush, Stefan Boeykens and Rachel Bauer. I know quite a few of these musicians, at least by their work, and found it hard to recognise their individual inputs such is the way their normal playing has been distorted by the demands placed upon them. If there was ever an album to describe mental illness, then it would be this, as it moves and jumps from one place to another, always making sense but often on its own and with no relationship to what has gone before. Due to this it is a hard album to listen to, and there will be far more who feel this is beyond them than those of us who have stayed the course and end it wondering what on earth is going in the head of Hamlet. Not for the faint-hearted, if ever there was an album to hear before purchasing then it has to be this, but I found it compelling.
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