part the Second (2009)
[This review first appeared on Blogcritics. To see the original, click here.]
Last night, I was up until 2:00 a.m. despite the fact I had to wake up early. I blame maudlin of the Well’s brilliant new album, part the Second.
The story behind the recording of this album is amazing and shouldn’t be glossed over. From 1999-2001, maudlin of the Well released three albums. The latter two, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map are among the most genius pieces of music I’ve ever heard. These albums seamlessly blend metal, jazz, and indie in an amalgamation that is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
However, maudlin of the Well’s avant-garde nature also kept them from being more widely known. They disbanded in 2001, some members of the group going on to form Kayo Dot, an even more avant-garde group, which, ironically, is more well-known than maudlin of the Well.
Yet over the years, through music message boards, forums, and blogs, maudlin of the Well slowly began to pick up a devoted following. They gained what notoriety they had the hard way — through the mouths of people who could not shut up about how great they are.
In a MySpace blog post in 2008, maudlin of the Well front man Toby Driver mentioned he wanted to record some older songs that were never recorded, but was restricted by financial issues. Response and enthusiasm from fans was massive. Several people made large donations so Toby and the band could accomplish this. The donations made it possible to go beyond the one song and record a full-length studio album, not an album of leftovers, but of mostly new material.
[On] May 14, 2009, this dream and hard work manifested when part the Second, was released over the Internet completely for free, In Rainbows style.
I was among the first to download the album, and I was absolutely enthralled with what I heard. maudlin evolved their sound in a way that was unexpected and surprising to me. Most strikingly, though maudlin of the Well is considered a progressive metal band, most of part the Second is comparably soft and soothing, almost post-rockish. In fact, I would hesitate to call any part of this album metal, though glimmers of it are hinted at in various strains. The new incorporation of violin and piano blends in perfectly with the inimitable maudlin of the Well sound, and both instruments fit in as if they they had always belonged.
The compositional layering is practically on a symphonic level – cerebral listeners will enjoy its complexity. The sign of a good band is a natural, evolving progression from album to album, and maudln of the Well has achieved that. Hints of Kayo Dot abound, especially evident in track four, “Clover Garland Island,” though the album itself is undeniably maudlin of the Well.
Part the Second is a softer listen than maudlin’s other albums. Genre-wise, as with all of maudlin’s music, it’s difficult to classify. I would say it’s highly experimental and would call it post-rock, perhaps post-metal. Track one is great, and is very laid back and relaxing. The piano outro at the end is reminiscent of Radiohead’s “All I Need,” to use the In Rainbows comparison again, though maudlin of the Well are nowhere near that band’s genre.
Track two is a little harder – though hard, it is absolutely beautiful. Another highlight is the piano outro on the last track, which is the perfect ending for this album. Though picking highlights might cheapen the rest of the listening experience – know that I think that it is all good.
Fans of post-rock will love this new release. In fact, anyone who loves experimental music that pushes boundaries will love part the Second.
Of course, if you’re already a maudlin of the Well fan or a Kayo Dot fan, or just love interesting music, what are you waiting for? If you have gotten this far, then chances are you’re somewhat interested. Do yourself a favor and download this album – and why wouldn’t you, when it is completely free? It is available in three different formats, including higher than CD quality, which will appease all the audiophiles out there. While we’re on that note, download Bath and Leaving Your Body Map as well – they’re now out of print and the CDs go for $50 plus on the Internet. No one’s going to be losing any money off you, and from what I’ve read, the members of the band themselves are cool with this.
So what are you waiting for? Go listen to part the Second and download it at maudlinofthewell.net. You can also listen to it the site if you wish to hear it before downloading. And also, consider giving the band a donation, as they worked very hard on this release.