Posts Tagged ‘maudlin of the Well’

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maudlin of the Well – part the Second

Saturday, May 16, 2009
part the Second (2009)

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.

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maudlin of the Well – My Fruit Psychobells…A Seed Combustible

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible (1999)

My Fruit Psychobells...A Seed Combustible (1999)

Alright, this is the last album by these guys I have yet to review. After this, I promise not to talk about them until they release their new album this year (or something newsworthy happens).

My Fruit Psychobells…A Seed Combustible was my very first maudlin album. I ordered the re-issue via Amazon a little over a year ago.

Up to this point, I hadn’t listened to anything so freakishly strange as maudlin of the Well. I lived in Iowa City, IA, where I attended the University of Iowa. I had recently transferred from the University of Oklahoma and was starting from scratch – no friends, no family, no life.

So, I turned to music, in a way.

This era of my life was defined by two bands – Sonic Youth, and maudlin of the Well. The chaotic and often beautiful music of both seemed a suiting metaphor for my life at the time.

It wouldn’t be until the following summer that my mind would be graced with the sheer majesty and epicness of Bath and Leaving Your Body Map. Consequently, it was this album I listened to constantly when I needed my maudlin fix.

Though this album is not as great as the other two, it is still worthy a full five out of five stars. “Ferocious Weights” begins the album strong. Slow and methodical, it reaches high trying to grasp at whatever it’s trying to attain, seeming to fall flat at the end (in a good and fitting way, if that makes sense). “A Conception Pathetic” starts strong and takes some interesting twists and turns along the way. As I was listening to this for the first time on a walk through downtown Iowa City, the part where the song sort of turns into a demented circus orgy of sorts made me think, “what am I listening to?” maudlin of the Well. Duh. They do crazy stuffs sometimes.

The first truly memorable track comes with “Undine and Underwater Flowers.” This is one of the few maudlin songs that follows a verse/chorus/verse pattern. The outro at the end is wonderful. Very desperate sounding.

“The Ocean, The Kingdom, The Temptation.” Epic. This is the greatest song on the CD, no doubt. It has that underwater quality to it that literally transports you to some fantastical realm – the music maudlin conjures bears you away to places which can only exist in dreams. This song is the epitome of a dreamscape – the tension holds throughout until the nightmare unfolds around minute four or so. Very cool song.

“Pondering a Wall”… meh.

“Catharsis of Sea-Sleep and Dreaming Shrines” is really high up there, second place to “The Ocean.” The intro is just so killer. Killer might not be the right word…the majority of the song and album is very relaxing, like you’re floating on a vast, glass-still ocean under a canopy of stars, drifting towards the line where consciousness ends and sleep begins.

While nothing on the album really sticks out, such as on Bath and Leaving Your Body Map, the songs work really well together, more cohesively, I daresay, than their other two. The lyrics, as in all maudlin songs, are absolutely poetic and destroy 99 percent of other bands do.

For what it’s worth, I recommend this album without reservation to anyone who’s interested in the slightest. Perhaps you might be better off starting with Bath, but if you start with My Fruit Psychobells…, you’ll likely not go wrong.

This album isn’t for anyone who’s just going to listen to it once or twice. I’m convinced it’s impossible to truly appreciate this album unless you’ve had it for months. It’s so complicated that you could never “get it” on the first or second go-around.

So, as in both other maudlin of the Well albums, be patient, be kind, and be loving, and it will duly return the favor.

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maudlin of the Well – Bath

Saturday, February 7, 2009
Bath (2001)

Bath (2001)

I reviewed Bath on my blogspot, and I’ve also reviewed it for Blogcritics. I just can’t shut up about this album.

maudlin of the Well is one of the greatest bands I’ve heard, yet sadly few people seem to know them. I should say maudlin seem to be gaining popularity – when I first joined last.fm about a year ago, they had less than 100,000 plays. Now, they’re up to about 4oo,ooo.

Bath itself is indescribable. Post-Rock, jazz, progressive, and indie are the main genres maudlin touch on, though their emphasis is metal.

With so much variety it would seem easy to assume maudlin have no focus.This is far from the case. All these elements are seamlessly blended to create something otherworldly. Toby Driver, singer and composer of maudlin’s music, used astral projection to write the music.

Now I’m not a metal guy. Rarely does metal appeal to me. But maudlin of the Well is different.They make great music, not really so much seeing how many notes they can fit in a beat, which is what a lot of metal seems to do. 

My favorite songs here are “The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth,” “Heaven and Weak,” (definitely “Heaven and Weak!”), and “Girl With a Watering Can. ” However the album is best listened to as a whole.

You’re better off downloading this album than buying it. It’s now out of print, so the band won’t be losing any money off you. Besides, copies go for upwards $50 on Amazon.

And good news! Due to a very generous fan who gave the band $10,000, maudlin have come back together for a new album, to be released in 2009. I will be walking on air, come that day.

So, listen to the song posted below, visit maudlin’s MySpace. Do all the usual “I really want to check these guys out!” sort of legwork. They deserve it.

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maudlin of the Well – Leaving Your Body Map

Monday, January 19, 2009
Leaving Your Body Map (2001)

Leaving Your Body Map (2001)

This has to be the most pretentious piece of music ever composed. Yet I love it.

Why do I love it? I can’t exactly say. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. I don’t just say that. The opening track, “Stones of October’s Sobbing,” has flutes, clarinets, heavy metal guitars, double kick drums, electronica, you name it. This has to be the most diverse lineup of instruments I’ve ever seen in a musical group. It’s ballsy. And the thing is, it works. That is, whatever “works” is for you.

“Works” is for me when it comes to this album. For the longest time it seemed like nothing special. But last week, I could not fall asleep. So, I propped myself up in my bed and listened to this with my headphones. There was nothing but me and the music going into my ears, lighting up the pleasure centers in my brain.

Leaving Your Body Map is jazzier than it’s companion album, Bath, which I reviewed last year (feels weird saying “last year”).

Though Bath and Leaving Your Body Map are companion albums, and by listening to each I can obviously hear they are both of maudlin, they are different shades of maudlin. Bath is more epic –Leaving Your Body Map is more chill. I listen to Bath when I want to feel echoes of the deepest feelings imaginable. I listen to Leaving Your Body Map when I want to think and be challenged, have my brain be turned upside-down and inside-out.

Track three, Bizarre Flowers/A Violent Mist – is truly otherworldly, and you’ll get the vibe of Leaving Your Body Map’s jazzy atmosphere. The song, by the way, is the highlight of the album for me.