Trust or No?
Do we open ourselves to love?
Or do we stay ‘safe’ in a womb, shielded from pain and rejection? Blank Manuskript– an Austrian band founded in 2007- creates an entrancing, spooky, at times heartbreaking experience in this latest release, “Krasna Hora” (‘beautiful mountain’), a tiny town in Czech Republic.
In this album Blank Manuskript uses spoken word, mood, orchestral passages, wily saxophone, heavy avant-jazz, wistful progressive folk, and majestic glory to evoke these difficult questions and force us to answer for ourselves.
‘Art Rock’/Progressive Rock
The line between these is difficult; certainly it is beyond my ken.
But for me, this album has certain aims and hopes that push the listener toward an all-encompassing experience. For instance, the first track, “Overture”, does what an overture ought to do: it reveals over-arching themes and blends these into an introductory passage that teases what is to follow.
The lush organ tones invite the listener to ponder the central question- and the sound is rich and full. Alone? Or in relationship? Agile guitar work, and saxophone dancing point the way.
“Foetus” suggests what we believe to be true- even in utero we learn, feel, grow. We sense what our host parent is feeling, whether calm and loving, or in this case, insensate. The music is foreboding. Music and lyrics work to set the stage.
And if it’s true that the host parent is perhaps comatose, what does the foetus perceive, and how will that provide a basis for its full humanity?
The album unfolds
Themes of fear of darkness, and use of tinkling chimes, palm-muted guitar work that sways and flies and grows, the lyrics that suggest and paint mind pictures-
and moving into inventive vocal passages including choral work, lovely harmonies, staccato recitatives pierced by jazzy instrumental accents-
And we land with a thud
The institution- which seems so safe, so predictable, so secure…yet what is the price? Here we encounter almost chamber-music, complex jazz lines as the saxophone wails and the music skitters into avant-jazz territory.
It is here, in “Silent Departure”, that we reach the emotional center of this album.
It is set simply, almost as a progressive-folk presentation- the use of violin, and a gentle, lonely, heartbroken tone.
Yet it holds deep resonance, and delivers what for me is the ‘money lines’- “time for sure is no healer…and so fractured, cracked and broken/ we stumble towards the light.”
Finally, the return
“The Last Journey”, of return to the great unknown from which the foetus emerged, uses spoken voice, gorgeous vocal work, and then a held note that builds tension as it slowly blossoms, grows, becomes wilder and more dissonant and disturbing…then deliberately fades into nothingness.
I found this a gripping, entrancing experience, and highly recommend it.
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