On the other hand…
Part 2: Under the Fragmented Sky
Released: May 25th, 2018
Mariusz Duda: bass and acoustic guitars, piccolo bass, keyboards, percussion, programming, vocals
Wawrzyniec Dramowicz: drums
- He Av En
- Under the Fragmented Sky
- Rinsing the Night
- The Art of Repairing
“And it’s going to be the best story of your life….”
The tracks from this short album/EP/however you want to call it, were written during the Fractured sessions, but clearly did not fit that with album’s feel or direction. However, they were good enough (and I think recognizing how much of a departure from LS Fractured really was), that Mariusz Duda decided to gather them together into their own release.
In fact, I submit that Mariusz Duda had no choice but to release this album. Under the Fragmented Sky is an astonishing collection of music, so deeply evocative of everything Lunatic Soul as an idea stands for that I wonder whether LS really is an entity unto itself and Duda can only bow to its demands for life. I barely dared hope for something even half as good (especially after the disappointment of Fractured).
Or the tl:dr version of the previous paragraphs: Under the Fragmented Sky is a miracle.
The music on UtFS runs the Lunatic Soul gamut: it is acoustic and heavy, delicate and jagged, sombre and uplifting, all at once. The tracks are short and to the point, but somehow manage to cover a huge amount of emotional ground over their length – as does the album. UtFS is a succinct 36 minutes long, and to my mind is a stellar example of a skill set that does not get enough attention: Duda’s uncanny ability to arrange mood and melody, to manipulate emotion when constrained by time. Consider that Anno Domini High Definition is arguably the best Riverside album while being the shortest, or the almost perfect cohesion of Memories in My Head, their magnificent 33–minute-short EP. Here is a master hand at work.
The album is mostly instrumental (there are two short songs with lyrics) – which helps to place it firmly in the Lunatic Soul canon. It begins with “He Av En”, jumpy and ragged, vocoder-heavy, which then slides into the abstract and oblique “Trials”, a track that evokes the feeling of “Sky Drawn in Crayon” from Walking on a Flashlight Beam, without actually sounding like it. The music continues to move through various moods: sombre, poignant, delicate angst, echoey and edgy, acoustic and electronic, with haunting, distorted non-word vocals running through several of the songs. There is a lot of the feel of WoaFB: the move towards a more electronic sound that began on that album is developed more fully here.
The album ends with the astonishing “Untamed”. This is a straightforward pop song, vocals, guitar, bass, piano, real drums; fresh, upbeat, bright and beautiful, and it is the perfect wind-up to what may be the Lunatic Soul masterpiece. I cannot imagine this album ending any other way.
It is impossible to decide which is the “best” track on this album; each one is such an integral part of the whole that singling out one or two would be like cutting off a limb, or removing an eye (but for all that I feel very much drawn to “Rinsing the Night”…). It is an album that should be listened to from first note to the last, because while Fractured is a collection of songs, Under the Fragmented Sky is entire, a complete, organic entity. Given that these tracks are essentially outtakes, it is astonishing just how cohesive the album really is. I do know this: Under the Fragmented Sky is the worthy successor to Walking on a Flashlight Beam. It showcases the evolution of the LS sound: immersive and syncretic, evocative, commanding attention, not a wasted or superfluous note or idea.
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that UtFS is the pinnacle of the Lunatic Soul Project thus far, displacing Impressions (which has held that spot since I discovered LS). Whether this will be a long-term relationship remains to be seen, but at the moment it sounds like the album of the year. At least, it’s going to force any other releases work very hard to reach that spot.