Much like my addiction to Swiss roll, for some people more is never enough. You’d have thought two wildly successful “day jobs” would be enough to keep some folks busy. But not so for Katatonia lead vocalist Jonas Renkse and The Pineapple Thief front man Bruce Soord. Clearly they've got too much time on their hands as they have come together to create Wisdom Of Crowds. I can tell you now, I am eternally grateful that these two chaps did a bit of moonlighting. As will you.
Originally written for Renkse’s voice, Soord sought out the acclaimed vocalist to complete the compositions and release the music to the masses. In doing so, Bruce Soord has found the perfect foil for the music he has written. Which is all at once jagged, sharp, melodic, aggressive, tender, sparse and loud. What anchors it all together, what makes it a cohesive mix, is Renkse’s vocals. His delivery is sublime. But we’ll come to that in a bit…
Album opener ‘Pleasure’ sets up the album with Renkse’s weary and plaintive voice stretching across the track as it morphs from electronic intro to a upbeat mix of live instruments, effects and sounds. This album is different to their respective bands yet retains enough familiarity to comfort fans of both. Title track ‘Wisdom Of Crowds’ evokes a faint vibe of early Gotan Project with its horns and sparsely placed guitar lines whilst ‘Radio Star’ leaves you haunted…. leaves you looking for something as Renkse sings "give you the lights, give you the stars, give you a sign".
Standout track of the album is ‘Frozen North’. It’s simply stunning. A melancholic guitar line awash with strings coupled with Renkse’s beautifully evocative vocal melodies and lyrics transporting you to a place of reflection. When, 4 minutes into the song, we descend musically into a fantastically out-there blend of electronica with jagged shards of glitchy noise rhythmically pounding towards the conclusion of the song. It just feels right and natural. It feels magnificent.
Next up we have ‘The Light’, a more traditional (as in what the uninitiated imagine it to be) prog tune that is reminiscent of Saucerful-era Floyd with its backwards guitar and drumbeats. It’s 7 minutes of pure progressive music: bluesy guitar licks on a bed of synths with again startlingly intimate vocals. ‘Pretend’ counters this with aggressive shards of guitar playing from Soord.
With that we head into the final 3 tracks on the album. The triumvirate of the album in fact. I’ve genuinely never heard an album FINISH with such breathtakingly songs. Most artists would have put these tracks at the top of the album such is their magnificence. ‘Stacked Naked’ shimmers into view with a tenderly melodic intro backed with some wonderfully harmonised vocals. Renkse’s lyrics painfully urging "if anyone should ask how the story goes just pretend we're almost there just pretend....pretend.....". ‘Centre of Gravity’ is a song that made me think of the bond of friendship, of the shared experiences, of the sharing of secrets and hopes and dreams. It ends with Jonas repeating "hold out your hand", a plea to never let go of what once was but also as an offer of support. And finally ‘Flows Though You’ arrives with a wail of siren and simmering aggression. Renkse defiantly proclaiming "I can lose but I will never break" as the song heads towards a cacophony of drums, guitars and electronica.
So. After all that what is this album like?
Jonas Renkse’s vocals and lyrics are the highlight of this album. They are the lynchpin of the entire record. No matter where the music goes, no matter what genre it delves into, the guiding light is his voice, his delivery and inflection. In Soord, he has found a collaborator that can create music that uses every aspect of his voice and talent.
It is a stunning album in both depth and range of emotion and music. It captures so many genres and yet defies labels. Part rock, part electronic it's all blended together to create and album that lifts you up, makes you think and most importantly makes you FEEL. There is a hypnotic use of space and dynamics from the frailest most intimate ambience to bombastic guitar driven sections that lift your spirits. It is everything you can want from an album and more.