Glossolalia by Spirit Of...Release date: August 26, 2017
I’m not going to lie. The first time I played Spirit Of… to the writing community at Echoes and Dust there were a few raised eyebrows and a little grumbling about the general strangeness of the product. Understandable. Even in the context of our staff specializing in genres that are out of the mainstream, conventions defining those genres build over time and when something new comes along it’s not always obvious if its genius or crap. Fast forward about a year. Spirit Of… is about to release a proper album and I can’t stop listening to it. To be clear, the New York duo’s album was recorded DIY, with little help from costly professionals or studios, and that might rub people who love pristine sound quality the wrong way. But that’s not the point. The point is this album will crush you. It is the saddest, most beautiful thing I’ve heard all year. The album should come with a warning label to anyone grieving or dealing with personal trauma. It may distract you, but your sorrow will only grow more acute. It’s the musical equivalent Shindler’s List.
Beyond the emotional heaviness there is much to appreciate here. The band experiments liberally with song structures and instrumentation. They also have a talent for marrying old and modern, organic and digital, creating an effect that is very new, very millennial sounding, but at the same time seems draped in the cobwebs of less complicated times. The band generates a lot of noise effects, but listen carefully and you’ll hear woodwind instruments, pump organs, and even a glockenspiel. These are real, not samples. You hear ties to post-baroque romantic era classical musicians like Chopin and Liszt in the strongly individual, often quirky, even eccentric expression here. The romantic aesthetic of rhapsodic passion seems to guide the record. And there are little gifts, like city noise, cars honking, busses revving, the rattle of a snare left in a corner, all purposely unedited from the mix.
But it’s Mika Tarkela’s vocals that really get you (Fred Nicholson, the other half of the band, handles much of the instrumentation). It’s as if he’s channeling some ancient choir angel that has been wrapped in a blanket of bubonic plague, crying out last breaths before finally giving in to inevitable death. In fact, he recorded the bulk of the album while convalescing from pulmonary embolisms, clots that gummed up both lungs and nearly killed him. Thus, the lonely, haunting frailty to his voice, the almost desperate brokenness, is all too authentic. You hear it with tragic clearly in ‘Constellations’ and ‘Mania’, two tracks pre-released for current availability.
While new, the band has been playing as a cohesive unit for the last six years, doing local shows in New York and surrounding areas, building a base of listeners that appreciate their eclectic approach. The band released two EP’s 1 and 9 in 2014 and has spent the last three years further refining their sound. Glossolalia is their first full length album and should be available in early August 22.
Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.