Ever since the release of the heartbreaking Posthumous Silence in 2006 I have repeatedly argued that Sylvan are perhaps one of the most exciting and important progressive bands to be presently creating music in Europe. With the release of Home, their 9th studio album, this hugely impressive Hamburg based band present us with yet another tour-de-force by returning once more to what they do best: presenting a vision which is conceptually and intellectually satisfying, charged with emotional depth and resonance, and utterly inspiring in terms of musical passion and elegance.
Home is a welcome return to the fertile grounds of a concept album, with the band wrestling with themes and issues which are buried at the very heart of life, in the spaces and the places where things matter most to us. In the process they yet again express and affirm their commitment to writing music which pushes beyond traditional boundaries to fashion an experience that is richly evocative and laden with personal meaning.
The artwork for the cover does a magnificent job of capturing the context as well as the central thrust of the album: home, nostalgia for home and all the various feelings, emotions and treasured memories which remind us of the one place in our lives where there was hopefully warmth, safety and security. Yet these sit uneasily with the often harsh present realities of life, a world of worry, anxiety and fear, full of insecurity, doubt, anguish and pain. Where, now, is our home? Where can we be safe? And what if things are not as we remember them? This troubled journey, the clash of past and present, memories and realities, provides the key which unlocks the shape, the structure and the diversity of soundscapes which characterise this exceptional album.
From the outset, Home is full of complexity, intensity and energy; rippling classical vistas morph into vibrant discordant aggressiveness which in turn transition to glorious symphonic harmonies, sweeping melancholic refrains framing heart aching emotional poignancy. Marco Glühmann’s vocals are perfect, capturing the changing moods of the music, a light in the darkness which leads you on and through the unfolding landscapes of discovery. Volker Söhl’s keyboards create the atmosphere which infuses the musical horizon, gentle, refined and graceful one minute, grand, ornate and majestic the next.
Sebastian Harnack on bass is outstanding: always confident and assured, he in turn provides no small measure of dramatic menace, playful mischief yet also magnificent gestures to shadow and then counterpoint the keyboards and the vocals. Likewise Matthias Harder on drums is a delightful revelation, ranging from subtle delicacy to contained technical serenity to all out domination of the moment as and when the story requires. Jonathan Beck also joins on guitar, sensitive and responsive to the playing of the others, deft and precise at just the right moments and bringing a sense of style, refinement and calm to the expansive worlds being explored.
The overall effect is stunning on all levels. Make no mistake about it, this is designed to be an immersive experience, one which fascinates, entices and then embraces you completely, providing ample food for the mind as well the soul. There is a graceful beauty which shines brightly and a joyous enthusiasm full of drive and commitment. It is a remarkable album from a consistently remarkable band and further cements their place as one of the pioneering musical beacons working today.
This review first appeared for The Progressive Aspect
- Not Far From the Sky (6:30)
- Shaped Out of Clouds (6:02)
- In Between (10:50)
- With the Eyes of a Child (4:19)
- Black and White (7:14)
- The Sound of Her World (9:23)
- Sleep Tight (5:31)
- Off Her Hands (3:42)
- Shine (6:18)
- Point of No Return (5:25)
- All These Years (5:40)
- Home (6:05)Total time 76:59
Line-up / Musicians
Marco Glühmann / vocals
Matthias Harder / drums
Sebastian Harnack / bass
Volker Söhl / keyboards
Jonathan Beck / guitars
Label: Gentle Art Of Music
Distribution: Soulfood Music
CD Digibook, limited Edition GAOM026LE