Artist: Lunatic Soul
Album: Under the Fragmented Sky
Release: 08.06.2018 (Finland)
Following last year’s excellent Fractured, Riverside mainman Mariusz Duda’s solo project Lunatic Soul returns with a companion release consisting of outtakes from said album. Under the Fragmented Sky was initially supposed to be a maxi single and then an EP, but it finally grew into a full album because of its 36-minute runtime. Since Fractured was one of my top albums of 2017, more material from the same sessions is just what the doctor ordered.
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As someone who’s been a fan of Riverside for a while already, I had also listened to some of Lunatic Soul’s albums, but their ambient and instrumental sound never resonated with me as much as Duda’s main band’s offerings. However, Fractured introduced a new direction influenced by art-pop and trip-hop with more focus on vocals, and it became the first LS release I truly loved. Despite having been recorded in the same period, Under the Fragmented Sky is inevitably a little closer to the earlier albums due to its more instrumental nature, as all the instrumental tracks had ended up on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, I was excited to see what the other side of the coin would be like.
The title of “He av en” may look like writing in a Scandinavian language at first, but the actual meaning becomes obvious when you pay more attention. The boy choir -like falsetto vocals give the song an ecclesiastical feel – you can almost hear the sparse main guitar melody being played on an organ in your head. “Trials” revolves around Duda’s repeated vocal phrase “I tried so hard to pretend”, which along with the electronic instrumentation makes it feel like a remix of another track. The song grows intriguingly though, and it avoids the danger of being stuck in one place. “Shadows” has an appropriate title, as it’s a dark and even spooky piece. However, it’s also the least interesting track the album has to offer despite the nice guitar outro, while “Rinsing the Night” mixes acoustic guitars with electronic beats in a very fresh fashion. “The Art of Repairing” is a more synth-based number and includes some creative use of Autotune on the vocals, making it a track worth checking out for everyone who dislikes the robotic vocals in modern pop music. Believe me, this infamous effect can be used tastefully! The only interlude track is the beautiful, completely acoustic 90-second composition “Sorrow”, which is only accompanied by Duda’s falsetto voice and sounds of wind. Even while listening to it in the summer, it immediately evokes a chilly, wintry atmosphere.
All the aforementioned tracks are instrumental, with vocals only occasionally serving as another ethereal instrument, but “Under the Fragmented Sky” and the closer “Untamed” are more traditional, vocal-driven tunes, and therefore the standouts for me personally. The title-track is a folky acoustic number that wouldn’t be out of place on a Riverside album – it even reminds me of “Time Travellers”, which may be why it was left out from Fractured, as Lunatic Soul is a world of its own after all. The only slightly puzzling thing about the tune is the ending, which reprises the choir from “He av en” and has no relation to the rest of the song, but I guess this is supposed to give the album a bit of continuity. “Untamed” is likewise an acoustic-based song, but the drums and synths give it a more all-encompassing feel, though without making it sound too cluttered. “War is over, you can start”, Duda sings, concluding the album nicely with an optimistic message. However, seeing how well “Moving On” works as the closer on Fractured, putting two songs with a feeling of resolution on the same album might’ve been too much.
Under the Fragmented Sky is definitely not a pointless release. While it’s easy to see why these tracks didn’t fit onto the parent album, they don’t really pale in comparison with those that did, as they’re simply different. In fact, this makes my appreciation for Fractured grow even more, as it’s clear that Duda made all the right decisions while putting the tracklist together, despite having an abundance of material on his hands. The man has been riding a creative high for the past 3 years, and hopefully Riverside’s upcoming album, Wasteland, will continue that. I highly recommend Under the Fragmented Sky to everyone who enjoyed Fractured, but it also has an identity of its own and could even work as a good introduction into the world of Lunatic Soul, as it bridges the gap between the old and new material.
Rating: 8½/10, 4½ stars
1. He av en
4. Under the Fragmented Sky
6. Rinsing the Night
7. The Art of Repairing