Howard Roark, a character from Ayn Rand’s 1943 novel, The Fountainhead says to Peter Keating on the way he lives his life is, “To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul, would you understand why that’s much harder?” What Roark is saying to Keating is, that while the second-hander fails on the authority, it loses their hope of sensibility.
But it nurtures your own body and soul by freeing the control from the outside by demanding ideas and accomplishments. We are living in a society where something might go horribly wrong and lived in a world one day will be in a dystopian underground. That and Gentle Knife’s second release which is a follow up to their sole self-titled debut release entitled, Clock Unwound released on the Bajkal label shows that the Norway ensemble is back.
The themes deal with the situation I mentioned, was once a paradise that everyone can live in and bring their dreams to life, but it goes awry and the price it comes with it. But there’s hope of a glimpse of beauty underneath the ruins. Gentle Knife themselves have never done me wrong and their second album is a dark, beautiful, and haunting release I’ve listened to.
Opener, Prelude: Incipit starts off with a jazz piano chord in an ominous tone, followed by echoing reverb effects of the Trumpet done in a mournful sound a-la Miles Davis style. And it shows us, the listener, the wasteland that is like something straight out of either Blade Runner or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. And then, it segues into the title track.
With its hard riffs essence to both Procol Harum’s In Held ‘Twas in I and Rush’s Permanent Waves, the synths represent what is about to describe in the story structure as the composition feels almost like a mini-opera as if Arjen “Ayreon” Lucassen conducted and wrote the piece and got it done right. Increasing levels before the vocalizations and metal riffs pour in.
The flutes come pouring in with some Crimson-sque guitar lines as if you are walking through the rubble, hearing some pleas of help, but you can’t hear them and imagine hearing a pin drop in the area followed by a sax improvisation. With Fade Away, it’s almost as if it’s the mellowing pieces turned into volcanic rhythms. The first 2 minutes and 13 seconds start off honoring essences of King Crimson’s THRAK-era.
You can hear mellow guitar structures, mellotrons, flutes, and trumpets rolled together in a gigantic blender. And featuring the roaring horns erupt and wah-wah grooves and flute improvisations and then it heads back in the last 2 minutes of the mellowing arrangements. Plans Askew starts off in the first minute and seven seconds of a Hackett-sque classical guitar intro as the singing kicks in as if they are in an abandoned stage singing folk-like lyrics.
It then boosts up the instruments by coming in knowing hopefully that tomorrow will be a new day. The guitars go through a double-edge sword sharing the same melody with the same lines. It’s almost as if crying to the gods through the rubble with no one to hear as the characters know that death has come upon them.
The closing track, Resignation starts off with some video game haunting chords as if’s through the 16-bit Sega Genesis. And then, eerie Jazz flutes and atmospheric waves come in with the spoken dialogue done by a poet through the minds of between Allen Ginsberg, Jim Morrison and George Orwell. There’s some heavier tones by in a mid-speed journey to the unknown with a church organ behind you.
The characters I can imagine in the finale are letting the listener know, not to follow and not come looking for them. Because they aren’t going to like what they find. I really enjoyed listening to Clock Unwound. This is my fifth time listening to Gentle Knife’s second album. And the mastering done by Stick Men’s Markus Reuter and Benjamin Schafer from Unsung Productions, for me it’s a perfect combination for them to work on this album.
I hope Gentle Knife continues to do more for years and years to come. They are one of my favorite ensembles to come out of the genre. And I hope they won’t stop. The journey has just begun for them with Clock Unwound.