Under the Fragmented Sky was a rather unexpected release in 2018 from Lunatic Soul. In late 2018 there was understandably a lot of focus upon Riverside’s new album Wasteland, but earlier in the year there was this rather less lauded and low key release by the band’s Mariusz Duda, who effectively is Lunatic Soul. Duda is fast becoming one of progressive rock’s ‘Renaissance Men’, showing an ability to equally excel in different areas. In Under the Fragmented Sky he has produced an innovative album of vocal experiments and subtle electronica imbued with emotion.
In 2017 Lunatic Soul released Fractured, which touched on grief and hope in a fractured world. This follow-up album, with a name taken from a song on Fractured, A Thousand Shards of Heaven, is an inspired set of fragile, resonant pieces shimmering with delicate sounds and soulful sounds – Riverside it ain’t!
He Av En plunges us into an eerie realm of strange, repetitive chants and stark synth sounds, into which a guitar chimes sonorously, and it does indeed feel like we are suspended in some peculiar limbo, and then we enter the ethereal Trials with strange tapping and throbbing sounds. A hypnotic rhythm underpins a breathless Massive Attack style repetitive refrain: “I Try so Hard to Pretend”. Developing out of this chilling opening comes an ominous wave of keyboards which are pure Tangerine Dream. It’s a remarkable piece saturated with foreboding. In contrast, the following short Sorrow is mainly an acoustic guitar and wordless vocalising from Duda – sometimes sorrow is beyond words.
In an album of few actual words the title track Under the Fragmented Sky poetically describes a sense of hope gained from support after grief:
“I left my Grief, My insomnia
Somewhere Beyond, On the Other Side
There was no Fear, I felt Stronger
And felt the Feeling, I’m crumbling apart
Then you Showed Up, Waiting for Me…”
Largely set with just Duda singing and an acoustic guitar it is augmented with a piano as the spirit rises in optimism before a coda reprising the echoing chants of He Av En takes us to the end, perhaps in more ways than one.
An album of few words but with atmospherically arranged instrumentals which in their own way say so much. Shadows and Rinsing the Night take us in varying directions including the distinctly Eastern feel coming out of the Shadows and a distinctly Afro-Celt Sound System style to Rinsing the Night, amidst the sound of metal and glass being struck.
The Art of Repairing feels like the zenith of the album, reaching away from grief, brimming with musical ideas, exuding optimism and performed with intricate skill and sensitivity. A sputtering, spasmodic opening of electronica gradually forms into a more sustained synth rhythm. The Tangerine Dream style of pulsing keyboards and bass develops the hypnotic and chilled impetus with distorted chants eerily echoing over the piece. Layer upon layer is added to this captivating Portishead feel piece until it softly fades away with a sparse vocoder floating to the surface of the dream. It’s a truly beautiful and innovative piece demonstrating Duda’s remarkable talents to meld together various musical elements into a compelling whole, and maybe one of my favourite songs of the last year or so.
The album finishes with Untamed, about the only song which could conceivably appear on a Riverside album. Featuring the only other musician on the album, Wawrzyniec Dramowicz, on finely judged drums supporting a straightforward subtle rock song with guitar and piano. This could have easily fitted in lyrically and musically to Riverside’s 2015 album Love, Fear and the Time Machine… which, strange as it may sound, means for me it feels slightly out of place on this Lunatic Soul album. Maybe Duda could not resist the stylistic pull of his main project, or maybe after all the sombre vocal experimentation and atmospheric electronica of the rest of the album he just wanted to ‘ground’ things in more conventional tones to underline his optimistic conclusion:
“You took the strain, got through the night, There’s a way to make it right
And it’s going to be the best story of your life, And it’s going to be the best story of your life,
And it’s going to be the best story of your life…”
There are albums that ‘slip through the net’ for The Progressive Aspect at the time of release, but sometimes it really is worth taking a look back to spotlight an album which escaped our attention and which may not have gained the wider attention it deserved. Perhaps the fact Duda himself states that this album was “very unexpected and spontaneous” may explain its relatively low-key impact… or it may just be when an artist’s main project is so successful it’s inevitable that ‘side projects’ are somewhat in their shadow. What I do know is that fine though Riverside’s Wasteland is, this Lunatic Soul album was the Duda release that really got under my skin and into my soul in the last year – it’s certainly been played a lot more!
Mariusz Duda is a truly outstanding artist overflowing with musical ideas and resonant lyrical themes. He describes his Lunatic Soul albums as being ‘suspended somewhere between life and death from the very beginning’ and in this album they may have reached their artistic and emotional pinnacle, and definitely worth exploring if it slipped through your net as well!
01. He Av En (4:03)
02. Trials (5:43)
03. Sorrow (1:29)
04. Under The Fragmented Sky (5:02)
05. Shadows (4:30)
06. Rinsing The Night (3:55)
07. The Art Of Repairing (7:53)
08. Untamed (3:24)
Total Time – 36:01
Mariusz Duda – All Vocals & Instruments
Wawrzyniec Dramowicz – Drums (track 8)
Record Label: Kscope
Country of Origin: Poland
Date of Release: 25th May 2018
– Lunatic Soul (2008)
– Lunatic Soul II (2010)
– Impressions (2011)
– Walking on a Flashlight Beam (2014)
– Fractured (2017)
– Under a Fragmented Sky (2018)