Back in 2018, “The Deconstruction of Light” from Electric Mud pleasantly surprised me. It was so diverse and so adventurous that I have come to love it even more over the last two years. Fast forward to 2020, and the band is releasing another album, this one called “Quiet Days on Earth”. The two albums are actually quite different, but what I like about them is exactly the same: exploratory composition. The album officially releases on July 24th, but you can actually get it on Bandcamp already.
Electric Mud come to us from Germany. The lineup consists of the duo of Hagen Bretschneider and Nico Walser; who, as far as I know, handle all of the instruments on this album. I’ve noticed that the band is quite talented on the production side of things, too, crafting interesting visuals for their music videos. They just seem to understand exactly what they want to accomplish, and then they go out and do exactly that.
The music Electric Mud offers is difficult to capture in words. Their last album was quite different and more bombastic than this new one, so that makes it even more of a chore to express. The band themselves like to use the label “post-progressive” music, and I think that is a good description. While you can hear substantial Pink Floyd (especially their earliest music) influences in some songs, especially in the hanging atmospheres and guitar musings, other songs are more electronic or cinematic. There is definitely progressive rock in the mix, and maybe even some post-rock, but most of this particular album rests upon acoustics, larger-than-life ambiance, and subtle contrasts.
One thing I hear on a few tracks is the distinct influence of Rock Progressive Italiano (RPI). Maybe that isn’t on purpose, but I do hear the splendid whimsy and keyboard-forward style of RPI. This works quite well with the main thrust of the band’s compositions: evoking images or feelings in our minds. You will notice that many of the tracks are titled after very specific experiences, such as “Silhouettes Floating Down a Rain-Slicked Street”, “Eyes Watching Skies”, or “Sleeping Under a Green Desert Tree”. The band is very good at making their songs sound and feel exactly like those descriptions. Other songs are more abstract, like “Aurora Moon”, “Wading Through the Waters of Time”, or “The Space Between the Shadows”. Somehow, the band can evoke those vaguer ideas, too, which often end up feeling spiritual and mysterious.
There are fifteen tracks on this album, and every single one is great. For the sheer number of songs, the quality is remarkably high. Many of the songs are slow burns, constructing atmosphere and texture before unleashing a final flurry of activity and layering. In fact, some of the music reminds me of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” in how they take their time to sow seeds that can be harvested later in the song. I admire that kind of foresight and planning, and I especially love the band’s penchant for composing tight little melodies that transition in and out of the songs.
I obviously can’t discuss each song, but I want to highlight six of them. These songs were actually quite difficult to choose, because the entire album is golden. The first three favorites are “Aurora Moon”, “Quiet Days on Earth”, and “Wading Through the Waters of Time”. The first one is the opener, and it feels a little odd and haunting at first, while also feeling distinctly metro. It shuffles and pines slowly, offering subtle melody and accented atmosphere, but rises slowly into a gentle breeze of a climax that sounds fantastic. The title track has quite an electronic vibe, again with lots of accents that don’t go unnoticed by me, but the second half contains a fantastic guitar solo that I feels amazing. “Wading Through the Waters of Time” might be my favorite on the album. It is so haunting and otherworldly at times, but the band’s perfectly placed melodies help keep the listener grounded. The last few minutes unleash a wonderful keyboard melody paired with a nice, dirty electronic loop, and the effect is phenomenal.
Three more favorites are “The Loneliness of the Somnambulist” (referring to a sleepwalker), “Adventures in a Liquid World”, and “Sleeping Under a Green Desert Tree”. The former is supremely spacious and hovering in style, a sound that slowly rises to a quiet roar, before breaking onto an acoustic ending that offers quite the contrast. Actually, this track feels like it pours directly into “Durance”, which continues the same atmosphere, adding in a melody that takes things even further. “Adventures in a Liquid World” actually has something of a folk or country vibe to it, leaning more towards a post-apocalyptic or Western tone, not dissimilar to Riverside’s “Wasteland” album. I really like that sort of sound, and the band makes great use of it before launching into another great guitar solo. Finally, the closer is “Sleeping Under a Green Desert Tree”. I like this song for two reasons. First, it is a subtle track with hushed melodies, crackling embers, and chirping insects, all which are calming to hear. That environment gives way to one of the best melodies on the album paired with a final dose of electronic luxury. It’s a beautiful ending, and one that sticks with me. Second, I feel like the title itself helps me understand the contrast of the dry atmosphere mixed with the lush melody. I like that the band can combine those two things so well in order to achieve the appropriate texture.
Electric Mud are never going to be the showy, overly technical progressive rockers that I think they actually could be. No, their style is much more reserved and whispered, and that is exactly why I like them. They are mature, and it shows. They know how to compose interesting and addictive melodies, and they use those melodies like tools to piece songs together. They also know how to make an atmosphere that absolutely requires headphones to appreciate fully. This album might not be the more flamboyant or in-your-face album I’ve heard this year, but I think “Quiet Days on Earth” is perhaps richer and deeper than most of the records released thus far in 2020.
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