I always look forward to a new album from the eccentric Nad Sylvan. While I like some of his records better than others, he is incredibly consistent. The new record is called “Spiritus Mundi” and it releases on April 9th through Inside Out Music.
Nad hails from Sweden. You may know him from his involvement with Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited tours, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform multiple times. He owns grace, stage presence, and theatricality. On this record, Nad handles vocals, keyboards, orchestration, guitar, bass, drums, and programming; it seems like he is taking on more than ever here. Guest spots include Andrew Laitres on vocals, acoustic nylon, guitars, and keyboards; Tony Levin and Jonas Reingold on bass; Steve Hackett, Neil Whitford, and Steve Piggot on guitar; Mirkko De Maio on drums and congas; and Kiwi Te Kanna on oboe and Chinese flute. That is quite an array of artists.
Nad Sylvan plays a progressive rock that I find modern and refreshing, though he clearly takes influence from 70s and 80s rock and pop, not to mention 70s funk. His music is theatrical, but on a personal level. He tells stories of pirates and vampires and all sorts of fantasy characters, but for some reason this album feels like his most fantastical take yet. In fact, per the album title, this effort feels more spiritual (not religious) and organic, almost like mysticism or New Ageism. And I have to say, I’m really enjoying that sound. All of this, of course, is played with utmost precision and class.
That sense of abstraction and mysticism has a foundation. I found it interesting that this album is more than just a solo album, instead being something of a collaboration between Nad and songwriter Andrew Laitres from the US. Basically, Andrew wanted Nad to sing on one of his songs, and that song ended up on Nad’s last album—“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, which ended up being one of my favorites from that record. “Spiritus Mundi”, then, is a collaborative effort from the two, and all of the lyrics are based on poems from W.B. Yeats, known for his Symbolist style full of allusions and abstractions. This translates so well to this atmospheric, spacious music.
Another thing I would note is that, while Nad always writes excellent songs, I think I am connecting with this particular set of songs more than anything else he has written since his “The Bride Said No” album. There was just something evocative, mysterious, and attractive to me about that album, and I feel that same atmosphere here. The melodies, hooks, and lyrics on “Spiritus Mundi” are all very strong, and even more than that, they are interesting and beckon further investigation.
One of the strange things about this record is that one of the singles, “You’ve Got to Find a Way”, isn’t part of the album proper. It is a bonus track, which I didn’t actually receive for review. It’s a great song, though, and definitely in Nad’s normal style. The other singles were “The Hawk”, “The Stolen Child”, and “The Fisherman”, all of which are excellent. “The Hawk” specifically has that misty aura to it, almost like the spiritual and natural realms meeting in one hazy, beautiful experience.
Yet, I don’t think those songs are the best ones on the album. My favorites are “The Second Coming”, “Sailing to Byzantium”, and “Cap and Bells”, the first three songs. “The Second Coming” is probably the Yeats poem that I know the best, and so I was naturally attracted to it. I love Nad’s solid hook in “slouching towards Bethlehem”, and I like how funky the orchestrations are, and how progressive and transitional the song structure is. “Sailing to Byzantium” feels whimsical, like a pilgrimage of dreams. Andrew and Nad both sing on this one, and I feel like their voices mesh perfectly. I love the light and nostalgia this song brings. “Cap and Bells” shifts the tone a bit, though, being more acoustic, and the second half is utter harmony and atmosphere. Those opening songs are such a strong trio.
“Spiritus Mundi” might be one of my favorite albums from Nad Sylvan yet. Time will tell. It has a beauteous, ethereal quality to it that I love, from the gorgeous acoustic guitars to the ethereal keys to the funk-laden orchestrations. This feels like a more pensive version of Nad’s work, like visiting worlds of inner peace and connection. I really like it.
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