I love to see an artist start a new project and be successful in the quality of what they are creating. The new record from Single Celled Organism (SCO), while having a strange cover, scratches that progressive rock itch pretty well, even if I don’t get that itch as often anymore. The album is called Percipio Ergo Sum (“I Perceive, Therefore I Am”), and it released on May 7th.
SCO is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and audio engineer Jens Lueck. You may recognize him as the producer and co-composer for Isgaard’s solo albums. Anyways, he hails from Germany, and brings some friends with him on this record. The lineup includes: Jens Lueck on drums, keyboards, vocals, guitars, bass, and programming; Ingo Salzmann and Johnny Beck on guitars; Jürgen Osuchowski on acoustic guitars; Isgaard Marke on vocals; Katja Flintsch on violin; Olek Bakki on cello; Volker Kuinke on recorders; and Kai Ritter on spoken word.
From that lineup, you can probably tell that this album focuses on melody. SCO offers a sound that is modern yet definitely hails back to retro progressive rock. You’ll hear folk accents and even some psychedelia, but the album is primarily driven by Jens and Isgaard’s vocal performances, as well as strong guitar work in the vein of Gilmour. It’s a familiar sound, but it is done well.
Percipio Ergo Sum seems to be a continuation of the story of the debut album, Splinter in the Eye. The idea behind that album consisted of a girl kept in laboratory confinement for her entire life. She learns all she knows from robots and screens. While this experiment is taking place, the outside world is devastated through war, and she emerges from her prison to learn the world on her own terms and in her own way. This new album feels less about exploration and wonder, and more about escaping very human predicaments and doubts. I’m not entirely privy to the story, but the lyrics are well-written and the phrasing of the vocals is excellent.
I’ll come out and just say what I’m thinking. If you liked the first album, you will like this record, as well. It isn’t necessarily the most “exciting” sound and it doesn’t have many “wow” moments, but it is definitely full of heart and soul, and it is handsomely produced and written. I struggle somewhat with progressive rock anymore because I have become attracted to many other genres, some progressive and some not. It takes some motivation and sheer will for me to engage a new progressive rock album in this retro modern style, but this album was certainly worth the effort.
For the most part, my favorite part of this record is when Isgaard comes into play. She has such a unique and recognizable voice, and I never tire of it. She doesn’t feature until the second half of the record, though the first half is great, too, with solid choruses, some great guitar solos, and some beautiful keys. I would point to the gorgeous “She’s Awake” and the guitar and synth heavy “The Final Door” as the best tracks in the first half. “The Final Door”, especially, has some magnificent instrumental portions. I would also say that “I’d Like to See” has a phenomenal chorus.
Still, my favorites are all in the second half, starting with “Save Me from Dreaming”. And what a wonderful song that one is, too. It features a duet between Isgaard and Jens, and it just has this emotional and serene atmosphere that causes me to drift off in my head. “I’m Not Human” follows it, and is equally fantastic, especially the chorus and the edgier ending. I also like “Humble”, which is more of a quiet ballad, and “Entanglement Runs Off”, probably my favorite track with Jens on primary vocals. That song has real spirit and even a bit of a heavier, dark edge to it. In fact, I would love for Jens to explore that darker sound more in the future. The ending is a rich and cinematic experience, and it leads perfectly into “Inhale the Dark”, a stark duet from Isgaard and Jens. This one only has piano and emotion. That’s it. And that’s all it needs to close the record well.
Overall, this is a great record: one that will satisfy any progressive rock enthusiast. The keys and guitars are strong, the vocals from both Isgaard and Jens are smooth and attractive, and the general structure of the album is very listenable. Single Celled Organism has a gracious, classy sound that Jens should be proud of creating.
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