Maudlin Of The Well - Leaving Your Body Map

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Dark Symphonies
Catalog Number: DARK 12
Format: CD
Total Time: 60:56:00

Maudlin Of The Well's Leaving Your Body Map is far moodier than its counterpart Bath. Like Bath, Leaving opens with a sedate and lyrical instrumental passage that soon becomes a dark, growly thing. This piece is called "Stones Of October's Sobbing," and in the Romantic tradition, observations of a simple event are expressed in high poetry. Here it is the change of season from Summer to Autumn. Given the dark nature of this band, we can, of course, go one step further and relate Summer and Autumn to life, as the mood of the protagonist is darkening. (Emily Dickinson comes to mind here, though the poetry here isn't as wry as hers, the conceit is the same - seasons as metaphor for the cycle of life). The other imagery here is of burial -- this is where the stones come in. This has the feel of a concept album (as did Bath), but in a true narrative sense, more a collection of songs looking at specific moment in time, a certain life changing/life ending event. The tonal colors are not just created by vocals - which include both clean male, clean female and the growly male (other than Maria-Stella Fountoulkis being the woman behind the female vocals, I can't say who is behind the other two as many of the band's male members are credited with vocals).

This album (and Bath) is the kind that you need to spend a great deal of time with - though time well spent. If you merely look at the surface you miss a wealth of details. Because the lyrics are just words thrown out to fit the rhythm -- though one hopes that is always true anyway -- the lyricist has taken the time to really compose not just lyrics but poetry. So well written do I find them, that I find myself half wondering if they haven't been lifted from some of the poets that are quoted and named in the liner notes. Not that Blake, et al., had special exclusivity to this particular style, but it is uncommon for modern lyricists, and certainly perhaps metal lyricists to write in such a poetic style. As times changed so did the language of poetry. In fact, at least in the US, poetry does not hold the same place in the public consciousness as it, perhaps, once did, and certainly not as it did in 19th Europe and the UK. Though, I'm not supposing that Keats, Wordsworth, etc., were the "rock stars" of their day ... though all this goes beyond the scope of the review. But, anyone who has read any of the English Romantic poets knows that these were not, necessarily, happy men. That certainly can be said of Keats, whose awareness of his own mortality informs his poetry (my favourite is "When I Have Fears").

As this is an album of contrasts, we next get the, at first, breezy and jazzy "Gleam In Ranks," which becomes much more in the modern clean-voiced metal tradition, al la Dream Theater (and, in fact, the vocalist here sounds a lot like LaBrie). In between these points, there are moments that would also appeal to fans of such bands as Cairo and Grey Lady Down, to name but two that come to mind.

Church-bell like percussion accents "Bizarre Flowers/A Violent Mist," which for the most part also taps into that same prog territory as those two named above as well as Enchant and, in some ways, both Marillion and Porcupine Tree. The chiming guitar notes that are spread throughout are what make me think of Marillion especially, though the guitar leads are firmly in the prog metal camp. Sharp and sweet, they verily sing, though not without an edge. Again we get some more growled vocals here for a passage, before we get back to the more ethereal ending section.

The named-by-a-symbol instrumental track that follows is simply beautiful, pastoral, acoustic, with the warm tones of brass (trumpet, most likely). It simultaneously evokes an earlier time (the 70s) and yet seems very modern. Heard in any other context and one would likely dismiss it as music your parents listen to (um, well, depending on the age of your parents). It evokes for me early Herb Alpert (yeh, because of the trumpet), I also thought of Chicago's "Make Me Smile." It is simple and elegant, and yet continues the moodiness established in the opening musical passages. This leads us to the sometimes harsh, sometimes fragile "Garden Song."

Even more sparse is "Sleep Is A Curse" which is just voice and acoustic guitar. Here the lyrics are more direct, the use of metaphor having given away to simple, declarative statements. As the title suggests, this is not a happy song, though the arrangement is open and light, the clean vocals giving this a more upbeat feel than the growled vocals. "Monstrously Low Tide" closes out the album, painting its sound in watercolors, including shimmering guitars and light, breathy vocals. Stunning piece of music, this is.

While overall I am not as taken by this album as I was by Bath, together they form a very satisfying experience. Neither disc is any one thing, and even if they repeat a structure here and there, the variation in sonic palettes make this a release that will constantly stay fresh, that will keep your attention throughout. As did Bath, Leaving Your Body Map gets very high marks. It's a good thing I still haven't finalized my top 10 for 2001 yet or these disks would have been left off.

[Maudlin Of The Well later changed their name to Kayo Dot, but the MOTW name has been brought back up for the fan-funded free-download album Part The Second, released in May 2009. -ed.]

Stones Of October's Sobbing (7:25) / Gleam In Ranks (4:16) / Bizarre Flowers (9:35) / A Violent Mist (4:17) / unnamed track (8:22) / The Curve That To An Angle Turn'd (5:37) / Sleep Is A Curse (4:17) / Riseth He, The Numberless (5:11) / unnamed track (5:10) / Monstrously Low Tide (6:46)

Jason Byron - vocals, keyboards, and percussion
Jason Bitner - trumpet
Toby Driver - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, cello, and percussion
Maria-Stella Fountoulakis - vocals
Sam Gutterman - vocals, drums, percussion, and guitar
Nicholas Kyte - bass
Greg Massi - vocals and guitar
Terran Olson - vocals, keyboards, clarinet, flute, percussion
Josh Scipp-Williams - guitar

My Fruit Psychobells ? A Seed Combustible (1999)
Bath (2001)
Leaving Your Body Map (2001)
Part The Second (2009)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: February 23rd 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 562
Language: english


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