So I spent this past week wandering the closet looking for something with a bit of an edge...a place I have not visited in a while. As I said, I have been in the mood for something more on the unique side of prog and I knew I would have to dig deep to satisfy my craving. Moving a box of old baseball cards I found just what the prog doctor ordered...Grey Lotus anyone?
Grey Lotus is a band I have been curious about for a while...and going forward I promise not to wait so long to satisfy my curiosity. Flavored with metal--but not so much I remind myself of my Dad--Grey Lotus walks the jagged line along the fringe of progressive music. I pick up many new aromas and a few distinct flavors; Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, The Strawbs, and even a hint of Marillion. Grey Lotus is definitely a band for the creative thinker.
My first selection this week is a song called "Murder." My first thought was go big or go home and Grey Lotus does not disappoint. The song opens almost ballad-like but randomly hits you with jolts of heavy guitar and drums. The vocals are haunting and I am taken back to Warren Zevon describing the unfortunate demise of the Excitable Boy's prom date sans humor, and Pink Floyd warning Eugene to be careful with that axe. The song is dark for sure, but there is a strange, eerie kind of calm that surrounds you even when the tempo picks up. You feel your heart racing yet your pulse is as steady and calm as syrup dripping through a funnel. This is a new sensation and so far I am enjoying the ride...
My second choice is "Miscommunication." The opening keyboards are a pleasant start as they bleed into vocals and synthesizers taking the listener on an unknown journey. Grey Lotus takes you inside the mind of a person who seems to be searching for and simultaneously running from the truth. I close my eyes and I am standing on a train platform watching a silhouette through a fogged window as the train leaves the station...I am alone and helpless, knowing the chase is futile but feeling the need to continue. Grey Lotus grabs you by the thought process and penetrates deep into the recesses of your mind with deep, dark music covered with emotion, like moss on cobblestones.
Liner Notes...Grey Lotus was formed in the Netherlands in 2008 as a progressive collaboration between Joost Verhagen and Daan Arisz. Joost sings vocals and plays piano, bass, guitar, and "found objects," while Daan plays guitars, EBow, bass, drums, synthesizers, drone, noise, and samples. Additional musicians have included Martijn Scholte, Roelof Ruis, Bob van Waarde, Berit Soolsma, Niels and Lars van der Weiden, and Sand Snowman. Grey Lotus may not be comprised of household names, but they are extremely talented musicians in an ever-changing line-up built around Joost and Daan.
My third and final choice this week is a song called "Slowly Letting Go." Once again Grey Lotus opens with images intended to bring you out of your seat and into the song. There is an almost "Tears For Fears" feel as the guitar and synthesizer start out quiet and still; almost too serene. Despite the initial mellow overtones and dark quiet tempo, I feel like I am about to catch a sledgehammer in the forehead...and here it comes. Grey Lotus has the uncanny ability to add metal to the music with vocals just as much (if not more) than with guitars, drums, and keyboards...and just as suddenly the bus comes to an abrupt stop and I fall forward trying not to smash my face on the seat in front of me. Grey Lotus has taught me a new way to listen to prog music, and as an ever-appreciative student of the art I can only sit starry-eyed and say thank you. I am humbled this week listening to a sound so unique and bold yet so understated. You need to listen--really listen--to understand.
The clip below is called "Not If." The opening violin sets a mood that is soothing and scary all at once. The vocals are incredible; you can almost feel the aching in Joost's voice as he walks back through a life looking for second chance opportunities. The song is from an album aptly titled "The Art Of Listening." Grey Lotus has put together a lesson on the difference between hearing and listening that needs to be shared. As I replay these songs I take my own advice and really listen; Grey Lotus paints a scene so vivid and bright I feel as though I have transcended my reality and broken through to theirs. Listen for yourself and feel what I am so inadequately trying to say.
Once again fellow progheads we are at the end of another incredible week. I learned a lot listening to Grey Lotus and I hope those lessons made their way to you as well. Progressive music in general is more than sound pressed on a compact disc or 12" of vinyl. True prog uses all five senses to give the listener an experience that changes each time the music is played...almost as though it is alive and breathing in the room with you. Grey Lotus has found a way to take that to the next level and bring the listener into the music. The art of listening is one to be savored and appreciated, and Grey Lotus makes you realize the value of patience while doing just that. Another opportunity to discover great new prog awaits...until next week...