You would think that having already explored, examined, sought to understand and written about the title track of this latest album from When Mountains Speak, I would know what to expect. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. Well, like most adages, it is only accurate to a point, and when faced with the coiled and complex, Byzantine and beguiling music found here, the saying proves less than helpful.

Using one song to prepare you for another in the WMS world is pointless; as much as you get a handle on one, the next will always be a completely different ballpark, not to mention a ballpark big enough to encompass everything from the complete spiritual evolution of man, a potted history of philosophy, no small amount of astrophysics, plus radical reinventions of what music is and where it can go.

And so it is with the aptly titled Old Fades To New. Opening with the title track, we are faced with mystical sounds, a blend of lazy, Eastern beats and melodic bass lines which seem keen to break away and go on their own journey if only they weren’t locked into the groove. Similarly, guitar lines that spike and splinter, which are chiming and charming in equal measure, which like the bass lines, see the song as a potential springboard into the unknown and the untested, abound.

It’s a clever balance of serving the song and breaking away to explore peripheral musical realms of sonic subservience and acoustic adventure. And, neatly proving my point, as soon as that song drifts off into the ether, it is replaced by the abrasive and challenging Particles in Motion, a piece which feels like Miles Davis exploring industrial jazz. And that can only be a good thing, right?

There are some moments of clarity, relatively speaking; Through It All, for example, which is balanced on a haunted riff and an ever-changing beat pattern as if the song is being delivered through a thick, viscous fluid where all of the sounds involved travel through it at slightly different speeds.

Easter Musings skirts more formulated jazz-rock territory without conforming to even that genre’s loose conventions, Sliding is a rock raga that seems to exist in a drug fug, and Dizzy is a dark and spiky swansong.

As always, the album is excellent, but you need a broad and open mind to appreciate it fully. As always, the album is challenging, inventive and exploratory. As always, it is nothing like you might expect. But then again, what else did you expect?

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