There was once a very interesting sound experiment that took place to make us ask questions ideas of where the limits of melody, song, music and the like start and end. A violin was tied to a piece of string and dragged down a gravel path. The noise was not what most people might call music but you couldn’t deny that it was a recognisable instrument being played in a new and unusual way to make sounds. Why was this any way less to be regarded as “music” than, say, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring?
The Way Out Is In might also raise some of the same questions. It comprises of 5 tracks, though the whole thing clocks in at not far under an hour of music, and it meanders between recognisable song structure and spoken word, ambient experiments and boundary-pushing sonic adventurousness. Although describing himself as a singer-songwriter, in this incarnation at least, such a moniker hardly does his creations justice and terms such as soundscaper, musical avant gardener or even deconstructor might be more apt, if not a little pretentious.
The music itself is anything but pretentious but it is odd. And odd is a thing I like. Rather than meaning anything detrimental, it suggests unique ways of looking at creativity, if shrugs off fad or fashion, it is a badge of individuality and non-conformity, and we need such people now, perhaps more than ever.
The title track opens the album up, a strange waltz of beats and tortured strings, menacing vocals and dark and heavy spaces, slowly building in structure and weight but never pandering to the expectations of the listener. And for a second slice of the pie, the album ends with the instrumental take of this beguiling opening track. Omicron, which follows, a sequel to 2020’s Covid (from the LP Untitled) is built through waves of ambient oppression and claustrophobic sound washes, sounding as if someone is making music out of the found audio in the wake of atomic explosions and missile launches, banks of dense noise eventually joined by torture chamber sound bites and hellish visions forged into a semblance of music.
Forget The Past is a long, drawn-out torch song, a wracking of the soul put to music, a minimal guitar the only accompaniment to the vocal sound of someone reflecting on the wrong moves of their past, streams of consciousness word salvos slowly disintegrating into noises as vocals and voices as instruments before collecting itself and returning to sweeter and more recognisable musical pastures. And then, in contrast, Tear Garden (Praying For Me) is the closest we get to a traditional song format, a gothic piano ballad that the likes of Bowie or Nick Cave would have been happy to have written.
The Way Out Is In, is less a collection of songs, though it does weave in and out of recognisable ways of operating, and more an experience. Sort of like the difference between a formal painting and a strange installation art piece or a devised play and improvised, interpretative dance. And who is to say which is the more valid form of expression. I will say this though, you come away from this album with much more to think about than the aftermath of your average collection of 3-minute pop songs. Such an album might find less of a following amongst the average pop-pickers but it certainly has much more to say than a ton of such albums stacked one on top of the other.