Bruce Soord with Jonas Renske - 'Wisdom Of Crowds'

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Bruce Soord with Jonas Renske - 'Wisdom Of Crowds'

One of the best progressive, non-prog albums you could hope to hear.

A collaboration which at first glance makes little sense, the pairing of modern progger Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief and the singer with a band more known for their extreme nature, Jonas Renske of Katatonia, not only proves to be surprisingly different, but thoroughly involving and completely convincing.

If you've read anything about this first offering from the previously disparate pair, then doubtless you've heard scary words like "trip-hop" bandied around. Had I never experienced this album, that description would have been enough to frighten me off. However nothing could be further from both my original reaction to 'Wisdom Of Crowds' or the opinion I've formed subsequently. Better words to describe what you'll discover are "beautiful, sparse, fragile and thoughtful".

Even with few genuine expectations as to what this would sound like, what is offered up here is still a surprise, with comparisons to the previous work of the pair futile. Yes, if you want to analyse the song construction and structure, they aren't completely at polar opposites from Bruce's TPT sound, but then neither would you ever expect to find much, if anything from this album on a Thief platter. Comparisons to Katatonia are even further wide of the mark.

More often than not the electronic beats are the body of tracks as comfortable adding a simple piano-vocal accompaniment as they are offering grating guitar and thunderous atmospherics. The former approach is the one more likely to be experienced, synth layers providing a grand, expansive vibe, even when the melodies and vocals are kept deceptively simple. However for all of the time, effort and craft Soord has obviously poured into 'WoC', his true masterstroke was realising that Renske was the man he wanted to interpret these songs, his clear, clean, deep, intense vocals taking interesting ideas and beautifully realised music and raising it three or four, or even fifteen levels. So strong is the voice that it completely drives the mood of this album. To be fair, the effect would obviously have been reduced if Soord hadn't poured his heart and soul in, with the busy beats and cascading guitars bouncing off strings and synth washes on 'Frozen North', while 'Radio Star' begins in a claustrophobic early Nine Inch Nails style, before evolving into a song of striking, perfect, fragility; Renske laying down an inspirationally dark, foreboding vocal while sounding amazingly sweet and innocent. The deep meandering of 'Pretend' infuses melancholy into a sparse arrangement, while 'Centre Of Gravity' sidesteps into one of the few traditionally progressive moments, landing somewhere between Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, although with a chunky electro-beat; the album's title track adding a strangely jazzy feel in a completely un-jazz kind of way.

'Wisdom Of Crowds' is a wonderfully pitched album, secure enough to sedately go about its business, capable of suddenly bearing its teeth in the most threatening manner: making for one of the best progressive, non-prog albums you could hope to hear.

Steven Reid

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