Glenn Murawski – The Crux Of Consciousness – Album Review
Glenn’s here again! Collect your money from the office pool if you had his return picked before Jan. 21st, 2021…via Zoom & Paypal respectively, of course.
I ain’t gonna lie to ya folks, were it just about any other artist or band out there in the world, starting off any notes to me with something resembling “I scrambled to put this album together…” is…I mean that’s just not the way you wanna go homies. It’s a good thing I know this guy fairly well…if I wasn’t familiar with Murawski’s work ethic I probably would have busted out into a cold sweat even before pushing play. You know what? Even WITH knowing Glenn, and AFTER hearing the results – take your TIME folks. If you’ve got the suits and ties poking you with a very sharp stick to get your next album out by the last Monday that’s already passed…then fine, I suppose I get the rush…otherwise…I mean, take the time you need to get the best outta yourself and out of your art & music – no one should ever be scrambling…
…yes Glenn, that includes you.
Especially if, according to the interview we just did with the man at the end of 2020, he’s not sure how much music he’ll be putting out this year in comparison to the last…that’s even more reason to put the brakes on a bit, and make sure you’ve got every corner as rounded as you possibly can, right? As much as I might advocate for you new artists/bands to sound like Glenn Murawski one day…I can’t imagine there’s gonna be a time soon where I’d recommend his methods and work regimen to anyone other than himself. Between you, me, and the fencepost…you can read through that interview and you’ll see spots that exist for the potential in his own evolution…but it’s up to him to want to take that next step towards it all. You can tell he’s got his way of working that works for him…and lord knows if I had this man’s talent, I’d be tempted to leave it at that as well and put out quality tune after quality tune – but there are still many challenges ahead of him if he wants to keep the process fresh & exciting for himself.
The two main keys & clues as to what I’m getting at are:
- I’m consistently jogging my memory to recall whether or not I’ve heard this particular tune.
- I’m consistently jogging my memory to recall whether or not I’ve heard this particular tune.
While both of these reasons look the same, I assure ya they’re different. One refers to the fact that Glenn quite often pulls songs forward from the past, which makes us reviewer-types super nervous just trying to write an article, in fear that we might not remember everything an instrumental artist has created over like, a hundred releases, and somehow not recognize something in the process. The other refers to the many similarities that exist between the material that shows the space where Murawski still has the opportunity to challenge himself further as a creator and as an artist. No one would accuse this guy of taking the easy way out ever, but it is important to note that every single one of us artist/bands out there tend to fall into our patterns, not realize it, and either stay there for a while, or just plain quit. That’s the fear…that’s the danger…and that’s what I’d encourage the man to avoid. Shaking things up somehow, even if it’s just time between releases, might just make a huge difference for Glenn this year.
Think of it like this all you Progressive & Metal fans reading, however you got here into this dude’s review – Tool puts out a record every like, five or ten years or whatever for a reason – plenty of’em in fact; but the main one is, perspective & time affect & push the art in ways nothing else really ever can.
What actually makes it more difficult in some respects as a fan and as a critic, is all that memory jogging goin’ on. As “The Modern Age (Intro)” started out Glenn’s new album The Crux Of Consciousness, I was 90% positive I’ve heard it before. I’m left with two options. One, I can be brave and just write about what I’m hearing now and hope I’m wrong with a bunch of new commentary, or two, I can be even braver and go back and read the other fourteen reviews I’ve written on his music over the past year or so. But even if I did hear it before…did I hear it in a review to comment on it, or did I just randomly listen as a fan checking in, perhaps in advance of having this album come our way here? Or is “The Modern Age” 100% new? Here’s the real answer folks…and this is important Glenn – I don’t know! At least, I can’t say with complete certainty, how about that? In my heart of hearts, I’ll be upfront and tell ya, I fully believe I’ve heard this particular cut from Murawski’s catalog before – and yes I do really like it – but the point is that, if I’m not entirely sure…others are also having that same experience…and the waters are getting muddied. Because if I haven’t had “The Modern Age (Intro)” come my way before, this should all perhaps concern Glenn a little bit – but if I have, you could look at it from the opposite side of the coin and verifiably claim he’s got a highly memorable melody at work on this first tune, which would be a great thing, of course. I will undoubtedly see the answer to all this in passing as I link old reviews to this album, but I’m leaving these thoughts here to make the point…that next challenge for Glenn is finding that separation, that space, that time…whatever it might be, to flex a bit more diversity in his sound overall. He’s got the skills, he’s got the creativity, and he’s more than got the potential to do it. It’s in hindsight that so many of us look back on our work and see how it can be blocked & grouped into chunks of inspired time, where you’ll lock onto one set of methods or sounds and rock those for what seems like forever without even realizing it, until you take some time away to discover its similarities. When you like someone’s music as much as I tend to like Glenn’s myself, believe me, none of this is really any kind of problem at all from the listening end…I’m just doing my level best to hint ever so slightly at what creates longevity as an artist/musician and help steer him towards what’ll keep him going over the years. Shhhhhh. Don’t tell him I’m doing this. Let it happen by ocular & audible osmosis.
Where so much time & effort continually spent tends to become a bit of an advantage, is when you lock into a mode that really does get the undeniable best out of ya…who wouldn’t want to remain there? It’s tempting for sure. When I hear how far the production of Glenn’s music has come in such a short span on tunes like “The Modern Age (Intro)” and “Time Is Of The Essence” to follow, or any of the songs within the lineup of The Crux Of Consciousness for that matter, you can really hear how dialed-in he is on both sides of the studio boards. As a performer, he’s making reliable moves you know you can count on him for – and as a producer, he’s guaranteeing each of them come with a beautiful sparkle & shine. “Time Is Of The Essence” moves at one of those mid-tempo, some of it’s fast, some of it’s slow, pulsing type styles…and within that space & clever pacing, you get to absorb the depth in the melody line that Glenn’s expertly created for this song. Personally, I find this cut quite captivating…much akin to The Album Leaf, which I’m sure I’ve probably compared Glenn to many times…but it’s this kind of mellow-meets-intensity in the digital/ambient/instrumental realm that I tend to really be fascinated by. I wasn’t always as sure about the low-end electro-based rumble in what you’d likely call the chorus – half of the time I was like, YES – perfect way to switch it up – and the other half I wanted to remain in the crystalline & clear vibes of the spread out space presented beforehand. You see? Us reviewers are never satisfied no matter WHAT you do – and as soon as you do something new, we all just want the last thing you were doing! I both see the hypocrisy in us all, and write just as unapologetically in that regard.
“Sequestered” sounds like it. Again, from my own personal perspective, I’m gonna side with what I hear, because I genuinely do like this tune. Do I like it at track three in the lineup? That might be an entirely different question…and I’m still not fully sure how I’d answer that. To be truthful, I think he’s running a bit of a risk on losing a few people out there with the first two-minutes of this cut if they’re not already existing fans and have some kind of understanding of what a Glenn Murawski record will be like…”Sequestered” has undeniable beauty to it, but it seems to take its time to really find its ultimate direction. Once you get to that two minute mark, it felt like we were on solid ground and well on our way…and just prior to the four minute mark, I started to feel that familiar feeling again; was it simply because I’ve spun this song as many times as I have – or has Murawski displayed similar moves before, or did I already know this tune? Like I’ve been saying…yes, I have listened to more of his music than most and my brain is already rotting like a pumpkin post-Halloween in mid-December – but it’s the not knowing 100% that’s just as much of a factor as it would be if I could say for sure, you dig? The first couple minutes seem to have Glenn noodling a bit within a luscious atmosphere, exploring what the melody is like and where it could take him over the course of the first couple minutes, and then it all instantly snaps right into place decisively from there on in, and each move he makes sounds 100% sure.
The BEST way I can illustrate just about everything I’ve been saying so far, is the inclusion of “Tangible Hearts.” Here’s the facts – YES, it does come from one of the more recent experiences I’ve had with Glenn’s music towards the end of 2020 – but I can tell you EXACTLY where you’ll find it, where it occurs, and the melody itself, feels like I’d never stand a remote chance of forgetting it, or confusing it with anything else. That, dear readers, dear friends, is the entire difference we’re talking about. By memory, I can tell you that “Tangible Hearts” was the intended B-side from a single called “The End Of Sadness” that Glenn Murawski put out last year…a song that instantly spoke to me as an undeniable A-side tune, and I’m stoked to see it get its due credit here in the full lineup of The Crux Of Consciousness. It’s a stunning and memorable song in every tangible sense of the definition & conceivable way I can think of. So let it be said as plain as day and as crystal clear as I can possibly make it in print here for us all – if you have been reading any of this review as some form of complaint and not just friendly advice, you’re nuts to begin with – but it is also extremely important to make the distinction about what the differences are between material & music I really like, versus something like “Tangible Hearts,” which is universally accessible to the nth degree & bound to be loved by anyone hearing it for even a second within earshot. Discover the proof for yourself, below.
“Broken In Time” is designed in a similar way to “Sequestered” in the sense that you’ll hear it spark itself to life around the two-minute mark, and really tap into its most engaging moments from there on in. It kind of makes me curious as to what an entire Glenn Murawski record would be like with two & three-minute long tunes would be…and whether or not that might perhaps draw out some of his strengths in a more apparent way to listeners out there. Because in my opinion, if you chop & edit about two minutes outta both “Broken In Time” and “Sequestered,” you’ve potentially got ideas that’ll make the impact they should entirely…and as they’re currently designed, are simply more of an ask when it comes to the average attention span out there. It’s a six or one half-dozen of the other situation really…all about balance. You want those longer tracks to flex enough versatility & generate enough interest to keep everyone engaged, and the shorter songs you don’t just want flying by the people out there potentially listening, or being so tiny that they’d click somewhere else instead either. Glenn’s catalog is fairly reliably in the 3-5 minute realm with a few outliers in each record length-wise usually…but I’d encourage the guy to not shy away from experimenting with a set of extremely short & tight tunes, if only just to see what might happen. As a two & a half-minute tune that is built on the strengths displayed in its latter half, “Broken In Time” would likely be a guaranteed WIN with all listeners out there, whereas right now it’s got one half that’s bound to appeal to people like myself, but perhaps not capable of reaching everyone. And that’s of course not to say every song needs to have that purpose, but it’s something to be considered when self-editing, which as we all know as artists, is the most impossible task we take on.
Case in-point somewhat, “Peaceful Interlude” is under ninety-seconds long. It delivers on what the title promises ya and doesn’t really attempt to go any further beyond that, which is…well…kinda pleasant, kinda quaint, and yes, quite kinda like you’d imagine an interlude of any sorts to be. It hugs tight to its idea, style, and sound, and remains in that gear for the full eighty-five seconds. What it also does, is highlight the differences between a short song and a definable interlude, which this is definitely the latter. It’s not designed with the strengths I’ve pointed out in tracks like “Sequestered” or “Broken In Time” – but that’s also not the intention here either; an interlude, classically, serves as this moment does – a pause of sorts for the listeners to regroup…audible reprieve for us to catch our breath and continue on the journey we’re on…to help us take stock of all that we’ve heard & experienced so far.
Ultimately, you’ll find “Peaceful Interlude” resets us, and allows for the seven minute-plus “Tranquil” to have an even better shot at getting the attention of listeners out there by cleverly drawing back the energy, increasing the use of space in the atmosphere, spreading out there sound, and setting the stage for this longer tune to succeed. Again, much like its title would imply, that’s the demeanor of the vibe, aura, and atmosphere you’ll find – it’s a “Tranquil” tune and doesn’t attempt to hide that from ya whatsoever. The initial five & a half minutes is a fairly large ask of listeners out there this time around I’d suspect, but when that warm glow hits the background to fill the space surrounding you with two minutes left on the clock, you feel it with the full weight such a bold transition should come with. Bold in the sense that it makes a massive difference – Glenn’s not going to shock you into the Wednesday of next week with some sort of Metal sound ripping through the mix, no – it’s much more subtly & carefully designed than anything jolting whatsoever, but it absolutely does get noticed for all the right reasons. “Tranquil” would make for a fantastic experience when you’re in the mood to accept its vast amount of space and gentle sound…outside of that mode, it’s gonna be a tougher ask of the everyday listener and I’m realistic about that. Even myself, I had times where the opening five & a half of “Tranquil” seemed to be all I wanted to hear, and other days where I wanted Glenn to “get to the chorus,” as they say. Do they even say that in the instrumental world? I actually don’t know that for a fact, but I suspect you all get what I mean. Once you get to the 3:50 mark, the strengths begin to slowly increase, the emotion and thought-provoking sound becomes more tangible to access, and the mesmerizing passion that Murawski is so consistently capable of really starts to creep in beautifully. It’s hard to argue that a record like The Crux Of Consciousness and its many dimensions of space & sound shared between its set-list is going to make for everyday listening…but perhaps that’s more than okay. Maybe albums like these are created and meant for us to reach for when we really need them the most. The final two minutes of “Tranquil” were certainly my favorite…it’s uplifting, it’s inspired, it’s moving – you genuinely feel better as a human being and refreshed after you bathe in the glow of this cut’s finale.
While it’s created in an entirely different direction, with just about the polar opposite sound – “Silent Escapes” would be another song I’d be looking at with the same lens used to examine “Tangible Hearts.” Part of this is achieved through the difference this particular song has in its sound selection and piano-based melody being a noticeable shift from a large portion of The Crux Of Consciousness, especially in how consistent it’s playing with the lower end of the melodic spectrum in your speakers compared to the rest. I’m not arguing that the hooks are necessarily even a tenth as memorable as what you’ll find on “Tangible Hearts” – but the shift in sound, and song overall, certainly are. “Silent Escapes” simply tries to do something completely different than the rest does…and this kind of emotional exploration is absolutely to be encouraged – nothing about this sounded forced at all, just different. Perfectly different. By far and away one of my favorite songs within the lineup of The Crux Of Consciousness, I felt like Glenn showed us something extremely powerful & subtle that we’ve never heard before on any of his albums here. Sure you’ll find a few similarities here & there to SOMETHING he’s created – he’s got a million & one songs out there – but you’ll hear what I mean when you listen. “Silent Escapes” is nothing short of absolutely mesmerizing…when we’re talking about captivating sound, this is completely what we’re talking about – Glenn’s moving at a reallllllllll slow pace, yet we’re right on the edge of our seat when we listen. And when he makes the slightest of moves, like you’ll hear around the 2:50-ish mark of this song…good lord…they become absolutely breathtaking. In fact, right around that one moment I just pointed out there, you’ll find a musical hook in the melody that just about any other artist or band would have leaned on big-time, or built an entirely different song around – yet Mr. Murawski here, drawing from his bottomless well of spectacular ideas, sails right through it like he could do it all damn day. And of course, from the sheer creative output he’s already shown the world, unmatched by any other, it’s clear that he could, he does, and he has been. “Silent Escapes” is hauntingly beautiful in every way – this song clings desperately to the marrow of your bones and weaves its mysterious vibes straight into the fabric of your being. Spellbinding stuff here in my opinion…”Silent Escapes” is brilliantly epic & massive for how remarkably subtle the music & melody really are…I loved everything about this.
“Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid.” I agree. Let’s move on.
As the great Tom Hanks once said, “There ain’t no scrambling in Baseball!” – or something along those lines…I started to feel that a bit in this record a little after listening to the incredibly inspired effect of the outstanding “Silent Escapes” and how it gave us a stellar new depth & dimension to the album overall. “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” and “In The Throes Of Nothingness” to follow are still solid tunes by just about any measure you can think of, but also end up feeling like they do a little bit less to move the needle or further the story of Murawski’s music by comparison somewhat. Keep in mind, I’ve heard at least half of the million tunes he’s made…my experience would be much, much different than anyone else just putting on a Glenn Murawski record at this point, and inherently more critical over time as a result. Not out of any kind of malice of course, quite the opposite – everything I’ve ever written is generally designed to push buttons at maximum, all for a greater good of helping people discover the best of what they can do with the incredibly abilities they already come to these pages of ours with. So do I like “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” and “In The Throes Of Nothingness” when push comes to shove? Absolutely. For myself personally, I’ve got so many moods shifting through me all the time, every day, that there’s just about a portion of every week where I could happily lose myself immersed deep within a Murawski record…these might not be my highlight choices from his catalog overall, but there’s no question that they’re still both really good tunes. It’s generally only by comparison to the rest of what you know he’s capable of that they pale a bit…otherwise, on a first listening experience or first impression of what Glenn does, you’d likely be fully onboard with what you hear & the explorative & expressive way he’s able to create texture & unique contrasting melodies.
“The End Of Sadness” was the tune paired with the B-side of “Tangible Hearts” at the end of last year, as the apparent A-side. At the risk of being incredibly unpopular with an artist I have the utmost respect for, I disagreed with the interpretation & assessment of the status each song was assigned, but ultimately did enjoy both – you can read all about that in the previous review I wrote up by clicking here. Time and distance isn’t just important for an artist, but also listening ears as well – sometimes coming back to a song with a few calendar days in between the last time you heard it can make a profound difference…and I kind of felt like that towards “The End Of Sadness.” Sometimes that’s the difference context makes, or the flow of an album too – the last time I was listening to it, my one and only other option was “Tangible Hearts” along with it, and we all know how that story ended up based on what you’ve read here in this review as well. Hearing “The End Of Sadness” in the lineup of The Crux Of Consciousness, and where it sits in particular in the set-list after the two previous songs, gives us all the opportunity to experience it from a completely different light…and to me, that made a huge difference. I felt like I both enjoyed it and appreciated its beauty that much more this time around, and what seemed to be really good, turned into a great moment on this album, like the comfort & welcoming return of something that was previously missing and not noticed until right now. Perhaps that’s what “The End Of Sadness” is really all about in a way…it’s “The End Of Sadness” yes, but also the return of renewal of happiness by that same token at the very same time. You’ll have to forgive me Glenn…I’ve never professed to be the brightest bulb in the room and sometimes it takes an old feller like me a minute or two to catch on…but I hear it now…you’ve got something really special at the core of this song that certainly shouldn’t be passed over, and I think you’ve given us all the opportunity to hear that better now within the lineup of The Crux Of Consciousness and bringing this song back for a second spin.
I think that…essentially what it is here…is that Glenn’s got two six-track EPs combined into one experience here…and that’s what creates this push/pull energy when listening and absorbing these tunes and this album as a result. Sometimes he doles out a certain gear or style and rocks it throughout one record from start to finish, sometimes he’s in more of a hybrid mood; and this album suggests the latter took hold. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, and if you know what you’re in-store for, you’ll seek it out when that’s what you know you wanna listen to. On that first spin or two, you might feel the spread out distance between the energies, atmospheres, melodies, and movements in these songs…and it might take a couple ventures through it to lock onto the ability to transition as quickly from one gear to the next like Glenn so clearly can. I ain’t gonna lie to ya, he’s a very tough artist to keep up with on just about every level you can think of…and he gives you a bit of a challenge in that sense through the varied lineup of styles & sounds on display throughout The Crux Of Consciousness. Case in-point, “Chill Vibes (Outro)” is probably a cut I’d be all about every day of the week in normal circumstances…if it was on its own; here at the end of this record, sometimes it felt akin to like, heading out of the movie theater and back into the daylight with a friendly & inoffensive tune to ease you outta there as you toss what’s left of your popcorn & soda. I wasn’t always sure about “Chill Vibes (Outro)” coming after “The End Of Sadness” in this particular set-list on The Crux Of Consciousness, though I’ll still admit, it does work as its own conclusive ending of sorts, and I don’t really know where else you stick a song on an album after you give it the label of an outro anyhow…so I suppose, no real substantial complaints to be had from me. “Chill Vibes (Outro)” was definitely a track I had no problem at all turning up when it comes right down to it…individually, I think it’s even another highlight to be found on The Crux Of Consciousness, of which there are many. A little uneven in its energy as an album from start to finish, but never short on quality ideas or spectacular sound – I remain, as ever, a huge fan of Glenn Murawski and a big believer in what he’s capable of creating…and I’m excited to hear where his music will take him this year. No scrambling now brother…unless of course it’s breakfast time, in which case, cool, have at’er hoss; I’ll take me an omelet & pass over some bacon while you’re at it, please & thanks.
Find out more about Glenn Murawski at his official homepage at: https://gmmtunes.com
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