Glenn Murawski – Vicissitudes

 Glenn Murawski – Vicissitudes

Glenn Murawski – Vicissitudes – Album Review

Alrighty folks…here’s a name you should all be familiar with at our pages by now – this will be the 5th time we’ve featured & reviewed the ever-creative artist Glenn Murawski’s music at our page in well-under a year’s time!  I’m not too sure how many of you out there are able to compete with that remarkable level of output; I’m here every day immersed in the independent scene and even I feel like I’m running stationary on a treadmill in comparison to how far & hard Glenn’s been sprinting forward.  Impressive to say the least – it’s INSPIRING to hear & see an artist that’s as into their craft as Murawski is & how determined he’s been to break new ground when it comes to his own career, and music overall.

I’ll let you in on a little bit about what I know firsthand…because it might just assist you in listening too – or somehow help us all in understanding what Murawski is really all about even 10% more than we do now.  The note I got along with the submission of the new album Vicissitudes read:  “…the first track sounds bad in the beginning intentionally.  If you knew me you’d understand lol.”  Intriguing right?  Come on now…that’s more than an admission of guilt or some kind of laziness…that’s an invitation to dig deeper into the what/why a song like “Transient Blue” wouldn’t somehow match up potentially to the rest of the sonic standards of this new record.  It’s a note that certainly made me instantly curious – and ultimately, I think it takes some courage to follow through with an idea like “Transient Blue” that he knows might not measure up to the rest of the songs, but serves a more important purpose on the album’s full story…why Vicissitudes was created…why these songs and this lineup is important to Glenn.

In his own words, “This album is like a bearing of my soul to the world, it explores so many different facets of my existence, every chord, every song title has meaning.”  And it’s with this quote that I sighed heavily for a moment…realizing exactly why I love listening to Murawski’s music and how completely invested he is in every moment of his art…the kind of sigh that expresses how much I wish everyone out there took their craft as seriously as this dude does.  Because whatever Glenn’s methods, inspirations, or ambitions may be – there is zero doubt about the extremely compelling results he achieves with this record – Vicissitudes is a stunning journey to the heart of exceptional sound & gifted mind of Murawski.

Content-wise, I’d say that I’m equally as excited about this new album as I was when I originally heard Glenn’s music for the very first time on his Revisions And Remasters: Volume 1 record back in May of 2019…which is to say, massively.  Production/skill-wise, I don’t think there’s any argument to be made when it comes to Murawski’s music – you can hear the evolution clearly all over this record; he’s re-upped on the electronic software and has a multitude of new toys, sounds, and ideas to explore & use.  Having said that – he’s not wrong about his assessment of “Transient Blue” either; I’d never go as far as to say it’s anything close to a complete waste of your time, but there’s also no doubt that it audibly pales in comparison to the quality of sound & ideas that you’ll experience as the record plays on.  Now of course, I only know a fraction of the backstory…but if I had to hazard a guess to fill in the rest without knowing Murawski’s intentions factually – I’d probably bet that “Transient Blue” kinda serves like the border between the worlds of his sound.  An audible line in the sand that shows where he was in the past, and the new reality of where he’s ended up now that he’s crossed over to the other side and on his way into the future of his music & what he’s capable of now.  Like I said…it’s a guess, but it’s a possible theory that could explain the inclusion of “Transient Blue.”  Played entirely on the ol’ midi-keys in mainly a traditional piano sound, Murawski ham-fists the notes purposely and makes mince-meat out of this opening melody…yet I’ll admit, the perplexing composition and approach is what kept me listening too.

So with the previous notes sent in regarding “Transient Blue” & its intended start to the record in mind, in addition to the stark difference that “In The End, We Reap What We Sow…” creates from the very moment it starts in terms of quality, ideas, and sound…it did feel somewhat like the real Vicissitudes experience began with this second cut.  When you listen to the difference, you’ll know exactly what I’ve been talking about this whole time…when you hear the identifiable SPECIALNESS of the sequence, composition, and melody that he’s capable of creating like he does on “In The End, We Reap What We Sow…,” you WILL question why he’d even include a song like “Transient Blue” at all – especially at the beginning of the album, in comparison to this second track.  That’s the thing though folks…if you’re doing it right in my opinion, ALL of your music, the good, the bad, the records, and what’s on the cutting-room floor can contribute to your whole story in some way, shape, or form.  Perhaps “Transient Blue” exists solely for the purpose of making everything after seem even more incredible than it even actually is.  You’ll have just as many theories on this as you listen I’m sure – and maybe we’ll never really figure it out…maybe we’re not really meant to…whatever the intentions may be, the results of the effect become the same to us – “In The End, We Reap What We Sow…” is freakin’ magnificent & mesmerizing.

And chances are, if you liked or loved what you heard on “In The End, We Reap What We Sow…” that you’ll go on to discover you feel just as strongly about the rest of the material on Vicissitudes like I did.  “In Trying Times” is an excellent example of how well Murawski can shape a structure, mood, and atmosphere…I thought the selection of sounds was perfect and the entire way this cut is laid-out & flows, builds, grows, and expands brilliantly.  Professionally controlled and smooth from the beginning to the end, Glenn continuously adds more depth & layers to the mix on “In Trying Times,” to the point where at its peak, this song pumps out a noticeable amount of epic sound you couldn’t possibly miss.  That first burst of colorful sound around the thirty-second mark sparks the crystalline atmosphere of “In Trying Times” to life and it’ll continue to build powerfully from there on.  Expertly mixed & produced, the addition of the drums into this cut was a perfect inclusion, and as you head into the two-minute mark, you’re now fully immersed in sound flowing all around you as “In Trying Times” keeps on upping the ante.  The electro-melody inclusion towards the three-minute mark and the intensity of the organ sounds around the 3:20 spot put the cherry on top of what’s already been an extraordinary journey – and we exit “In Trying Times” at the heights of its complexity & most involved parts of the structure.

“Posthumous Reflection” immediately dials-back the energy that “In Trying Times” left us with at the peak of its creativity only moments before, and the impact of the loud/quiet dynamic at this spot on the record cannot be understated.  The value that this move creates in terms of listening is fantastic – it’s like we instantly give our completely undivided attention to “Posthumous Reflection” and connect to its beauty, weight, emotion, and melody without hesitation as a result of the switch between sounds.  I like a whole lot of things that Glenn Murawski does when it comes to how he makes his music…but credit where credit is due – he’s exceeding expectations with a song as strong as this one is, no matter how much of a fan I already was previously or what I thought he was capable of.  “Posthumous Reflection” isn’t just a great song on this particular record; it’s absolutely one of the strongest cuts he’s now got in his entire rapidly-growing catalog.  I could keep on typing out words for ya when it comes to “Posthumous Reflection, “ but I can’t put it any better than I already have – Murawski should be completely proud of what he’s accomplished on this song…you couldn’t possibly take your ears off this.  It’s absolutely one of the most stunning moments you’ll find on Vicissitudes for sure, and again, to me, there’s no question about this song being one of the best you’ll find from Glenn’s catalog all-around.

I was a little more indifferent about the very beginning synth-led intro into “A Semblance Of Peace,” but much like “Transient Blue” worked in favor of setting up “In The End, We Reap What We Sow…” for victory later on, everything post-intro about “A Semblance Of Peace” was pretty gripping to listen to.  Especially once the string sounds come into effect…they kind of lead the way when it comes to what pulls us in the most, and definitely when combined with the low-end melody underneath the surface.  Overall, this is a tougher tune to examine in many ways…in fact, my gut tells me that if you were to break this song down piece-by-piece, each layer could theoretically become its own song…there are a lot of verifiable hooks at work in this one tune.  As for the reality of them all being played alongside each other here on “A Semblance Of Peace” – honestly, I’m not sure how the people will take this one.  I like to think that they’ll all find that the giant umbrella that each of these ideas exists underneath can house them all successfully…and I suspect that it might actually work to Glenn’s advantage if people don’t dig too hard into this one.  It’s the kind of cut that, from a distance & with some perspective, has a sound that’s got more than its share of enticing ideas that combine into a much larger entity…but in breaking it down or examining it up-close, “A Semblance Of Peace” seems more chaotic in its makeup than it’ll likely appear.  Having said all that…I still think that Glenn’s got this mapped out in an accessible way that tons of ears will enjoy; it’s not like “A Semblance Of Peace” becomes any kind of savage wall of sound or anything that extreme, but you will find there’s actually a heck of a lot more going on to create this cut than you’d ever assume without listening to it real closely.  As a result, whether it ends up being one of your favorites on Vicissitudes or not, you can’t argue against the amount of interest a track like this can generate through the way it’s assembled; fundamentally it might be a larger ask of the everyday listener out there, but the music-heads & musicians will likely rally around the insightful structure at work here.

“Tangle With The Depths” is another extraordinary cut on Vicissitudes that might be relegated to unsung hero status on those first spins through the record before it gets the proper amount of credit due for the strength it brings to the overall lineup of songs one day.  And that’s okay!  Songs like this one are invariably the reasons WHY we come back to listen to an album and recognize that the entire set-list had something worthwhile to offer our ears.  Sure, maybe it’ll take a couple trips through the length of the album to remember each title of these instrumental tunes…that’s just kinda how it goes when there aren’t any words to help us all easily remember what we’re listening to – but you WILL remember that it’s tracks like “Tangle With The Depths” that contributed to keeping the quality, creativity, and stunning selection of sounds intact, cohesive, and entertaining over the course of this whole album.  After a couple spins through this record myself, I was definitely convinced that this was one of its strongest cuts; I had moments where I felt like it nearly rivaled how strong I felt towards “Posthumous Reflection” even…though I’ll admit I still feel like that low-key tune has the edge on the entire lineup after listening.  “Tangle With The Depths” gets pretty darn close though…I think the violin melody that soars through the core of this melody is excellent, I think the subtle transitions in the structure are solid, and moments like the searing guitar-solo completely make the impact they’re intended to make in diversifying the sound of this song.  Most importantly, it’s that guitar that exposes the bleeding heart & emotion at the center of this tune at its most intense, bold, fragile, and sincere…there’s an awesome mix of contrasting energies and feeling at work throughout this song that are all designed to be as thought-provoking as they become.  Another highlight example of how Murawski’s music can really take you somewhere else.

Into a drum-based interlude of sorts, “Tribal” flexes a percussion-heavy set of ideas with a bright melodic, ice-like sound accompaniment to go with it.  I can admit…it’s one of the odder inclusions to this set of songs…I’d imagine many people out there will feel similar about it – but again, appreciate the different dimensions of sound that this album has & how “Tribal” plays a role in contributing to that too.  Does this lineup of cuts on Vicissitudes need “Tribal” to be complete?  Maybe, maybe not – I’d imagine that’ll be up to each of you listening to ultimately decide on that…as far as Glenn’s concerned, like he said himself, every title on this record tells its own part of the overall story…and really, whether we completely follow or ‘get’ what it all adds up to is somewhat irrelevant anyhow.  We all form our own attachments & personal meanings to the music we listen to, and instrumental music like Murawski makes almost gives you more of an excuse to project your own thoughts & feelings onto any given song as you search for what they’re really all about, or what they mean to you.  Bottom line is that its tracks like “Tribal” that keep this lineup filled with diversity, twists, and turns you wouldn’t expect…and there’s value in that too; it’s not as if Glenn’s expecting these instrumental tunes to end up on your mainstream radio-stations, so it gives him the freedom to explore all kinds of different ideas in his creative process.

The longest song & title-track of the record, “Vicissitudes” begins with an audible black-cloud hanging over the forlorn & desolate tones from the piano, giving this cut an immediate seriousness that envelops you instantly.  Pace & space play a massive part in making this track as killer as it is…Glenn’s in no hurry when it comes to how this song moves, expertly making the most of each moment and letting these notes hang in the air as they bounce around us.  A genius example of Murawski left to his own devices – “Vicissitudes” is as thick as a fairly bare & minimalist vibe can possibly get…every note he plays & every sound he adds into this one clings right to your bones in an unforgettable way you can truly feel.  When he goes for slick & subtle atmospheres like this one, he’s always managed to find an incredible level of success – and this cut is no exception to that rule or the high-standard he’s set in the past.  It might be one of the slowest builds of any song on the record, but on the flipside of that coin, you’ll discover that “Vicissitudes” is one of the most captivating, hypnotic, and mesmerizing tracks you’ll hear in the lineup.  You could easily get lost inside of this song for what seems like days, and I guarantee you’d never get bored or want to snap yourself out of the trance it induces…it’s audio-entertainment paced out brilliantly.  There’s something about this cut that really gave me the chills…exactly like the feeling I get from listening to a track as boldly different as “A Warm Place” on The Downward Spiral by NIN – and as far as the mix is concerned, hearing these sounds drop, bubble, and create this melody, is 100% superb!  For the textures alone, you should be hooked right into your headphones to absorb every second of this tune…and the guitar…man…when that shows up, it’s another layer of victory and some of the best moments for that instrument on any track you’ll find throughout this album.  I’ve mentioned more than my fair share of times about how the pressure of a title-track can often get the better of an artist or band in their attempts to get the core centerpiece of their record just right – “Vicissitudes” is a highlight example of how to get it perfect – there’s no doubt this is one of the album’s strongest & best cuts.

As serene & chill as it can be, “Calm Dwellings” can be equally haunting as well – in fact, I’d go as far as to say that Murawski is nearing Nine Inch Nails territory here, obviously at Reznor’s most laidback of course.  Personally, I loved the build-up on this cut…it’s the kind of song that, by the time you reach the two-minute mark and it starts to really reveal the melody, you’re already convinced this tune would have gone in one direction before it chooses another entirely.  And right around the time where you were wondering whether “Calm Dwellings” was going to find the solid ground this idea is searching for, you’re about three-minutes into the song, and right in the heart of this entire melody, locked-in and fully curious as to what’s coming your way next.  But take a song like say, “The Great Below” by Nine Inch Nails from The Fragile album…could you not imagine “Calm Dwellings” being a perfect introduction to that song coming right afterwards?  It’s that kind of vibe goin’ on here I tell ya…and in my world, that’s about as rad as an experience can get…The Fragile is an incredible sonic achievement and a record that should be heralded equally for the songwriting – to be anywhere close to that creative terrain, style, or sound, is certainly an accomplishment as far as my ears are concerned.  Glenn’s keeping great company in comparison when it comes to “Calm Dwellings” – with this and “Vicissitudes” coming back-to-back, and “The Good Hours” & “Times Are Changing” to still follow, there’s a solid chance that many listeners are going to feel like Murawski really hits his stride the strongest towards the end of the album, or is at the very least stringing together a highly compelling set of tunes that couldn’t possibly be ignored.

There’s an argument to be made that the most welcoming, inviting, friendly, and comforting sounds you’ll find on Vicissitudes belong to the song “The Good Hours,” towards the end of the lineup.  Loved the way the percussion was set so far off in the distance of the mix…loved the way the bass-line plays such a subtle-but-effective role…loved the ideas on the surface from the main melody to the gentle & bright layers of synth sounds that enter in later on as well.  Right around the 3:10 mark, “The Good Hours” takes one more opportunity to expand & blossom even further – you’ll notice that quite a few of the tunes on this record end on their biggest moments…no denouement after the finale – we hit that apex & climax of the song, and we’re right on into the next in many situations throughout this album.  “The Good Hours” delivers on a sweetness that’s rare to any song on this record…more straight-ahead, unfiltered, and uncomplicated than many of the other tunes by comparison.  Probably the most readily accessible cut on the record for many listeners, “The Good Hours” offers you a moment of emotional reprieve, comfort, and stability that’s needed to balance out this lineup of sensory experiences.  Pleasant in just about every way you can imagine, it’s a refreshing moment on Vicissitudes for sure.

Ending the album on one of the most tangible, accessible, and fully-realized ideas with “Times Are Changing” – you can feel the air of hopefulness, potential, and possibility flow throughout the inspiring melody at the heart of this final cut.  It is one of the longer tracks on Vicissitudes – and I highly recommend giving this song all the room & space it needs in your speakers to reach its main hooks…because once you get there, you’ll never wanna go back…you’ll wanna pack up your things and MOVE to wherever this sound lives.  Somewhat like the effect “Calm Dwellings” had structurally in the sense that, “Times Are Changing” builds and develops subtly around you, and before you even realize how much you’ve been through, you’re at the heart of the melody & idea, captivated by the creativity.  Glenn’s experimented with layering in quite a few cuts on this album – and personally, I think that “Times Are Changing” is a perfect example of what happens when every sound finds the place where it belongs.  This cut is as powerful, melodic, and emotionally gripping as anything you’d find on Four Tet’s album Rounds…and again, if ya know anything about me & what I love, you’ll know this is the highest of praise.  There’s something remarkably beautiful, humble, and sweet about the hooks in the main parts of the melody that flow throughout “Times Are Changing” and the empowered, inspiring sound that surges through this composition…it might be an energy or a feeling we can never fully describe in words – but it’s undoubtedly a feeling that each of us would share in listening to this last cut.  The universally appealing & soul-soothing hopefulness at the core of “Times Are Changing” never stops coming atcha – & it makes for a spectacular ending to what’s been another really excellent record by Glenn Murawski.

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