You'll think about it long after it ends
Since its formation a decade ago, Italian outfit Nosound has gained a humbling reputation as one of the most emotionally and textually beautiful acts in the art/progressive rock spectrum. Founded and masterminded by guitarist/vocalist Giancarlo Erra, the project has already released plenty of work and received plenty of acclaim. On its newest LP, Afterthoughts, Erra and company continue to craft awe-inspiring gems filled with universal heartache and unique, bittersweet instrumentation. In fact, it feels like a sparser sibling to Anathema’s Falling Deeper, Gazpacho’s March of Ghosts, the Autumn Chorus’ The Village to the Vale, and Lady & Bird’s La Ballade…. It’s one of the most tragic and elegant records I’ve ever heard.
Afterthoughts is the follow-up to last year’s At the Pier EP and 2009’s A Sense of Loss LP. It’s the first with keyboardist Marco Berni and drummer Giulio Caneponi as full-time members, as well as the second release with venerated guest percussionist Chris Maitland (ex-Porcupine Tree, no-man). In comparison to his previous output, Erra says, “…I feel this album is more ‘direct’ and powerful, and this is naturally reflected in both music and lyrics… It is also more varied, with lots of new key elements… [it’s] by far Nosound at its best, a big and bold step forward…” Indeed, it’s a masterful journey.
“In My Fears” begins chillingly, with a melancholic guitar arpeggio and an equally arresting soundscape. Soon Erra’s fragile echoes and simple yet sorrowful piano notes join the fray, creating an overwhelming sense of loss. Marianne DeChastelanie’s subtle cello accompaniment adds volumes to the profoundness, and although the vocals aren’t always discernible (the effects sometimes circumvent clarity), they’re nonetheless gripping. Like with the entire album, “In My Fears” is an exquisite example of how the human condition can be expressed absolutely through layers of luscious timbres.
The LP becomes a bit more complex and direct with “I Miss the Ground” and “The Anger Song”, which both soar due to piercing guitar work and pained dissonance. As for “Two Monkeys”, it’s essentially a piano ballad with gloomy atmosphere and devastated syncopation, while “Encounter” begins like a lost Tori Amos treasure; it’s [mostly] instrumental foundation is packed with ghastly despair and suspenseful orchestration. Although the entire album is transcendent, the strongest track is probably “Wherever You Are”. It’s a perfect blend of vocal melodies and complementary arrangements, and the way it evolves from just a voice and an acoustic guitar motif (which is strikingly similar to Anathema’s “Untouchable Pt. 1”) to incorporate several other instruments is exceptionally intense and meaningful. The remaining two tracks, “Paralysed” and “Afterthought”, follow along the same path, with the former highlighted by commanding percussion and the latter by understated harmonies and soft momentum.
Afterthoughts is a tour de force of emotion, delicacy, passion, cohesion, and grief-stricken splendor, and listeners will undoubtedly get lost in its sentiments and patterns. Each piece takes its time to develop, using both conventional and orchestral textures, as well as a plethora of vulnerable honesty, to make its statements. Despite its bleak subject matter, the record is a life-affirming experience. Few other albums have ever matched its magnificent combinations.