Just Hold Your Breath... and Fall
The wind makes the last embrace on your body. There is no warmth in your eyes because your tears have been blown away from your face. You see in the corner of your eye the last glimpse of the mountain of clouds behind you getting taller and taller as you fall faster and faster. The sun is caged inside a coliseum of golden nimbus gates. A moment ago, you were on a cliff at the edge of Heaven and then you jumped.
It’s this peaceful melancholy that flows through the veins of almost every track on the Soulsavers’ latest release, It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land. The team that is Soulsavers, Rich Machin and Ian Glover, has found a delicate way of conveying images of faith and salvation through stripped-down, empowering electronica. Granted, they’ve also got Mark Lanegan doing vocals for much of the album, but nevertheless, Soulsavers is definitely capable of painting a picture that is emotive enough to enter the realm of spiritual, philosophical music.
You may expect the album to be a big cut and paste job, with samples being used left and right and out of place guest musicians coming in whenever the groove seems good. Thankfully, Soulsavers know what’s good, and they do it with direction and unity. At times, especially in the intros and outros of the slower songs on It’s Not How Far You Fall, the music felt reminiscent of Radiohead’s Amnesiac. Of course, don’t expect the voice of Thom Yorke to enter your ears. That doesn’t mean you should be disappointed either. Mark Lanegan has one of the most distinctive voices of our generation and it’s the years of smoking, drinking and everything else they tell you not to do in school choir that made it so unique.
It’s hard to describe, but there’s some incredible beauty to Lanegan’s raspy vocals put on top of inspirational tracks like “Revival” and “No Expectations”. For all his talent, Lanegan does fall short on one song, “Spiritual”. Calling it hackneyed would be a little light. It’s just so disappointing because much of the album makes a good balance of solemnity and upbeat alternative electronica. The piano and vocals are oversaturated with a pretentious desperation that off sets the rest of the album’s honesty. Plus, the lyrics sound like something written by your local Christian rock band. “Jesus, I don’t want to die alone / My love was untrue / Now all I have is you”. I expected that last line to come, but for the sake of the song I prayed that it didn’t. Oh well.
Apart from some minor disappointments, the album is able to hold its own. Some tracks captivate the listener with the atmosphere of a solemn reverence, like looking up at the sky and searching for God, as with “Ask the Dust”, which is one of two instrumental tracks on the disc. The other instrumental, “Arizona Bay” put me into the setting of a dying farmland, with grass and animals destroyed by hunger and the weight of a sadness too great to make anyone lift themselves up from their dredges. It concludes, however, with an epic subtlety as trumpets and bells converge and the static that hissed through the song before disappears to reveal a man on his feet at the top of a grassy hill, chest bared and challenging God and the sun.
But this peace that is so integral to the message of It’s Not How Far You Fall is also injected with a twisted excitement. The tracks “Paper Money” and “Jesus of Nothing” bring out this sentiment. Both have a strong jazzy, trip-hop feel and seduce the listener. To go along with the theme of spirituality that is present on the album, these songs are definitely a dip into darkness and vice, and it feels pretty damn good. If you recall earlier how you jumped from Heaven, you’ll realize that for a single moment, you are the fastest moving object in the entire world. And soon, you’ll be at the feet of the Devil, ready to laugh in his face.
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