We’ve talked a lot about fun, music and analysis here on the blog and we’re sure to talk about in the future as well (there’s an editorial coming, worry not). What exactly is the relationship between enjoying music, its complexity and its innovation? The question will perhaps remain forever open, but that doesn’t have to stop us from just enjoying what we enjoy, regardless of intellectual matters. This is exactly the kind of approach one should use when sitting down to listen to Nightingale‘s newest album, Retribution. There’s nothing here to innovate or complicate but it rings true with the good kind of nostalgia; the kind that takes the best out of familiar themes and works on them.
At the base of the album are the late 70’s to late 80’s and the very particular iterations of famous progressive rock bands within that time period. The sounds of modified bands like Yes, Genesis or Rush, who had turned to synths and a more poppy approach to song writing, can be heard throughout the record. Songs like ‘Lucifer’s Lament’ with its emotional guitar back by synths are unmistakable in their influence and roots; what ties it all off is Dan Swano’s voice, heavy with melancholy and feeling.
That name was not a typo by the way, to those unfamiliar with the band. It also houses Dag Swano, alongside Dan, and his signature can be heard on everything from the keyboards to the guitars. This is one of the strongest points in Retribution: although it was composed by two very distinct and talented musicians, nothing is awkward and everything flows perfectly together. From the more 80’s opening, up until the excellent Dire Straits-like ‘Chasing the Storm Away’ and all the way to the more goth ‘Curse or Coincidence’ near the end of the album, nothing feels forced. It seems as if the album sprang from the marble as it is, complete and in one piece.
If we’ve already mentioned the synths, it would be negligent not to delay on them as they are by far the most interesting instrument on the album. The acoustic and electric guitar have their rightful place but it’s in the synths that we are reminded exactly who we are dealing with here. Swano is one of the most talented producers and writers today and it shows here; there are only a few feats more impressive than subtle synths that sit well in the mix. Too often they overbear but not here. Here, they are produced so as to be audible and lend the tracks flesh and power but, at the same time, subtle and calm.
And those are perhaps the best adjectives for this album as a whole. There are no peaks here, no breathtaking climaxes. Instead, the fascination with goth and 80’s rock that has spotted Swano’s career continues to create fascinating and insinuated music. Certainly, the emotions displayed are easy enough to pinpoint but their various forms and iterations require a more gentle ear, tuned to listen for the currents beneath the music. Retribution is simply another stepping stone in the already illuminated track of Swano’s career and his companions rise to the occasion as well. What matters then intellectual matters when it’s simply a joy to listen to this album? Just kick back and let the soft, dark waves wash over you.
Nightingale’s Retribution gets…