Rhys Marsh

‘Dulcima’ Review: Sonic Frontiers (English)

8th November 2009

I listen to a variety of musical styles and types. Sometimes I need my hard, heavy and brutal fix of music, sometimes a complicated and challenging type and sometimes quiet, soothing and emotional. There are more kinds and modes but you get the idea. Why am I mentioning this? Read on.

Recently I’ve learned about an Englishman, residing in Norway, that released his second album through Termo Records, label established and ran by Jacob Holm0Lupo of White Willow and The Opium Cartel; this label also released the superb symph-prog/”retro-prog” second album by Wobbler earlier this year.

Coming back to Rhys Marsh, since Termo was releasing his material I should check it out. What I found out is that the music on this album entitled Dulcima fits well a mood of relaxing, moments of serenity and rest.

Everything spells melancholy on this album, from the black digipack, to the song names, lyrics and the vocals that sing them and most importantly, the music itself.

Even at its most “noisy” the album is soft, warm and fiery. Serene and melancholic, but not deprived of passion and turmoil. The soft and powerful vocals of Rhys along with the female vocals of Trude Eidtang are at the forefront but do not hide any of the other “ingredients”.

For some reason, the Swedish band Anekdoten came to mind several times when listening. Due to the washes of sound found in the chorus part of In The Afterglow; also due to the vocals of Rhys which at some points, for some reason, remind me of Nicklas Barker and his performance on Gravity by Anekdoten.

All the instruments are well heard but none are imposing themselves, none is taking center-spot; everything is quite blalanced. And for those who like the mellotron, it appears in several of the songs here; I find it particularly well used in the opening song, In The Afterglow.

There are some very quiet songs, like Divide In Silence, which sound very intimate and make you feel as if Rhys is in the room with you. A very calming song, I personally need to be in a certain mood or at a certain time of day (preferably night) to enjoy it. It is a delicate song (as are others here) that requires a close listen and an appreciative ear.

A nice twist is manifested in Nine Times Beautiful with an Arabic style infused into the melody. The percussion is set accordingly and the overall mood and pace are very fitting the rest of the album. This is a very good fusion of his approach with foreign sounds. Moreover, Trude’s voice counteracting Rhys’ lower tone here works very well in creating a somewhat dark atmosphere. The ominous sounding electric guitar in the middle and the following short deviation from the theme are a welcome exploration that I would love hearing in more of his songs.

While The Safety Of All You Know start monotonously to my taste and a bit boring it quickly picks my interest as the music, that started very basically, receives reinforcement as more instruments join in and a different melodic path is taken, which for some reason reminds me of King Crimson’s early albums and in particular Cirkus from Lizard. Moreover, at about 3 minutes in, there is a sort of hiatus as the percussion plays very silently in the background and several instruments receive their spotlight.

However, with all the good things this album has to offer, which I’m sure many will like, I personally, while being enthusiastic at first listen, can’t seem to “get into it” as much as I though I would. It mostly passes me by and serves as a nice relaxing listening time and occasionally I’d be hooked by a melodic line or a chorus. Perhaps more dynamics to the songs, more shifts and more exploration (like is done in some songs) would attract my attention more. Only three songs here stand out for me as songs I’d like to re-listen to (In The Afterglow; In Dark, In Light; The Safety of All You Know). But I can recommend it to people looking for beautiful delicate melancholic music.


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