There are many ways that one can listen to an album. You can put it on and start skipping through tracks, beginning with the track that made you buy the album in the first place. You can put it on and then go about doing other things, using the music as background noise. Or you can put on the album, sit back, and truly listen to it, appreciating the time and effort that the musicians put into it, hearing the subtle little flairs that take it to a new level. Of course there are other ways, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind.
When I got ahold of Wisdom of Crowds, the collaboration album from Bruce Soord with Jonas Renske, I knew it was an album that would require plenty of concentration and attention. After all, the former is from UK prog rock band The Pineapple Thief and the latter is the singer of Katatonia, one of my favorite bands. It meant that when I hit ‘Play’, I needed to give this album my all and truly focus. But was it worth that effort? Find out below.
Haunting reverbed guitars open the album on “Pleasure” while sinister low-end rumbles, growling like some agitated creature about to unleash itself. Renske’s vocals are played with, echoed and harmonized during call-and-response sequences. Suddenly pure piano chords ring out over the staccato drums, bringing a sense of heavenly light into this mix only to be pushed aside by overdriven guitars. An almost Spanish finger picked arpeggiated guitar run brings about the ending. Tracks like this are the stuff of engineers and studio mad wizards dreams.
“Wisdom Of Crowds” has an almost Portishead feel about it, playing gently with trip-hop elements and blues-infused guitar solos. “Frozen North”, which has been out for a while now, is still as fascinating and entertaining as it was before. The full version adds elements of slight rawness, giving this album an organic, human feel.
“The Light” opens ominously, pulsating low-end rumbling in the distance. The song ultimately transforms into something rather fascinating, as it becomes a track that, with a bit of remixing, could end up being a huge dance club hit. There is an almost dubstep attitude to this song yet it doesn’t fall to the go-to “Transformers having sex” sounds that are so popular these days.
The “dance club” feel continues with “Pretend”, which, while mixing touches of metal, doesn’t hit industrial. It almost feels as though it is the next step in the evolution of the genre. “Stacked Naked” feels like something out of the 80’s, one of those sweet, romantic songs that would be used in a John Hughes film.
It’s obvious that Bruce Soord had a grand design in place with Wisdom Of Crowds as the ideas run aplenty. The album has tracks that will satisfy listeners of many different genres while still opening doors to new music that they might not have dared enter before. Still, the issue here is that there is a sense that this album is a bit scattered and, while having a consistent tone, the shifts in musical styles might turn some off.
The Final Word: Not without its flaws, Wisdom Of Crowds is still a gorgeous, engaging album that satisfied many of my wants and needs. Should the collaboration of Bruce Soord with Jonas Renske continue, I will be very excited to see what comes next.