I was a little irritated when I read and heard everywhere that Orlando Weeks got really frustrated about his vocals on previous Maccabees records. Because I always loved his voice and his singing style but then again, it is great to hear the actual improvement with every record.
And I guess if Weeks wouldn’t be so adamant about improvement and getting the best out of his voice, I wouldn’t sit in front of “Young Colossus” today which apparently started out with experimenting with vocals.
I already wrote about the concept here but to sum it up: it’s a combination of both music (all in all 6 songs) and illustrations that tell a story.
I love the fact that Young Colossus is completely different from the Maccabees but you can hear Orlando’s musical handwriting. I can’t really explain it but what I always and continuously called “crooning” (yeah, creativity isn’t my strength, apparently) is more like waves or rain of sound like being rocked to sleep.
You even hear it when Alessi sings (who is so great because she always is willing to try things out with musicians just to see where it ends up) and when her voice melts into Weeks’, you hear the echoes of the intricate layers (big, wet kisses to Nic Nell who produced and created the instrumentation together with Orlando Weeks) that are like glimmering fata morganas in the distance. No, you can’t grab them but if you stand still, they’ll come closer.
Lyrically, it’s a lot different from what I am used to with the Maccabees. Funnily enough, the second song is called “Impressionist” which partially fits the writing style as it is a lot more…well, not exactly cryptic but it’s like fragments or rather a mosaic.
I have a faint idea for the overall concept of the lyrics, it might just be me but despite being in different surroundings, there seems to be a similar theme on “Given to the wild” but only on a very broad scale. Especially “Sound of young lost and found” and “Xhocka” strongly resonate with me, there is a lot to be discovered and to be drawn from these precious lines.
here is where you built it all up from next to nothing
nothing short of a miracle it’s something out of nothing
but has it ever turned about tighter than the skin around
that stops the bones from falling out
(Sound of young lost and found)
shown us all how
and gave us all something more to aim for
took it off a pedestal
wonderful news you made us so proud
never fed us to the animals
credits where credits due
And then the illustrations of Young Colossus.
I looked up some of Robert Hunters work and I stumbled upon a book in which people make a sweater out of their clothes for a polar bear. And everything was so colourful and warm and peaceful and innocent. Something, for which I love the Maccabees as well and something which makes me still feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Young Colossus is darker, though, which is astounding, considering the original visuals by Orlando (which were posted only today on le facebook), which are very tender and subtle, Hunter’s mind works in wondrous ways as he turned everything bold and brightly coloured which feels more overwhelming and dynamic but also does wonders with the exquisite weirdness of songs like “Monsters Dance”.
It’s the story of initiation.
As far as I interpreted it (and I guess everyone has their own) it’s about this old practice of giving a kid on the verge of adulthood to the wild so they can prove that they can survive on their own. And they can flee the shadows until they see that it’s just their own, that it is all they fear and when they have realized that, when they conquered the beast, when the night is over, they can return to their family, they have earned their spot but furthermore, they learned how to be out in the wild without being scared.
The imagery is breathtaking. There are sequences of images that I immediately fell in love with (Young Colossus encouraged their readers to take pictures, so I took some of my favourite images). It’s always in movement and mirrors the continuous motion of the soundscape (gah, I hate that word, yet have no better). At some point, I listened to songs and turned to certain pages to see how they would feel together with the music.
When it comes to the beauty in combination with the artistry in this project, I think of are Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel who both are able to create stories with sound with or without lyrics and who both know how to work with their voice in a way that it turns into an instrument, even another being.
But in the end, this is one like no other, because the visuals in form of Robert Hunter’s colours turn this into something that you can touch and see and that reminds me of my childhood when I dove deep into the big books full of fairy tales at my grandparent’s home and vanished into the pages, went on a journey full of heroes and giants and shadows to come back into the arms of my family.
(I will be the dapper, cynical me again in the next post but for now let’s just enjoy this moment, go on, listen to the songs again, I know you want to)