Review Summary: Musical Story, Yes.
Close your eyes, sit down, and relax. Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9)'s Artifact will sweep you up and take you away. Rarely has an album with so few lyrics been so powerful and moving. With the exception of the first track, Musical Story, Yes, there are only a few fleeting glances of lyrics, just worked in the song in no particular order. But all of this is beside the point. Artifact is an album filled with layered sounds and enough elements to put the listener into a trance; an excellent listen indeed.
Rumor has it that Artifact was created over a three-year period of 2001-2004. It is STS9’s first album in five years. The album was recorded on tour, at home, in bedrooms, in parking garages, hotels, and more. Yet there is no lack in quality, no errors, no problems at all. Even though the album was recorded in different times and places, it is not just a collection of random tracks. Artifact is a story…a music story. STS9 is a mind-blowing live act, making it very challenging to portray the same energy in a studio album. Though you can’t really call Artifact a studio album because not one track was actually recorded in a studio. Artifact is a haunting ambient trance album.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly the genre of this album, or any of STS9's albums for that matter. The soothing guitars, pacifying keys, and warming drumming could be described as anything from psychedelic to progressive rock. STS9 never fails to create their own unique sound, constantly transitioning into new beats and styles.
Doing a track-by-track review of this album would be completely pointless. Even picking out a few ‘recommended tracks’ would be irrelevant. Artifact is an album to be listened to in its entirety. The songs flow effortlessly into each other, each one containing the trademark STS9 sound, yet each one unique in its own way. The album gives you a natural feeling, as if you are walking through a forest around a lake on a shivery, frosty morning. The electronic keys will warm your body, while the bluesy guitars will calm you, all at the same time. The album really is just feelings portrayed into music. It’s a truly sensational feeling.
While a handful of listeners would consider this album nothing but an hour-long sleeping pill, and others may become bored with the lack of lyrics, the real beauty of the album lies in the feelings and moods generated by the music. Tokyo, for example, is not an oriental yangqin jam, but it does portray a feeling of city night life. The song transforms from the waning daytime, filled with sliding, bending strings, and plunges directly into a bustling key jam of the night. Better Day, strangely, features the most lyrics in any song on Artifact. The guest vocalist sings in an eerie, high pitched voice. It is a capturing sound that will instantly grab attention. First Mist Over Clear Lake is a beautiful, yet dark track, over loaded with emotion. I would continue to describe tracks but some…no…most of the feelings and emotions throughout Artifact are just too beautiful to describe. The music will pick you up, throw you down and, best of all, put you in a trance.