Review Summary: A solid observation on color, form and figure by Toby Driver and Company.
With the return of Jason Byron to the lyrical department of Kayo Dot and the inclusion of Trey Spruance (mostly known for Mr. Bungle and (my personal favorite) Secret Chiefs 3), Stained Glass
is a small EP (actually just one large song) released after Coyote
this very year, and with good reason it was not included in Coyote. Just like Porcupine Tree's Nil Recurring
, an EP which didn't truly match the concept behind Fear of a Blank Planet
, so does Stained Glass with Coyote: A different mindset which would have turned the latter into an odd-sounding mash of convoluted ideas with no fixed purpose at all.
Even though it would be easy to describe this album as a "logical" successor to Blue Lambency Downward rather than the bleak approach Coyote offered, I prefer to look at this in terms of the colors it portrays (and a huge symbol used all through the duration of the song). For better enjoyment of the album, I suggest turning off the lights of your room and put the record on, close your eyes and start interpreting sounds as colors. If you are able to "view sounds" or have synesthetic phenomenons you will understand this record much better.
Transitions are not as frequent as in other albums (all the void, quiet fills in Choirs for the Eye, for example, or the silent passages and introductions found in Dowsing Anemone), regardless, the interpretation of color in this EP is magnificent and spot on, and I experienced a color I hadn't seen (at least in the few times I actually had a synesthetic episode with live or recorded music for that matter): Yellow. It is important not to look at the album cover first (since it pretty much spoils the experience the first few times), but it aids to look at it after the first couple listens in order to actually give each "scene" its appropriate color and translate it to its appropriate tonality and key, musically speaking.
Referring to the musical aspects of this observation, even though it is less dense than Coyote (though it resembles gray passages as the latter), it resembles a lot the ambient sections in Blue Lambency Downward, where silences no longer play a significant role in the overall panorama and are more scarse; a plethora of sounds fill every acoustic nook available in this song. There is an interesting play with vibrant counterpoints and chromatic and swifting modes to make the color of the windows more noticeable and which, without the need of previous knowledge of music theory whatsoever, convey the picture of the monstrous colored windows (and its appropriate tonality, for that matter) with little-to-non visual aid.
A very interesting recollection from Toby Driver and company, and most of all a worthwhile experiment to listen to as the bastard child of Blue Lambency Downward with Choirs of the Eye. Except fifteen minutes long. And abrasive to the marrow like its lovely parents.