Review Summary: "...Let yesterday burn and throw it in a fire."
We're always looking to better ourselves, every last one of us. Human beings are obsessed with change. We never seem to be content with who we are, always looking to the beyond, to what we could be. Purgation and catharsis are two essential aspects that are found in almost every religion. Often reflected through symbolic rituals of purification in which an individual is cleansed of all past regrets and spiritual afflictions. Thus liberated of all that is undesirable, enabling the individual to begin life anew. The music of Matisyahu frequently speaks about these themes in particular. Expressing lyrical narratives that are often intimately addressed to God as Matisyahu confesses a yearning to be sanitized, driven by an incessant desire to evolve.
The release of Spark Seeker
was met with a lot of intrigue, and not so much because of the musical content, but because of what happened to the man behind it. I'm quite certain that there was a sense of great disappointment that must of overcome his Hasidic fans when they first gazed upon his now clean-shaved face, completely exuviated from everything that once made him so distinguishable. A myriad of questions began to arise, asking how a man who once chose to define himself as a sincere believer in Hassidic Judaism, could eventually turn his back on what he once swore was true. Is he leaving his faith behind, or is this just another step into a better understanding of himself and his spiritual beliefs? The answer lies well inside Spark Seeker.
The album opens with "Crossroads"
, and immediately we are showered with that familiar presence of spiritually as Matisyahu opens with a prayer, crying out the sacred name of the most holy. The music then ascends into a very infectious beat decorated with bombastic synthesizer effects. As we descend further and further into the music, it becomes obvious to us that Matisyahu still holds his faith close to heart, but he certainly isn't the same person we had become acquainted with in his pervious albums. There is a new ideology that is explored in this album, a yearning to discover what was once unknown. Matisyahu describes an overwhelming avidity to indulge in curiosity, and experience life with a more open mind while finally breaking loose from the constraints of hesitation and doubt. The album certainly puts much emphasis on the hindsight of the individual in the lyrical narratives, as opposed to the laws of scriptural doctrines. "Live Like A Warrior"
and "Bal Shem Tov"
, for example, expresses a very existential philosophy. They remind us that everything we do in our lives, and everything we experience, is always under our control. There is a meaning behind our existence and the events that take place in our lives, but it is up to us to reflect upon ourselves and discover that meaning and not become subjects to the influences of others.
As for the instrumental elements of the album, we find Matisyahu diverting himself even further from his Reggae origins. The music tends to reflect an inspiration from the immense influence that Electro-pop has been having on mainstream music. "Fire Of Freedom"
alludes such a sensuous melody, exuding a feeling of optimism that easily seduces our enthusiasm, while having us singing along to its evocative chorus. As we progress further into the album, we find that there is very little diversity in the musical landscapes of Spark Seeker. There are hardly any traces of the Reggae or Rock influences that once dominated the sound of his earlier efforts. Instead, we find Matisyahu exploring his Hip-hop tendencies much more intimately. Spark Seeker often relies on grandiose synthesizer flourishes to decorate Matisyahu's narratives, but occasionally it has us transcend into arabic musical aesthetics that induce an atmosphere embellished with a sense of alluring mysticism.
"King Crown Of Judah"
induces a very mesmerizing medley that exudes the voice of Israel from every pore. The vocal deliveries are perhaps the most interesting aspect of the song. Flowing along with such a dynamic synergy, each narrative surrounds us from all directions as they alternate from rapping to hymnic prayers, providing a truly captivating performance. In the end, Spark Seeker produces a relatively entertaining listening experience, but because it lacks the musical variety of its predecessors, the songs tend to allude a feeling of repetition. It is certainly ambitious of Matisyahu to experiment with different techniques, even if he doesn't really explore any new territory. I suppose this all fits in with his new philosophy of life, as he follows his instincts and indulges in personal aspirations, completely carefree of the opinions of others. Still, this evolution in sound will be sure to impress just as many listeners that it will evidently disappoint. It's always a frustrating experience to see an artist you admire shed himself from the very qualities that once attracted you to them in the first place, but it can also be enlightening to follow them along through the new directions they take. It's obvious that Matisyahu is still growing as a songwriter, and just now beginning to discover himself and his place in today's music. As he professes himself in the lyrics of "Crossroads"
, "They say I inspired, but I’m still looking for my fire."