Review Summary: Speak loudly, but say nothing.
If any comparison is to be made, it’s fair to say that Topos
is the musical equivalent of artfully not
answering the question. There’s a science to this mundane skill; all that has to be done, really, is restate the inquiry, flaunt about a semi-decent command of vocabulary, and toss in some technical jargon to spice things up. Not one solution was offered, but it sure as hell appears like some mad cognitive processing was going on behind the scenes. These sort of smoke-and-mirrors shenanigans are entertaining and sufficient enough to pass by life through doing the basics, but it prevents any sort of advancement to greater accomplishments. When Methexis’ opus Suiciety
turned three years old, an open void remained awaiting to be filled by whatever clever rejoinder that the musical project could manage to present. Rather than enter the fray full-force, guns a-blazing, Topos
simply equates to a collection of many parts that do not necessarily coalesce into a whole, nor do they attain high enough peaks to be truly noteworthy. Translating the concept to paper—an entirely instrumental record composed solely of two titanic tracks dedicated to the splendor of imagination—certainly sounds appealing. Approach the product any closer, however, and the verbose bravado is peeled back, revealing how Methexis have dodged the question entirely and hid it behind a glamorous façade.
Going completely instrumental to begin with was already a bit of a red flag, as the vocal performance on Suiciety
was an undeniable asset; Joe Payne, known nowadays for his work with The Enid, delivered a soulful singing demonstration that ran the gamut from commanding tenor notes to remorseful low notes. That’s not to say that the other elements at play didn’t pull their weight—the group’s blend of funky beats, prominent synth work, horns, and Yes-inspired prog rock may not have been a definitively original construction, though its passionate and energetic nature could not be ignored. Creativity was being brewed in the Methexis camp, a forward-thinking mentality prevailed. Individual songs stood out, refusing to be passed over or relegated to just a number on a track listing, and each of those tunes had their own personal highlights. The most difficult aspect of Topos
is that, as a sequel to a prior effort, connections are bound to be made to previous material, making this kind of background establishment an unfortunate necessity. Because the accomplishments of Suiciety
constantly loom overhead, Topos
is doomed; there is so few instances to discuss in assessment that already the band’s third release is destined to drown in the shadow of former creations.
Perhaps the purpose of this record was precisely to act as a conduit of imagination, slowly allowing the listener to drift off. Two issues immediately become apparent: what emerges from the speakers lacks the punch, the drive that the collective showed they were capable of—the result is like rock’s response to ambient music—and the oddly jarring arrangement of the dual tracks makes for a bumpy journey. Electronic-led ambient breaks will enter and exit in what appears like an oddly predictable manner (any ‘hard’ or ‘heavy’ portion seems to have them waiting in the wings), and they’re just as quickly killed off by random bursts from a guitar or horn section. Rinse and repeat until the realization sets in that there is absolutely no consistency to be found in how these musical explorations flow. Whereas Suiciety
displayed purpose in its compositions, Topos
is surprisingly scattered for what is intended to be an amalgamation of similar sounds into a cohesive, singular form; the reasoning behind the inclusions of certain motifs or sections is absent, and any understanding of tone is thrown out the window. Entries on the album wander about aimlessly like tourists asking for directions.
It can be postulated that the ambition of crafting such a monumental piece inevitably led to a decline, since very few artists have been able to formulate massive songs without falling into a pitfall or two. Over the duration of the disc, the length only serves to magnify aforementioned problems of mood and organization. The handful of positives in the mix are unevenly stacked on the final two portions of “Topos 2,” and its here alone where Methexis hit their stride. The powerful guitar chords plucked in “Topos 2 Part IV” mesh amicably with the horns and flute, while the increasing crescendo of “Topos 2 Part V” strikes with force—until it is unceremoniously cut off. Even then, the climax didn’t feel earned; Topos
never demonstrates progression to any kind of destination, making this sudden change of plans abrupt and fetching for something that isn’t there. The funk influence is barely recognizable when its allowed to come off the sidelines, and even the prog rock—the bedrock of the project’s output—is incredibly muted in its scope. Maybe the dull disposition of Topos
makes it an adequate alternative to sleeping pills, but it’s definitely a disappointment to anyone looking for an actual answer.