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If you are looking for a band or music that is in a league of its own then go out and find yourself the music of The Psychedelic Ensemble. This band, or more accurately one man show, really rocks the house. In front of me lies their, or should I say his, debut album called The Art Of Madness. As the album came without any press info whatsoever and the liner notes with the CD mostly reflect his ideas for the album and not much about himself, I have had to find out everything about this guy from the net. I must say this is not an easy task. There is a site, with very little information other than where you can find his music. He has however created wonderful mini sites - absolutely stunning.
Mr "no name" plays all instruments himself the only assistance he gets is help on vocals on one of the tracks. The rest is him. This all sounds magnificent and he is one good multi-instrumentalist to be able to create this.
The Art Of Madness is more or less a concept album as the artist himself writes about on his website: . . . I thought it best to just write in the review what he says himself rather than making my own version of the concept. The concept is as follows:
"The Art of Madness is a 56-minute, continuous cycle of songs, each based on a different manifestation of madness . . ."
Seeing what the composer and artist writes himself I can say no more than it could not have been described better. The only remarks and additions I want to make to this are - how is it possible that only one man is capable of making a musical concept like this? We have not seen this since a certain Mike Oldfield stepped up to the platter back in the seventies, bringing Tubular Bells and the likes.
Now The Psychedelic Ensemble's concept is very different, with the musical direction having many pointers towards the direction of Pink Floyd, although conceptually, and also reading the text, I would say it is more like Camel or Genesis - if you will. The whole musical intonation and sphere also breathes the seventies, but then in a modern jacket. There is little point doing a track by track as all the pieces float into one another and have a certain cyclical nature, which of course is also common to many concepts.
Now this review comes rather late as The Psychedelic Ensemble have recorded a follow up to this beautiful trip into the Art Of Madness, a psychedelic, eclectic trip into the world we all know. As I have a very distinct feeling listening to this masterpiece - it is our everyday life encapsulated in a nutshell of music.
Ever since this album fell on my doormat it has had regular spins, yes the whole thing, not bits and pieces, but the album. I find it absolutely awesome. The artwork from the booklet, where various painters give "their view" of the story of a song can be found on the mini site - this is a must see.
Really outstanding, but there are always ways to do better so my concluding rating therefore will not be 10 out of 10, but just under. I cannot wait to listen to the follow up.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Vol. 55 Dutch Progressive Rock
Fall 2010, The Netherlands
Apparently a one-man project, the Psychedelic Ensemble has created a progressive masterwork that explores the nature of creativity and artistic production through the psychotic adventures of its protagonist. Inspired by the artwork of patients at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., this music is extraordinarily ambitious, taking cues most noticeably from Pink Floyd, but also bearing subtleties reflecting the Alan Parson Project.
According to liner notes these tracks were largely improvised. That's surprising, given that the songs sound well crafted with little hap-dash feel to them. The production is of a uniformly high quality; clearly, this self-produced musician knows how to twist and turn the knobs. There is a dreamlike quality throughout, alternating between pastoral ballads and spacey explorations into folk-rock territory. The vocals and guitars will surely bring to mind David Gilmour.
While contemporary in nature, the 11 songs on The Art of Madness would not sound out of place on an album from the 1970s, which speaks to the talents of its unnamed creator.
Autumn 2010, Issue 60
Well, this is a rare beast! A “one man band” album that, despite the misgivings roused in me when I saw the “band” name, making me fear yet another “retro” journey, turns out to be one of the best releases of the year! The music actually does what it says “on the tin”. The music may be rooted in Pink Floyd’s Meddle/Dark Side of the Moon/Wish You Were Here period but the effect of its other influences - ranging from The Beatles’s . . . to modern classical music – means that this conceptual cycle of songs sounds refreshingly new, as well as being highly enjoyable. My misgivings soon gave way to a broad smile when I listened to this for the first time. The concept tells the story of an ordinary man who, without warning, experiences a psychotic ecstasy. The attractive booklet features artwork painted by patients of a psychiatric centre in New York; these works being the inspiration behind this music. Do not be afraid - this is rather special!
Fall 2010, U.K.
What an astonishing experience is The Art of Madness! Astonishing because the group that performs, The Psychedelic Ensemble, is in fact comprised of only one member, and that this mischievous multi-instrumentalist decided to remain anonymous is rather unusual in the world of the music. Astonishing too because we are in the presence of a concept album where all the titles link to form a single piece of about 55 minutes, and rare are the groups today that risk this kind of endeavor. Astonishing finally because the artist asserts that the primarily materials of the work were improvised to which he later added the other parts like bass, drums, and melodies.
One is therefore intrigued by all these elements and a little anxious to discover if the result is merely smoke for advertising, or a pretentious work that has escaped the control of its creator. Not at all. The Art Of Madness held all its promises: this is a rich album, varied, inspired, melodious, and resourceful. And very surprising.
First, because it is difficult to believe that a single artist has himself produced alone all of these titles. There is an abundance of instruments making some very symphonic pieces. We hear in turn acoustic and electric guitars, bass, piano, organs of all kinds, drums, sax, flute, harp--even musical saw and accordion which are probably derived from a synthesizer. In addition, the music is sometimes very different from one song to another and does not appear to come from the same voice. For example, in Ecstasy, the voice resembles that of David Gilmour, while one would swear on Moon Mad we hear Rod Stewart sing.
Furthermore, how can we believe that this music is largely improvised? There is both a great overall coherence, but also a beautiful variety with a perfect balance between the titles of the more intimate symphonic harmony in moments and more discordant harmony between sung and instrumental passages. Far from improvisation, the overwhelming impression is rather that all elements have long been matured and carefully arranged.
The concept of the album describes the various manifestations of madness faced by an individual. This provides an opportunity for the artist to switch parts and pieces from the quiet to the more agitated and even slightly dissonant. It would be tedious to describe the mood of the music, as it is varied. We could summarize by saying that if we were to recognize a major influence, we would quote certainly one of Pink Floyd, especially the period of The Dark Side Of The Moon. The introductory piece follows the same construction as Speak To Me / Breathe, the insane laughter that returns in several titles in the style of Brain Damage, and guitar and vocals are often reminiscent of David Gilmour.
But simply to compare this album to those of early Floyd would be unfair and too restrictive. The Art Of Madness has its own originality and inspiration of the author that sometimes leads to strange melodies reminiscent of Prokofiev or Art Zoyd. Ecstasy is aerial, Panic is chaotic and frantic, Fantasy languishing, Delusion hippie-esque, the experimental Mad Moon, the worrisome and disenchanted Despair, the structured and ghostly Apparition, the aggressive Breakdown and the majestic Revelation. There's something for everyone. Do not miss this disc for any reason.
9.0 of 10
November 2010, France
Prolusion. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE is a solitary US-based composer and multi-instrumentalist who has deliberately chosen to stay anonymous. His debut effort was initially self-released in 2009, but following negotiations with a number of record labels the artist decided to sign for Musea Records, which issued this CD in 2010.
Analysis. The subject of art and madness has been an ongoing topic in the world of art for a long time, and at least most modern cultures readily acknowledge that there is a thin border that divides divine creativity and insanity. The mysterious figure behind the moniker The Psychedelic Ensemble apparently became intrigued by the topic following an exhibition at the Living Museum in New York in 2008, and subsequently started working on what was to become his debut album after that experience. The Art of Madness is a concept album dealing with that topic, and much to the joy of aficionados of this kind of production it's constructed as one continuous composition. The chosen genre for this venture is probably best described as art rock, mostly made up of relatively laidback symphonic progressive, often closing in on a sound rather similar to what a band like Pink Floyd explored in the second half of the ‘70s. More energetic symphonic territories are explored as well though, and with Apparition we're also treated to a piece with classical chamber music as the stylistic foundation, albeit liberally spiced with keyboards and featuring a myriad of subtle dissonant and disharmonic textures not that prevalent in the genre at the core of this particular part of the composition. Most of this creation has a strong emphasis on harmony and melody. Richly textured arrangements are common features throughout, where dampened guitars and lighter, often lush, tangents provide the main contrasting element. Careful but frequent use of dissonances and disharmonies is the main effect utilized, mostly to give a musical voice to the state of mind and soul we commonly describe as insanity or madness, which by and large is a rather logical choice I'd imagine. Heavy guitar riffs take the lead on a few select occasions to add additional darkness and gloom to the proceedings, first and foremost on the part named Moon Mad, while instrumental bursts are effectively used throughout, adding dramatic flair. The various parts and themes explored contain many fine passages that might be described in minute detail, like some intriguing guitar and organ harmonies and clever use of spirited bass lines supporting gentle but richly layered keyboard textures, but overall this isn't essential when describing this composition. Details worth noting are that the distorted electric guitars tend to be placed back in the mix, while the acoustic and undistorted electric forays are given a more prominent place in the arrangements. The soloing tends to be of the atmospheric variety, with ones provided by the guitar often reminiscent of David Gilmour's in sound and expression. The overall sound is warm, tends to be somewhat subdued, and the composer opts for the use of a sophisticated approach rather than a boundary-breaking and highly challenging one.
Conclusion. The Psychedelic Ensemble has made a promising and rather intriguing initial effort with The Art of Madness, and in terms of a target audience I'd imagine that those who have a soft spot for mid-70s Pink Floyd might be ones who will find the CD to be most interesting. But those with a general liking for elaborate art rock made with subtle finesse might also want to find out more about this disc, in particular if they are generally interested in concept albums.
(5.5 of 6 Stars)
Olav M Bjornsen
August 2010, London, England
The Psychedelic Ensemble is essentially a one man project, but his name remains a mystery. According to the website, this musician has performed and recorded with major players since the 1970s and has garnered over twenty-five awards. The Art Of Madness is his first album and it is an impressive debut to say the least.
The Art Of Madness mostly recalls classic progressive music of the 1970s and for the most part gives off a mellow vibe. I do not want to paint this music into a corner but I was mostly reminded of early to mid 70s Pink Floyd, especially some of their acoustic stuff. What really impresses me about The Psychedelic Ensemble is that it is only one person. Believe me, this does not sound like a one man band. The skill of this musician is evident as he handles all the instruments himself, including some excellent guitar work. Another plus are the vocals which are quite good throughout.
This is a concept album inspired by the musician's visit to the Living Museum which features the art of patients of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, New York. The song titles suggest different episodes of madness, and chaotic laughing and haunting screams adds a feeling of unease as the listener is pulled into the chaos. The eleven songs bleed into one another making this an ideal album to listen to in one sitting.
The album's first song is the serene "Prologue/Ecstasy" that ebbs and flows like a dream with lovely organ and crisp, clean electric guitar giving it an early Floyd feel. The tempo increases, as well as the chops, in the progressive rock of "Panic" with frantic keyboard play and some searing electric guitar. The gentle guitar melody in "Fantasy" invokes memories of classic 70s prog, while the ominous "Moon Mad" with its psychedelic edged guitar and slow plodding riffs creates an atmosphere of doom with strategically placed screams adding to the sinister sound. The spacey intro in "Despair" is very nice, leading to acoustic guitar reminiscent of Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". "Apparition" is a classical based piece heavy on the keyboards, while the album's last song, "Revelation/Epilogue", ends the CD with a bit of folky prog that has a nice acoustic melody.
This is an impressive debut loaded with melody and just plain good songs. If you like 70s prog, in the vein of bands like Pink Floyd, you will probably want this in your collection. You should also be on the lookout for the band's upcoming release The Myth of Dying. I know I will.
(4 of 5 stars)
March 2010, U.S.
One might assume that because The Psychedelic Ensemble's album was released on Musea in France that the artist behind the project is French. In fact, the artist remains anonymous and worked in a solo capacity to compose. perform, and record the album, The Art of Madness. We know simply that the artist chose to remain anonymous, but since the 70s has collaborated with some of the biggest musical artists.
Also mysterious is the album itself, The Art of Madness, which is a concept album based on insanity. In 11 titles, the artist developed a musical and psychical journey reconstructing the evolution of madness. The story is that of a man who experiences an ecstasy, seeing tears in the sky transformed into light that shows him a new form of art and music. You must understand this is not the album played on Saturday evening while watching football on the television with mates drinking beer. It is better to re-listen to the integral music of Pink Floyd before plunging into this work that is as disconcerting as it is exciting. The influence of Roger Waters and David Gilmour is present from the first notes of Prologue-Ecstasy, which starts the disc.
There is a progression following a musical and psychological course which evolves in panic, (Panic), fancy (Fantasy) and the more oblique dream (Dream), disenchantment (Delusion), lunar madness, (Moon Mad) and then despair (Despair). But such a Dantesque course amidst Hell, one finds the path of purgatory, then paradise with stages that uplift the protagonist towards a revelation that his madness is, in fact, a gift and key to artistic creation (Apparition, Breakdown, Sedation, Revelation-Epilogue).
Mystical and introspective, this disc quickly shows extraordinary qualities of writing and ambience. The content is primarily traditional progressive [rock], very Pink Floydienne, also making one think of Italian groups of the 70s (PFM [Premiata Forneria Marconi], The Trip, The Elms, …). No name is credited for the writing except the generic name The Psychedelic Ensemble. But if it is true that it is only one artist who composed the whole, then I take off my hat to him because the work is completely extraordinary. One feels this artist has dozens of years of experimenting behind him. The musical voyage fully works and the listener feels transported in the various mental phases. It is undoubtedly with Despair, right in the middle of the voyage, where one is most invested in the music, sailing on a fragile cloth of flute and accordion which leads suddenly to a gathering of beautiful acoustic guitar and cool organ. Breakdown is the most agitated work on the disc with a dissoluteness of organ like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. The finale is much calmer to resolve the strange voyage and mysteries of the mind.
Connoisseurs of progressive [rock], and particularly of Pink Floyd, will by happy with this disc, which harkens back to the purest traditions of the 70s and which always reveals on successive listenings more details in the music. Nothing is really new, but the old is wonderfully recycled.
(4 of 5 Stars)
August 2010, Belgium
The Art of Madness is the initial effort of a US-based composer and multi-instrumentalist who prefers to stay anonymous, and was initially self-released in 2009. Musea Records would subsequently sign the artist. And if this debut album is an indicator of what's in store later on, fans of sophisticated art rock have quite a lot to look forward to. A concept album dealing with the topics of sanity and insanity - madness if you like - and its relation to art. A number of stylistic expressions are covered, from a laidback gentle version of symphonic rock to more richly textured atmospheric creations with a nod or three in the direction of late 70's Pink Floyd. There's even room for a chaotic, dissonant slightly embellished classical chamber piece in the shape of Apparition.
Those who love concept albums, find pleasure in songs lasting for an hour and have a soft spot for late 70's Pink Floyd should make up the perfect audience for this album. And while perhaps not quite as breathtaking as the masters of old this is a good quality production through and through, and a very promising first CD from this US artist.
(4 of 5 Stars)
Olav Martin Bjørnsen
July 2010, Norway
A generic band name, a one-man-band who keeps his name under wraps – it annoys me, so I came to this CD with a not particularly good disposition. Yet, I have to admit that The Art of Madness is a very strong album, and an ambitious concept album to boot, in the vein of Dark Side of the Moon with neo-progressive overtones. Pink Floyd is definitely a major influence, but I also hear the kind of arrangements Steve Thorne favours. An album about mental illness, where tracks segue in suite form. Tempi are slow, but the music doesn’t drag on. Melodies are efficient, the recording is skillful. In this genre, this is a great piece of music, and it’s easy to be seduced by it. So may The Psychedelic Ensemble step out of anonymousness, that we can laud his efforts appropriately!
August 2010, Canada
When this album [The Art of Madness] fell into my hands, it got placed a fairly large stack of CDs that I had to discuss. Eventually, it found its way into the CD player. But the danger, of course, was that this record would be lost in the abundant pile of music, because originally I had--in contrast to the rest of the material in the changer--no plan to discuss this CD. But rather than going to the works I had to discuss, I somehow always came back to this album. A good sign. A very good sign!
My first spontaneous impression was that it is a very diverse album. It included several songs--such as a bluesy title--that are not my particular taste. In any case, my curiosity was aroused, and I continued to investigate the album. And lo and behold - at the end I liked even the songs that I originally didn't care for. This is evidence of high quality! More remarkable is that I would have never suspected that this is a one-man project. That this musician has performed everything can be described as quite spectacular--guitars, keyboards, acoustic and electronic percussion (not programmed). The way in various sections styles are combined such as psychedelic rock, neoclassical, symphonic prog, blues -- is a great feat! In addition, there is still a very pleasant manner and intonation--and even the vocals sometimes give the impression that different singers are at work.
At times, early 70s Pink Floyd influences are evident, then again it enters a purely classical realm. Also, it sometimes reminds one of the psychedelic trips on the Second Hand album, Death May Be Your Santa Claus; or some organ passages also produce a certain Egg or National Health feeling. But also the delicate acoustic guitar parts belong to the sound of The Psychedelic Ensemble.
Although at first this seems to be quite a wild mix, the American musician managed to merge everything to create a really interesting, homogeneous whole, where the melodic and almost avant-garde equally coexist. Great! And now that I have heard the album often, I adjust the marks awarded to the top again, as I still discover something new.
13 of 15
Issue 70, November 2010
A mysterious musician lies behind "The Psychedelic Ensemble." He chose to remain anonymous so as not to be directly linked with his successes in the 70s, that seems to be certain. Is it Alan Parsons? Here in the newsroom, we also thought Andy Ward, ex-Camel, who has become a multi-instrumentalist and is also known for having had all sorts of psychological problems. And that is what The Art of Madness is about. Or is Gordon Giltrap reverting to his folk albums from his Fear of the Dark period? The male image on the [The Art of Madness] CD cover seems similar to the male image of Giltrap's Perilious Journey. It could be because all these influences, in addition to Floyd, are present on The Art of Madness. At the center, there is traditional symphonic rock.
The work is fodder for psychologists, and we have three of them at ProgLog Afterglow. The tracks are different manifestations of madness such as psychosis and they succeed very well. Listen to the desperation in Despair and the terrifying Breakdown. But there is hope and a new beginning in the beautiful Revelation-Epilogue.
A psychiatrist suggests on the album that "creativity and artistic production are almost a symptom of mental illness." The experience of the main character on the album is not ruined by the madness but it manifests itself precisely as unprecedented creativity. I just had to think about others, including Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, and Peter Green.
Beautiful album. Now, on to the new album, The Myth of Dying, by our "musician without a name" released this month.
Harry de Vries
Fall 2010, Netherlands
. . . I would like to say that I have listened to this album completely, several times over. When I first started listening to it I thought to myself, Wow! This is really weird and trippy! But the more I listened and started paying closer attention to it, I quickly became totally fascinated and completely overwhelmd with the enormous amount of feel and great depth of artistic expression. Each song has an indepth meaning, that is extremely intense and visually intoxicating. This album is much more than just music, it is a totally brilliant work of creative arts, that will blow your mind, while it takes you on a psychedelic journey full of genius imagination! I highly recommend this album to those looking for something different, that is really far out there!
Fall 2009, U.S.
At what point does the reputation of a musician influence his success? This disc is a curiosity, initially given its release in 2009, without mention of its author and only his collaboration with some big names in progressive rock since the seventies. . . . Musea decided to give a second chance to this concept album that consists of eleven contiguous songs. . . .
. . . Musically, the style ranges from the soaring progressive, acoustic and chamber rock, evoking Pink Floyd, ELP or Pulsar. It is the influence of the legendary Dark Side of the Moon that is most resonant. Voices are treated well and have a dense warm sound. . . . The album proves to be a nice achievement, especially that this work was done alone is stunning. With its awards gleaned in 2009 and its Musea distribution, comes this anonymous artist's highly anticipated new musical epic, now fresh out, The Myth of Dying.
Fall 2010, France
The Psychedelic Ensemble is a mysterious one man band that manufactured a very nice concept album with The Art Of Madness. It's mysterious because rumour has it that the musician behind the ensemble is a famous person who worked with many great bands of the seventies. It's very nice because The Art Of Madness has a Camel-feel both in the packaging and the song structures, while sounding a bit like Pink Floyd having the jazz fusion musicians from Soft Machine and keyboardist Dave Sinclair (Caravan) as guest musicians. It's a concept album . . .
I don't have to elaborate on this, it's sufficient to say that the hour of wonderful music passes by in a flash while leaving a deeply satisfying feeling of memories to the wonderful seventies, the heyday of prog. It's nice to know that there are still musicians who burn a candle for those days.
André de Waal (edited by Peter Willemsen)-The Netherlands
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