Maudlin – A Sign of Time

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Review by Jason Guest

Consouling Sounds

Since their formation in 2004, Maudlin’s approach has been an ambitious one. The concept of their much acclaimed first album, 2008’s Ionesco, was based in the 1940s and told the story of a patient upon whom a transorbital lobotomy had been performed by Dr Freeman, a man with no formal surgical training who had performed no less than 3,400 (count ‘em!) of the damned things and charged only $25 for each procedure. Bargain. Anyway, here we are five years later and Maudlin have returned with album number two, A Sign Of Time, an album that again takes as its inspiration another intriguing concept. Dealing with the aforementioned patient’s near death experience, A Sign Of Time tells of the emotional impact of all of those memories that made that person who they are/were. These emotional memories are experienced symbolically, each symbol being a sign of time. Ooh…

Like its subject matter, the sonic aspect of A Sign Of Time is vast. Imagine Neurosis (for atmospherics) meets Type O-Negative (particularly in the vocals) meets Mastodon (for the weird concepts) meets Pink Floyd (for sheer brilliance) and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect from Maudlin. ‘Hours’ opens with a gentle drone, a light in the absence, the solitary angelic voice that emerges melodically whispers its lyrics and soon delivers us into the psychedelic doom of ‘She Whispers Treason’. Juxtaposing mystic chanting with textural chords and Page/Gilmour-esque lead work, the lurching atmospherics and textural approach flows through into ‘Lilith’, Maudlin’s multi-layered nuances revealing themselves in an array of colours and hues. Where the rhythmic eccentricities of the first half of the eight and a half-minute ‘A Perfect Sky of Black’ contrast with the dissonant angst of the last half, ‘Become Minutes’ is like a daze, a misty haze of reverberating voices cast on a sea of tranquil guitar chords. While the gentle groove of ‘Ride The Second Wave’ is the most straightforward of the tracks and features some astounding lead work, ‘Goddess Of The Flame’ is hypnotic, mesmerising in its insistent yet serene grooves that juxtapose might and melody with dirt and dissonance. And with the impassioned ‘Chasing Shades’ running the gamut of structural and dynamic complexities heard across the whole album, the white noise of the thirty-five second ‘Turn To Seconds’ ends abruptly. Dead. The band could easily have taken licence with the central theme of death and indulged themselves in all things morose and morbid but A Sign Of Time never once sounds mournful, funereal, or bleak. The fine line of white light that pierces the emptiness and shines across the album isn’t hope, nor is it faith, it’s more a sense of elation, of an unending joy compressed into that last minute before the void opens up and we – everything that we ever were – end.

Though the presence of the band’s influences can be felt here and there, A Sign Of Time is solely that of Maudlin. The influences may have been well studied but their strengths, of which there are many, have been distilled and Maudlin’s mastery of dynamics, textures, structuring, and multi-layering is second to none. And their ability to stitch memorable melodies into intelligent lyrics is astounding. Remarkably produced and remarkably executed, more than a sonic experience, A Sign Of Time is a journey that Maudlin have made emotional, thought-provoking, challenging and incredibly gratifying.

Maudlin – A Sign of Time8.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Hours
  2. She Whispers Treason
  3. Lility
  4. A Perfect Sky Of Black
  5. Become Minutes
  6. Ride The Second Wave
  7. Goddess Of The Flame
  8. Chasing Shades
  9. Turn To Seconds