Anderson-Stolt - Invention of KnowledgeFor some fickle mechanisms of the human mind and various other lunacies, first wave progressive rock acts as my personal, pesky Madeleine; a trigger of sickly sweet involuntary memories. Because of that I’m cursed: each riff by Gentle Giant, Camel or other bands that I encountered when first discovering everything progressive, now inundates me with inescapable, banal yet pleasurable nostalgia meshed with a remembrance of ages that I could have never lived through. Imagine my surprise, then, when a record from 2016 triggered the same response. Invention of Knowledge, the first collaborative release of two prog rock greats, vocalist Jon Anderson (Yes) and guitarist Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), acts as a hyperconductive tunnel for a pure stylistic form, an amplified hit of unbearable reminiscence. With dominantly ‘70s prog and Yes-infused threads running through the material, and steered by modern, third wave tendencies, it threatens to be almost too much of a good thing.

But as is true for all the best progressive rock, its essence thrives and quivers around that thin, thin line between gaudy and artistically accomplished movements, guiding the listener from feeling completely, uninhibitedly immersed and awed towards a sense of silliness. Luckily, Anderson and Stolt are master musicians and composers, and thus manage to keep Invention of Knowledge comfortably grandiose, but never tacky. Stolt’s guidance and interventions prove to be crucial as he channels and frames Anderson’s superficially platitudinous, but authentically hippie lyrics and concepts. And it takes but a few minutes of the opening title suite to introduce a strong spiritual vibe. The first part of that suite, “Invention,” prepares a stage that is equal parts fantastical, exuberant, and uncontainably optimistic. The atmosphere that these songs set for the rest of the record reminds me of Renaissance’s Scheherazade and Other Stories with its celebratory, naive, and pastoral feel. A hidden impression of mystical discovery lingers that seems lost nowadays, but that reigned supreme in Anderson’s heyday.

It’s only fitting that such a classic sounding album was created using modern tools and processes, in an asynchronous and displaced manner, with the musicians rarely interacting physically, exchanging bits and pieces over the internet instead. As a result, the record feels distilled and purified, a result of iterative growth and careful polishing. Over the four long suites, divided into nine tracks, Invention of Knowledge maintains a distinctly gentle and directed flow centered around Anderson’s near-falsetto, boyish, often harmonized and counterpointed vocals, and the transcendental lyrics they carry. There are no breathtaking convolutions, ex machina complexities, or distinct peaks, just a sense of freedom and elation. “We are truth, made in heaven, we are glorious” sings Anderson during “We Are Truth,” backed by horns, and his utmost joy seems irresistible in its infectivity. Elsewhere, one of the highlights of Invention of Knowledge comes on “Everybody Heals,” a tune close to The Flower Kings’ modernized approach, embellished with string progressions, and ingrained with passages of fusion and jazz.

Anderson-Stolt 2016Reaching beyond mere progressive rock, Anderson and Stolt stretch their influences throughout genres, flirting with jazz (“Everybody Heals”), oriental music forms (“Invention”), symphonic rock, and chansons. As Stolt himself writes, they knot, without restrictions, “modern and classical, rock and ethno, tribal and orchestrated, grooving and floating.” While it might be a structurally simple album, it’s undeniably a compositionally sound thing that stretches elegantly over its lengthy duration of an hour and five minutes. All the while, the concept of the record is supported by a layered sound and rich instrumentation that might even appear overwhelming at times. Besides Anderson’s voice, it’s expectedly Stolt’s guitar playing that shines here with recognizably rich tones, vibratos, and wah-wahs aplenty, all underlined by Jonas Reingold and Michael Stolt’s massive, but tamed bass. The latter a symptom of Anderson’s vocals being the focus and the rest of the instrumentarium noticeably pushed back, especially true of Felix Lehrmann’s drums and Jonas Reingold’s bass, while orchestrations, strings, and Lalle Larsson’s keyboards sound subdued and flattened. Not necessarily a bad thing.

This is a comforting and warm album of indelible spirit and inviting moods. A record that somehow stands outside of time, worthy on its own, even if it never eclipses nor reinvents the best in the genre. And it’s indeed better than anything that Yes have pushed out in a long, long while.


Rating: Very Good
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: InsideOut Music
Websites: facebook.com/AndersonStolt
Releases Worldwide: June 24th, 2016

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  • Innit Bartender

    So much goodness! Jon Anderson’s voice again! And a Proust reference! This place is on a roll!!

    • We’re the undisputed champion of high-minded musical fare and a veritable reliquary of obscure intellectual hobgoblinry.

      • Innit Bartender

        “Obscure Intellectual Hobgoblinry” is the perfect title for a thrash-grind album!

        • Pat. Pending!

          • Innit Bartender

            Actually I always rooted for the short vampire guy driving the haunted house with the bats in the belfry…

    • Roquentin

      *royal wave*

    • James Ingold

      About twenty seconds in, I couldn’t help but yell out “Holy Shit!” with the excitement that hearing his voice in the proper context evoked. So much goodness is right.

  • El_Cuervo

    I like this album but it’s almost too joyous throughout, it doesn’t feel as if there’s much development.

    • Roquentin

      There is not. It’s much simpler than either Yes or Roine Stolt’s projects and I appreciate it for not trying to replicate those bands.

      Still, its exactly the jovial, Renaissance-like atmosphere that gets me. Search for “Scheherazade and Other Stories” on YouTube, you’ll hear what I mean.

  • You wot m8?

    Nary a growl nor a tremolo pick to be heard…

  • Thatguy

    Very nice if this is your thing. Too nice for me and Anderson’s voice seems on the edge of cracking and – age will do this – not at all what it was.

    • Ageist!

      • Thatguy

        Ha!

        But it’s true.

      • sir_c

        Is that when you’re too old for that satanic shit?

        • Too old for Satan? Never!

          P.S. Hail Satan

    • Roquentin

      Anderson’s voice has degraded, no doubt, but I think that what seems to be bothering you is actually part of his natural timbre.

      • Thatguy

        I’m not sure I agree with that. I did get right into Yes back in the day and part of the appeal was the soaring quality of Anderson’s voice. He doesn’t seem to soar now.

        I don’t want to be over critical of him – I was never much of a singer and my voice cracks now – but I don’t enjoy what I hear.

  • Feytalist

    Love Anderson’s voice. And it’s a surprisingly pleasant punch in the gut to hear it again. Simply hearing that teaser made me want to hear more.

    I was in need of some uplifting music, and this is it.

  • Siege Bantayan

    That cover art is pretty.

  • aaron bergman

    Now I know what to listen to as I get dressed for Ye Olde Rennaisance Faire.

  • mtlman1990

    Eh,I don’t know about it being the better than anything Yes has put out in years. Fly From Here was the best Yes album since Relayer in my opinion. This is very good though.

    • Roquentin

      Relayer is solid, but Fly doesn’t really work for me. In fact, 90125 was the last great Yes album for me.

    • Jan Paulsen

      Fly From Here was really good, but Magnification was great. The Ladder is ok, but the Keys To Ascension studio tracks are great as well. Nothing from the 80’s great IMO, but some of it is not bad – just different.

  • Bart the Repairman

    Does Stolt sing anything here? IMO he’s great as a second/backing vocalist (for me his complementarity with Neal Morse is one of key factors that make Transtlantic so interesting).

    • Roquentin

      Nope, he doesn’t sing on this album. Back vocals are courtesy of Daniel Gildenlöw, Nad Sylvan, Anja Obermayer, Maria Rerych and Kristina Westas.

      • Bart the Repairman

        Gildenlöw! Fantastic, I can’t wait to put my hands on it. Thanks for reply.

  • Keri Ford

    Very enjoyable review and excellent album.

    • Roquentin

      Thanks!

  • ghost whistler

    This is what Keys To Ascension should have been.

    Yes, at their best (Close to the Edge, Awaken, And you and I, Heart of the Sunrise) are peerless. Self indulgent, fanciful, hippy dippy, YES! But that’s the magic of it.

  • shenzhen2112

    I couldn’t agree with this review more. One thing of note was how deliberately Jon’s vocals and lyrics were pushed to the forefront. This is by many measures a super group, but no competition of egos to be found anywhere. It just made me feel like the rest of the musicians had immense respect for Jon. As a side note, check out Jon Anderson’s “Open” as well.