Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Invisible - MK-ULTRA, album review

MKUltra... A prime example of heightened paranoia and the conspiracy theory culture that has risen in the digital age alongside omnipotent social networking and a right-swiping society with a deteriorating attention span, although the US government's illegal mind control programme may not be as prevalent as tinder and snapchat, it has certainly taken its rightful place in the niche corners of the internet that firmly believes the world's most popular music artists are among the highest order of the illuminati...

Whilst Rihanna and Jay-Z's suspicious status has yet to be proven, MKUltra is (or was) very real, and has given birth to a creative response among the arts that plays on our fears of government power.  Forget off-shore tax havens and shady allowances made for second properties, for there are far more sinister strings that have been pulled in an attempt to create sleeper soldiers through mind control and experiments with LSD.

More than 40 years since proof of these practises came to light, The Invisible, aka Enfield multi-instrumentalist Jake Bradford-Sharp, takes this subject as inspiration for his debut long player, a concept album that not only threads together a fictionalised account of an MKUltra test patient but also weaves together a rich tapestry of musical influences that reach back through the decades almost as far back as the controversial practise itself.

The 60s psychedelic influence of Pink Floyd is an obvious one to tag this release with, along with the expansive and progressive sounds of the 70s that could be heard emanating from the likes of Yes, but harder edged guitar riffs call to mind rock titans such as Black Sabbath, and a far more recent touchstone would also be Muse, who have managed to fuse stadium rock with a sense of the overblown and an overbearing theme of paranoia and political mis-trust.

Perhaps the strongest thread that runs through this accomplished debut is a home-grown predilection for British eccentricity that is not only self evident but also self serving in the aforementioned works of Syd Barrett, Rick Wakeman and Matt Bellamy, and is explored here through no mere pastiche or doe-eyed hero worship, this has been seriously crafted in a way that blends musical styles and extravagant opuses without feeling bloated or over-reaching, and I constantly have to remind myself that this is all the work of just one musician... in fact the involvement of others could possibly have diluted such an ambitious and focused piece of art.

Here is an album that challenges you to put aside distractions for its duration in what is another conscious decision to go against the grain of modern music, and each track opens itself up to deeper dissection of both a critical and literary nature... I hear shades of Tom Vek in brief opener Inside Voices, but I also hear an awakening experience, there are three key tracks that each have their sights set on reaching epic proportions standing tall within the framework of the album, but the shifting sonic identity within these longer tracks and the flow of the album raises the listener's own questions as to whether one track has truly ended and another one yet begun, surely a reflection of the inner turmoil and disturbed psyche of MKUltra patients.  Recollections of mind-control experimentation collide with musical experimentation perfectly, and This Drug, The Discovery, and Dreamscape all are fascinating in their ability to hold your attention as they unravel over an extended run time, again I'm reminded of the paranoid stadium rock of Muse, but also of mostly forgotten early-noughties vanguard noiseniks The Cooper Temple Clause and (the sole American group brought to my mind) The Flaming Lips, and their own uncompromising approach to making music since the band's inception, except right now there isn't a single pink robot in sight...

Each listen reveals further depths not only in the sonic construct of MK-ULTRA, but also in the storytelling that the 'concept' of the album is pinned upon, providing a cohesive story structure that complements and mirrors the equally cohesive marriage of myriad styles and sounds.

No comments:

Post a Comment