Single Celled Organism - Percipio Ergo Sum,
Three and a half years ago I wrote about German Single Celled Organism's first album 'Splinter In The Eye' as one of the most interesting art-rock album debuts of 2017. Some time has passed and... nothing has changed. Well, maybe apart from the fact that we're no longer dealing with debutants, but with experienced musicians who know exactly what this whole prog-rock world is about. So let me start bluntly: the latest Single Celled Organism album entitled "Percipio Ergo Sum" is definitely one of the best new albums I have heard in the first half of this year.
But one step at a time...
"Percipio Ergo Sum", like its predecessor, is a concept album and continues the story from the previous album, which ended with the human population being infected with a deadly virus (shock! I remind you that the album 'Splinter In The Eye' was released in 2017!). The main characters, Doctor Barnaby and a 20-year-old girl living most of the time in forced seclusion, are the few survivors of the collapse of civilisation and attempts to rebuild it. They suffer - each differently and each for a different reason. This 'brave new world' is not to their liking, but each experiences it in different ways. Doctor Barnaby is an ambiguous character, experiencing dilemmas about his past and conducting forbidden experiments. The young girl, in a way his victim, with her perception of the new order, after several years of solitary confinement and after the experiments conducted on her (without awareness of the existence of the outside world) cannot find her place in the new reality. She is fundamentally different from other people who have become mindless creatures. She discovers that to understand the new order it is no longer enough to be guided by a Cartesian worldview ("cogito ergo sum" = "I think, therefore I am"), but something more is needed. "Percipio ergo sum" ("I perceive, therefore I am") becomes her life credo. She sees herself as part of a whole and defines herself through her interaction with other people. She manages to leave the so-called Civil Zones, where mindless, chip-taped people live, and finds herself in the untouched wilderness. At first frightened and uncertain, but later calm and happy, she finds her place far from the world arranged according to new rules by mindless people... It all sounds visionary. And how contemporary, isn't it?... For details of the whole story I refer you to the website of Jens Lueck - the originator of this story and the musical brain of the project called Single Celled Organism.
And the music?
I will try to describe it as precisely as possible. Don't be surprised by my delight, but the album, as a whole, looks great. And not that I am hungry, but every time I listen to this album, I am aware of participating in some kind of refined feast. The album "Percipio Ergo Sum" is a great and excellent musical dish served on a huge plate (62 minutes of music) full of flavours kept in the style of neoprogressive rock. It is a real musical feast consisting of eleven delicious portions - wonderful, full of rich arrangements, great melodies and soundscapes saturated with successive waves of delicacies: very melodic themes and perfectly constructed instrumentation. The music is wrapped in perfectly executed flowery keyboard parts (played by Jens Lueck himself, as well as guitars, bass and drums) interlaced with the aroma of guitar chord sequences (by two excellent guitarists: Ingo Salzmann and Johnny Beck). There are also frequent vocal modulations, powerful strings (Katja Flintsch on violin and viola and Olek Bakki on cello), numerous changes of tempo and mood, here and there sequencers appear (recorders are operated by Volker Kuinke), as well as acoustic sounds, including the sound of nylon guitar strings (Jürgen Osuchowski). The percussion also plays superbly (listen to the passages in "The Final Door" - Mike Portnoy himself would not be ashamed of them), even the bass guitar seems to play a significant role here and plays in perfect harmony with the juicy parts of electric guitars and the abundance of keyboard sounds. At all times the music maintains its predetermined course, which is to provide an extremely melodic experience and sonic soulfulness. Here everything is in its place, every nuance agrees, and each piece of this sonic puzzle fits into the other.
But the most important are the vocals. The male voice obviously belongs to Jens Lueck. His expression and articulation are perfectly matched to the tone of the music, so that the individual parts of this musical tale are not only superbly crafted, but seamlessly blend and interlock with each other, imperceptibly passing one into the other. But there is one more very important, singing, person - Ms Isgaard Marke. Already on the previous record Single Celled Organism she delighted with her singing and the way of artistic interpretation. What she demonstrates on the album "Percepio Ergo Sum" is a real masterpiece of the world. She is a vocalist with the most beautiful voice, full of commitment, panache and incredible expression (from a whisper to a scream). The duets of Isgaard and Jens and the fragments they sing separately are the real highlight of this album.
Let us also emphasize the excellent production, rich arrangements and the fact that the individual songs are perfectly refined and performed as if on many levels of complexity and surprising finesse. It is impossible to single out any of them. This is the kind of album which real strength is the continuity and atmosphere built by the following compositions. And they are like building blocks; successive fragments of this album build up tension and lead to a fantastic climax, consisting of two final themes: long and dynamic (the nearly nine-minute "Entanglement Runs Off") and short, lyrical (the less than three-minute "Inhale The Dark"). An abundance of musical grandeur. No wonder it all adds up to one of the most interesting prog rock albums of the first six months of this year.