Thomas Thielen is back with his second album for GEP, his eighth overall, and on this one he only wrote, arranged, performed, recorded, mixed, and mastered the music which is why he only gets a co-credit for the artwork, I guess. I have followed his career with interest since I was sent his second album, ‘Voices’, some 16 years ago and have reviewed every one since. Some of them have received top marks, one only average, and the rest in between, so what would this album be like? Here we see Thomas moving more into art rock territory, and while some will point to bands like modern Marillion as influences, the one which stands out most to me is Bowie. He was one of a host of artists I referenced on his last album, 2019’s ‘Solipsystemology’, but here is it is much more obvious, especially as there is much more focus on vocals this time around.
It is an album which does take repeated listening, at least for me, as the style being used is not one to which I listen to a great deal, but the more this is played the more it is recognised that here is a work of some import as there is just so much in it, even though the arrangements often seem sparse. It could be the faint in the background guitar rise, or sound effects, or the way a keyboard dramatically comes out of nowhere, or the way the vocals can totally change their position within the layering. There is a lot to listen to here, and that is the key phrase, as this is an album which really does need listening to. This is music from the old days, when I used to sit on my bed with the album cover and lyrics (if you were lucky) in my hands, falling deep into the artist’s world, and that is the same here except now I am sat in a chair with a glass of Otago Pinot Noir close to hand, playing it on headphones and reading the lyrics in the booklet. While it can be played in the background, it is only by paying close attention that one can get inside the music and realise just how much effort has been put into every note, with constant decision-making taking place regarding which instrument should perform which part and then where that should be in the arrangement.
This may sound like a lot to take in, but what makes this album work so well is that it is just so easy to listen to, so enjoyable, and not once will people think this is the work of just one man as this is a full band, with real instruments as opposed to synthesising everything. There is a huge amount of space within the music which allows everything to breathe, and the result is something which is very special indeed. Easy to listen to while never easy listening, this is probably the finest release from Thomas yet, and well worthy of investigation by all lovers of prog and art rock.