After a three-year break from recording, guitarist Masaki Batoh reassembled his psych-prog-acid folk ensemble the Silence. Their time away was productive yet fraught with change: Organist (and former Ghost bandmate) Kazuo Ogino is no longer a member; he appears selectively as a guest. Bassist Jan Shotaro Stigter also left to pursue his various solo projects and has been replaced by Taiga Yamazaki. Drummer Futoshi Okano and flutist/baritone sax man Ryuichi Yoshida remain. While earlier recordings used song forms as a gateway to improvisation, for Metaphysical Feedback, the Silence brought finished, tightly arranged compositions into the studio in order to rehearse and record quickly, and everybody wrote this time out. Interestingly, these more formal strictures have succeeded in expanding the boundaries of the Silence's musical universe. The result is a more progressive outing, with Yoshida's saxophones and flutes playing a far greater role in shaping the proceedings.
The nine-minute opener "Sarabande" (one of three tunes by Batoh) commences with fingerpicked guitars, lithe flutes, and pillowy basslines. It's adorned by dreamy vocals framed in a drifting psychedelia. The mid-section is carpet bombed with stinging, fuzz-damaged lead guitar and animated jazz flute (think Jeremy Steig) before ratcheting down into a dreamscape. The influence of early King Crimson's first three albums on this date cannot be overstated. It's there in the wonky piano, drumkit, and baritone-driven "Freedom" (though an expected Paul Butterfield-esque blues harmonica break in the bridge comes across as shocking). Yoshida's "Tautology" offers dramatic time and key changes amid clamoring drums and Brotzmann-esque saxophone roaring. Batoh's "Okoku" crisscrosses psych, prog, and jazz with a nearly Baroque lyric line, underscored by wiry lead guitar and overdubbed, multi-tracked flutes trading fours against a funky backbeat. Yamazaki's "Yokushuri" is labyrinthine, a nearly gothic psychedelia that eventually explodes with progressive instrumental interplay. Despite spiky guitar arpeggios worthy of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, Okano's "Lightning Struck Baby Born" is built on a riff of crescendos and offers an organ break worthy of Brian Auger. The set's lone cover, a doomy, foreboding read of Pearls Before Swine's "Surrealist Waltz," contains new lyrics from its composer Tom Rapp (at Batoh's request) that were penned on his deathbed. An animated group crescendo introduces Yoshida's "The Crystal World," but's a canard. His flute leads organ, drumkit, and strummed guitars in a majestic, yet slightly off-kilter, processional rock tune reminiscent of the mid-section of "In the Court of the Crimson King." A gorgeous flute solo and acid-drenched guitar both squall before returning to a slow march in conclusion. Interestingly, Metaphysical Feedback is easily the most deliberate and disciplined of the Silence's records thus far but conversely, it's his most musically adventurous and sonically expansive. Metaphysical Feedback marks the sound of a band fully aware of and exploiting its potential. Fantastic.