After leaving King Crimson in 2003, Trey Gunn chose to join with avant-garde hip-hop musician Joe Mendelson (of Rise Robots Rise) to form the two-man group Quodia, a band (in a very loose sense of the word) devoted to spoken word stories set to music. Quodiaís only album so far, The Arrow, is definitely a success, hopefully one they can improve on for the future. It is an ambitious attempt at creating something new, and it is a case where the ambition does not overstretch the available talent. The two musicians both fit right in, working perfectly together to create a unique experience.
Donít expect King Crimson here, however (donít expect rap either, mind you). As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, Gunn and Mendelson are shooting for (and achieving) uniqueness here. Yes, you will hear hints and snatches of King Crimson in the Warr guitar work of Gunn (particularly on ďThick and ThornyĒ), and you will hear electronic percussion from Mendelson, but these superficial similarities to the two membersí backgrounds are just that: superficial. This effort brings together multiple styles, from electronic music to atmospheric music, from rock to theater, ultimately creating what I might call ďtheater rock:Ē rock that is meant to be performed.
Unlike most albums, the lyrics here are as integral to the album as the music. The two are intertwined, working around each other and with each other. One without the other would feel empty, but put together we get a stunning combination where the components fit perfectly together. The vocals are almost but not quite monotonous, allowing the listener to fit their own interpretation into the mix, and also allowing the tremendous detail of the lyrics to shine. While Gunn and Mendelson have given you a starting point, it is for you to fill in the gaps.
The music is dynamic, shifting between textures with relative ease, keeping the listener on his (or her) toes. It is not fast-paced, pumped with adrenaline; so if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere. Itís certainly not slow and dirge-like (or, heaven forbid, boring), but itís also not an album to get your blood pumping. Itís an album meant to convey a story, and that is exactly what it does. The music is almost secondary, except that itís too good to take such a position. The way the band mixes the different styles really makes the music engaging, giving it a modern feel that shows that these guys are not stuck in the past by any stretch of the imagination.
As for the lyrics, Iím really not sure exactly what the storyline is, mostly because Iíve been letting this album wash over me when I listen, since I find that most fulfilling. From reading the bandís website and watching the attached DVD, I can tell that the plot is complex, weaving multiple tales into one. Hopefully, one thing the band can improve on for their next release is making the story tighter, but Iím certainly not complaining here, considering the overall ambition of this effort.
Speaking of the DVD, I mentioned it as ďattached,Ē but that really isnít accurate. While itís true that there is both a CD and a DVD in the package, I find that the DVD is just as essential. The images provided in the video add a new dimension to the music and story. I usually end up listening to the CD, since the DVD is more demanding of my full attention (I donít often have time to give my full attention to music), but the DVD is still an integral part of the album. There are some cons to the DVD version, of course. For example, I like that the CD version allows my imagination to create its own images of the story. Ultimately, the two are equal in my eyes.
Considering all of that, Iím going to give Quodiaís The Arrow somewhere between a B (very good) and a B+ (excellent). If you are looking for something new in modern music, you need look no further than Quodia. Go in without expectations, allowing the music, words, and images to take new to a different world, and you will fall in love with this album. I can only look forward to what Quodia will do next. Highly recommended.
(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
(originally written for www.prog4you.com)
Quoida is a US-based multimedia project led by Trey Gunn (King Crimson) and the artist/musician Joe Mendelson. The project has, according to their blog, been developed and evolved for 5 years. The multimedia project, consisting of spoken word, music and video images, has been on tour to several nations. For the ones wanting to relive the memory of a performance, wants to check it out before seeing it live or just basically want to know what it is all about, this CD/DVD package was released earlier this year.
Musically this is an off one. The spoken word is as central an "instrument" here as any other. The stories being told here; that may or may not be connected, are heavily influenced by ancient myths and legends. Even if you don't pay attention to what is being said, the phrasing and tone of voice adds that element of something old and timeless to the songs here.
The soundscapes are given details by the rest of the instruments, synths, sound effects, rhythms and guitars used in varying degrees to create different moods and musical textures to each song; most times resulting in songs that wouldn't have been out of place on a Tangerine Dream album; but also venturing close to the musical territory of King Crimson at times.Most of the songs here are very much electronic in nature, with synths and voice dominating the soundscape, but on some tracks the guitar is given a central role and it is in those tracks that the King Crimson feel to the music is the strongest.
The above-mentioned elements result in a musical score that is highly interesting. The music has a very timeless feel to it and many of the songs have a highly hypnotic quality, transfixing the listener in these ancient sounding, primal and at times sacral moods. Although the number of people taking an interest in this music probably is somewhat limited, those people will get much pleasure from this release.
As this release is a multimedia project, a DVD is a central part of this release as well. Playing the DVD, you'll get to see and hear the video images combined with the musical score. I'd guess that there will be more people enjoying the music alone on this release. The video image part here is well done, with computer generated effects, computer enhanced images and computer enhanced video clips, combined with central words from the stories displayed in various form on top of that. The overall effect most times is of a highly psychedelic and very "arty" nature, being much closer to "high brow" art than it is to mainstream art. I suspect that these images make much more of an impact in a live setting than on your telly, but for some this DVD will be the main reason for purchasing this release I'd guess.
My rating here is for the musical score alone though, and my overall conclusion is that this is a strong release that should appeal to fans of electronic based music in the same vein as Tangerine Dream as well as fans of music similar to King Crimson in style and mood.
My rating: 82/100