I should have guessed. I should have realised when I saw the press photo looking like Robin of Sherwood or some other medieval image. Mr Duda doesn’t do things without a reason, without thought, without artistic merit. More of that later. If you have come here for heroic solo histrionics, think again. This is about the music. This is about music in its entirety.
What is music? Is it about the hook? Is it about the melody? Is it about the clever instrumentation? Is it about the feel? Is it about the message? Is it about the listener? Is it about the artist? Is it all the above? I suspect for an artist such as Riverside’s Mariusz Duda it is all of the above, but arguably with a focus on the atmosphere – the natural crafting of a cinematic background that enhances the aural foreground, whether vocal or instrumental. It has always been thus, I suspect. Look back at Riverside and earlier Lunatic Soul and there is common ground in terms of the ambience, the setting, the dynamic and the artistic vision.
Inspiration for the album comes from his childhood home, an area of Poland known for its forests and lakes, ” I think I have always wanted to create an album steeped in nature and woodlands. These bring to my mind freedom, breathing and a dance ritual of coming back to nature, so I wanted the album to include such ritualistic primal dances, shamanic, Slavic and Viking moods. I wanted to mix it all up and put it all together, making “Through Shaded Woods” the most intense, dynamic and the most danceable album in my career.”
‘Through Shaded Woods’ embodies attention to detail. Perhaps more surprising, knowing his Riverside and previous solo efforts, is the immersion in full on gothic folk, albeit there has always been an element in the mix, more so in solo releases perhaps. He’s a visionary, a maverick, an artist. Rich history and dark legend met in an album of aural delight. To these ears at least.
‘Navvie’ has a foot-stomping rhythm to get the tavern regulars toe-tapping, but goes oh so much further in atmosphere and nuance. It is the guitar and bass that locks you in, with such great use of melodic lines but also hypnotic rhythm. The lengthy slowburn of “The Passage” requires close concentration to get the most out of the cinematic subtlety. “Through Shaded Words” has a monastic yet eastern vibe, it’s gothic drone closing with release in an ambience of howling winds and rustling leaves. A celtic “Oblivion” features galloping drums, bewitching acoustic guitar and chants surpassed with haunting melodies. Summoning Dance” is an epic two-scene soundscape, initially light and uplifting folk before growing dark with pounding speed and rising emotion. “The Fountain”is pensive, reflective and reverberating, perhaps an awakening or release of some sort after such cinematic experiences, guitar and piano based but graced with swathes of rich cello and other delicate background sounds gracefully moving to a restful close.
The intensely rhythmic and earthy folk drone that Mike Oldfield touched on in one small part of Tubular Bells, and the clever acoustic folk guitar lines Ian Anderson lightly addressed in one part of Jethro Tull’s early journey are both totally and utterly extrapolated in this album and taken to a whole different level. Mr Duda does atmosphere. He gets folk culture. He understands texture and tension. He gets rhythm and beat. He does cinematic. He’s a perfectionist. He’s a musical weaver extraordinaire. Mariusz Duda played all the instruments on the album and apparently used a drum machine – not that I could spot anything artificial whatsoever. In which case, let’s add one more description. Genius.
- Navvie 04:03
- The Passage 08:57
- Through Shaded Woods 05:51
- Oblivion 05:03
- Summoning Dance 09:52
- The Fountain 06:04
- Vyraj 05:32 (Bonus)
- Hylophobia 03:20 (Bonus)
- Transition II 27:45 (Bonus)