I write reviews for many reasons. Music is an extension of my existence. Words are my art. When I encounter music that affects me, I feel compelled to explicate these emotions into words. I don’t know why, exactly. I think it’s my way of setting free the beauty that another artist inspired in me. Maybe I need to show the artist that I SEE them. Or, maybe I just want to jump up and down in my own weird way and share with you, my total stranger friends, how much a particular work of art inspired me. Either way, I write about music for the same reason that I write about everything else; if the words don’t come out, they may kill me. Art is a voice of its own; it will always find a way out. That having been said, something happened to me that hasn’t happened before, in nearly half a century of writing. When I sat down and listened to Linadrena’s new album, Then Come the Words, my own words wouldn’t come…at ALL. I have had writer’s block before but usually it was because I was on a job and putting too much pressure on myself to meet a deadline. You know, step back; take a breath and let go, then the words flow. But this was something different and it has taken me three weeks to set the words free.
I listened to this album five times, beginning to end and each time I began to write what I was feeling, I would hear something else and either the emotion would shift just out of my view, or a whole other feeling would be unearthed. I have said from the beginning, this cat is fresh. But the complexity of his work is just like some of the finest poetry I’ve encountered in the sense that he conveys multiple feelings in very small space. It may only be a four minute song, but layers of sounds are present; all conveying another aspect of his experience. Then, he added words that are equally as rich and existential.
Here’s my best analogy: When I listened to the whole album it was like standing at the edge of a gourmet buffet dinner with multiple rows of tables; each offering a completely different style of cuisine; each with multiple delicacies. So, I just took a bite of each plate, from each table and moved on to the next, of course feeling completely gorged by the end of it. So, I put down my plate and went back the next day. Now, I paused at each table to savor the complex flavors on every plate. By the end of the table, I was full and heavy and had to put down my plate. But this is a concept album; a journey, a progression from one state of being into the next. You need to stay in the room with all these tables for the whole thing to make sense. In the end, it was a matter of just listening to the whole album enough times that the songs lingered with me. The experience of listening to each song was as personal for me as if I was living this life with the artist, in his shoes. It took time to hear…I was going to say “all of it” but I still keep hearing tidbits of joy that I missed. But I had to live with the whole work of this complex album before I could begin to sort out what it felt like and adequately relay those feelings back to you. You can see my writing get deeper as the songs progress and I could have gone back and beefed the first ones up, but I thought it was relevant to let you see how ingrained, how intimate the journey had become for me by the end.
Linadrena, I will spend many more hours with you and the Words that Came, but thank you for the beauty you shared with us from the most intimate shadows of your rich life.
My first taste of Linadrena’s new album Then Come the Words, the song No Goodbye, is like a sip of something warm on a cold day. He has remained loyal to that LINADRENA other worldly sound, to that distant horizon where music bends around an idea, always fresh and unusual. But I am almost taken aback by the sweetness, the endearing innocent sound of his voice. There always seems to be a touch of darkness swirling just outside the scope of his music; nothing looming, but like a sprinkling if iD. And then to hear this gentle voice rise just above the heaviness of a chord on the keyboard that made me feel like bowing my head for a minute; it was almost cathartic. You would think it’s a happy song, the light melody, the synth hands clapping out a beat, but then boom boom…you hear the bass hiding in the background. That Linadrena heaviness descends. Now I can put it into words; his words, “No breaking up, no explanation, no goodbye…no resolution.” Now the darkness reveals itself and it’s a broken heart. I have a whole new appreciation for this entertainer, whose sound I already dig. And you know I have to mention that there was just the right amount of gorgeous Linadrena guitar licks, like well placed kisses, making love to the song. I’ll be spending many hours with this new album, me, Linadrena and my iD, dancing in the dark.
According to You
I have used these same words to describe falling in love; that you can only look down into the Grand Canyon for the first time, once. It is difficult for me to hear According to You in the context of this new album and give it proper recognition for its place inside the whole of this outstanding new work. This song was the first time I ever heard Linadrena. I was blown away by the freshness of the sound, the unique vibe of the music and that haunting je nais se quoi that is Linadrena; and oh my goddess the seduction of the coy guitar licks. But in between No Goodbye and Pure Diamond, it has become evident that this is a concept album. It is meant to be experienced with the artist, in the way he lived it. I am left no choice but to cleanse my pallet and listen again, with a freshly broken heart.
This great little ditty on the keyboard starts, nice tune; catchy. It’s electronic but with a really cool retro vibe, Def Tone-ish. Then, as I have come to adore in Linadrena’s music, a creepy bass note sneaks in, and I can almost feel it breathing on the back of my neck. Now enter, the words: “You closed the door before I came in, hiding your perfume before I breathed in.” I see an offering of love on a sliver platter being slapped to the ground, feeling the disappointment of love, and then it happened. I remembered hearing this song for the first time and I was wrong, you can see the canyon for the first time again. Lin hits this lick on the guitar, a speedy tap tap tap, not shred not arpeggio, and I got chills all over again. Yes, sir, you have my full attention…again. He slips into an almost Beach Boys lick for a second and moves on. I find myself drawn back into the words for a minute, “no wonder it never started, it never could be,” and they lift off into a single chord on the guitar that hangs in the air for while. I want to look up and watch it fall, because it’s high and piercing and absolutely pleasing to the soul. I’m seeing the love that could have been, and may yet be just hang in the air in this single note; and then he’s gracious enough to let me back down. The gorgeous guitar to follow is sweet and melodic and I feel like I can take a breath again, and then the whole piece just drifts off into space. I can’t wait to follow him into Pure Diamond.
Deep, deep grand-daddy bass drum vibrates…something scrapes in with a pulse. This is gonna hurt. I’m a little uncomfortable, confused; which way to turn. The first reassuring sounds I hear are ratta-tat rhythms and piano keys, then Linadrena says, “I was pure as a diamond/You were just a light reflection/So beautiful to my blind eyes, blind/You didn’t deserve my full passion.” The measure ends and his guitar speaks up, (just a little.)
In Linadrena’s songs, I feel like his guitar is a vigilant protector over the sweet poet in his soul. Most of the time you only hear the power of it in glimpses and shadows, wondering if you really heard what you thought you did. Since the electric guitar was set free to do the absurd and abstract shit we were hearing for the first time in the age of rock, its powerful voice speaks for the Super Hero that hides inside of all of us; that reluctant badass with potential to save the world. And once again, it becomes apparent that this “pure diamond” has a dark side lurking in the corner. . Listen to that (trill note on guitar) the suspended chord that hangs in the air: There it is- I know this pain, the downward spiral of loving the un-pure in heart.
I’m feeling sorry for both of us: Lin for what’ he’s playing and me for feeling this hurt all over again then- BAM pure rock. “You put out my flame, leaving me empty/You won’t be the same, I was your beauty.”
There is just a moment of relief as “You were just a small asteroid,” leads us into a slight victory of spirit; a brief harmonic liberation.
The song drifts in and out emotionally, and vacillates between the suffering heart and the deadly Super Hero, but affords no emotional release in the end as we are pushed into the last breath of razor-sharp, final chords.
One lonely chord slides in on the guitar. It feels like utter isolation. I can hear the faint sound of water in synth tones in the background and I’m almost shocked when the kicky drums pop in, but there’s still something whining in the distance. Linadrena’s voice breaks the tension with, “You won’t shine, you’re just one side of/What I was, broken inside.” You can hear the pain in his voice and the music just makes the whole trip foreboding. I love the layers going on; fantastic little tap lick, nice pulsing tune, great rhythm. But the next line is dark. He is sculpting an image of the entity he loved and it ain’t pretty: “This is you, dirty inside/Bad teeth and smoky breath.” He shows himself clearly in the next refrain; he’s a clean melody but wrought with the pain of sharps and suspendeds. But then she’s back: “This is you, just one side/No heart and smell of death.” This romance feels like being stuck in a bad dream from which you can’t awaken. “This is you, evil bride/No sound and loneliness.” This cat was gutted by a massive mind-fuck. He’s still there, in the tune in the form of hopeful keys, but the vibe is hesitant and unsure. I definitely hear the angst arising, but I don’t think he’s ready to admit it out loud. Go on. “This is you, you decide/What dies and nothing else.” He has seen the shadow and looks into the eyes of gloom. The song ends on an uncomfortable, yet beautiful note. There is no resolve here. I’m shifting in my seat.
It’s been a really heavy trip up to now. Immediately I’m relieved to hear the upbeat sounds flooding in. I’m having visions of my childhood, the calypso steel drum, remixed and electronic sounding.
Then come the words: “Thinking of my dear forest/feeling oceans in my chest;” Linadrena and I are sinking again. “Now, I’m so far away,” I can feel a longing for home like a pit in my stomach and the frenzied back beat reminds me of a horse exploding into a sprint as he nears the stables. I know this feeling, too. It’s like falling backwards when you suddenly realize you’re in a strange place and nothing around you is familiar. I know it too well, and he’s making me remember. “I was born on a small island/A volcano in my hand.” He brilliantly captured the sound of his tropical origin, Guadeloupe, and transposed it into pure Linadrena; original, fluid and masterfully textured. But the lyrics, the transition from high spirited calypso into “my colours fading away”- something that sounds like static in the background- into the throb of something menacing. “Now I’m so far away,” he’s screaming now…
Maybe the name No Water is ironic, because as soon as the sounds come together, the words seem to float on the surface of the music like an oil slick. Linadrena always makes me think of water in some form or another, and I’ve often used the term “fluid” to describe his stealthy electronic vibe. “No water, no sky, no blue/How can you live in such a dark place.” We left his Tropical Kingdom and this island boy is in the bowels of the dark city. But there’s a badass bass line pacing in the background and I think this cat can take care of himself. He’s saying, “I can’t see you, I can’t hear you.” It’s ominous and foreboding, kinda creepy. And then I realize, he’s singing to himself, lost in the “grey as a jail/But you won’t leave it.”
It isn’t until the third or fourth time I hear the song that I realize, that badass bass note isn’t his inhibited strength, it’s a shark just under the surface, prowling in the concrete under his feet and it’s stalking his sanity. Now, I hear the drum beat and understand; it’s his pulse. It changes throughout the song. You can feel him dying. I told you, “texture.” Linadrena is an artist. His work is complex and every time I listen, I catch a new shade or contour I didn’t hear the first few times. By the end of the song, the heartbeat is fading and in one lingering note, his voice drifts off, “I can’t save you…..”
All Your Dreams
It’s a nice enough beginning, pleasant chord on the keyboard. And then these tense sharp and suspended notes follow. “Hey man, you don’t seem sound.” I’m feeling it, baby. The emotional impact of this song, in the context of the album, has completely changed for me since the first time I heard it. Now, I have the whole picture in my mind. I’m on the journey with this dude from a tropical island paradise who landed in the big city, fell immediately into the wrong arms and he’s descending into his own darkness. “Staring at static backgrounds/Lethargy will keep you down/You should fly over the foreground.” The music has become intense. His voice is deeper, more pronounced. I can feel him finding courage.
There is something about this song that reminds me of one of my all time favorite songs, The Chauffer, by Duran Duran. (Def Tones did a nice cover of it.) He’s laying out a nice tune on the guitar and the beat picks up a bit. Then he lays down a great run of lyrics: “Lonely will be the one trapped into those fears dying, slowly fading/Waiting to be carried all the way to their dreams.” I love this line and after I’ve played the song, that’s the earworm, the hook that remains: Really nice piece of music. Then the whole song builds. “All these years without a crown…All your dreams will play you down.” That’s the line I will never forget, as though he spoke these words to me personally. You absolutely have to know when to cut your losses and move on. There are moments of orgasmic guitar harmonics, a mesmerizing tune and compelling lyrics that make All Your Dreams a solid work of genius.
The piece opens with a manic drum intro and almost sing-song lyrics drift in. Not what I’ve come to expect from my beloved Linadrena heaviness. “When I’m looking at you down there/I don’t really see a dead man.” Just when I was ready to settle for macabre lyrics in the absence of menacing chords, a throbbing industrial tune rises up from the background. “Come on, hold on and find a way/ You will, you will have to delay.” There is a life away/But first you will have to play.” Then, this happens: Reminiscent of some of my favorite Pink Floyd, he’s tracing the vibe of the song before this one, All Your Dreams, with a hint of the tune and “Hey man…” and I’m tripping off into a recycling thought with him. “Hey man, you don’t/Look that bad, that bad.” The tune is eerie and wafting up like an apparition. He’s singing to the dead man; himself down there dying and summoning his soul to rise up and live. His pulse isn’t a drum beat this time, it is bass notes…boom boom- nothing, boom boom- nothing; like he’s willing himself to live through the music. The sing-song lyrics are comforting now. Right on. He disturbed me enough to need reassurance. “You need to find another way/It will take a while to get there.” I love the way he shares these subtle insights into his life with deeply intimate lyrics: “There is a life away/But first you will have to play.” It’s a play on words because most of us “pay” for our survival with emotional scars and the hard labor of inventing a human who has never existed. But Linadrena’s evolution requires music. Music is as much a part of him as the island that bore him, and as important to his place in our lives as the great artists that preceded him. He leaves us, in Hold On, with that severe bass line as his own strengthening pulse.
I’m blown away at the diversity of this cat. The song starts with a seamless slide note evoking Def Tone flash-backs. I’m smiling; already feeling relieved of the difficulty of the emotional journey of this album up to this point. Then, I hear hints of Tool echoing in the opening chords: Gorgeous.
In one ascending note, the clouds are beginning to clear and feel hope rising like heat off the pavement. “Always, in motion:” his voice is sustained and a little huskier this time. It’s very sexy. “She plays my emotion.” I know that most of the time I write like a dude. I’m proud of my balance and that androgyny shows in my personal writing. But, let me tell you, this song brings out the kitten in me. Purrr. I’m all girl right now. The tone of his voice is arousing enough, but there is something about a man playing badass licks on the guitar and simultaneously letting his vulnerable feelings show that has an aphrodisiac affect on women. Why do you think every hard core rocker has at least one power ballad in his repertoire? I’m back on the Pink Floyd train, being pulled in deeper by reflective lyrics: “Somewhere I can feel/Right there, I’m no steel.” Then the tone changes and “I will be on my way” sets me free in a melodic liberation.
This song is complex and full of style shifts and mood changes. Once again, I’m struck with the diversity of Linadrena sound as he alights into kicky drums. I’m enjoying the beat and then in strides this massively funkadelic bass lick. Nice. The tune returns to its spacey ambiance…”As the speed burns my eyes/I turn to flame. /Further along the stars/I break my chains;” and “break” he does, into a solid rock segway. Using a highly effective vocal effect he says, “I remember being underwater/Blowing away away away away. /Her name lover, she was just anger.” And again we’re set free, “I will be on my way…My heart/Is my will.”
The next transition reminds of something that would have come out of Beethoven had he been born in the eighties: “I leave to my life now.” It’s a melody within a melody. It’s delightful and uplifting and his voice is dead on the money. I feel completely liberated from the tyranny of poisonous love, from the terror of unfamiliar surroundings and the loneliness of watching oneself completely deconstruct into a dark stranger; holding onto sanity with white knuckles. He has seen me safely home and I have come away, better for the journey.
Then Come the Words is a beautiful work of art. Linadrena has a unique perspective of the world around him and masterfully conveys those images through his music and introspective lyrics. His music is rich with texture and complexity. His sounds are fresh and pleasing to the ear. My favorite word to use when attempting to describe him is “fluid.” He took away the best of his tropical island beginnings and gave us beautiful music. The world is indebted to you Guadeloupe.
Go buy the album!