Ben Stout fronts the deeply atmospheric, contemplative project Memory Sphere, offering up an album of original songs and compositions that prove powerfully immersive, emotive, and a pleasure to escape within.
To Deepest Warmth kicks things off and is all of this and more. A powerful soundscape in itself, the track goes on to present a breathy, gentle yet soulful leading voice, which rises up and up melodically, passionately, intertwined with the music and the poetic prowess and imagery of the lyricism. A mighty anthem of a track – a beautiful way to begin.
This approach that brings multiple layers of finely crafted delicacy proves a unique trait of Memory Sphere’s work. While there’s a familiarity to many of the songs – an epic, end of movie or Empire Of The Sun sort of vibe – there’s also something decidedly unexpected about the way these layers and details connect. Eclecticism runs wild arrangement wise, but this unusual pairing of elements continues to provide a thread.
Never Forget grabs attention with a harshly strummed acoustic guitar alongside an upfront and clean-cut vocal line. A song that cleverly moves from darkness to optimism in a gorgeously hypnotic manner, feeling partly alternative and partly mainstream in the harmonies and the melodic arrangement. The song is deeply intimate, the performance authentically heartfelt, all of which helps it reach out in a genuine way. At the same time, a rare case of notably original melody is at play – a refreshing, impressive thing to achieve in 2020. If anything, there’s occasionally a hint of Pearl Jam to the songwriting style – and some of the guitar riffs – but style-wise the comparisons start and end there.
A conceptual writer by all accounts, Stout goes onto venture through a three-part-journey entitled Fever Dream. The first segment is the blissfully dreamlike and gentle Black Hole, presenting ideas that provoke deeper thought, and an atmospheric, cinematic ambiance that fully embraces you. Well worth more than a single listen.
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Fear comes to say hi,
To tell lies to paralyze.
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The second segment is a quickly contrasting, heavy and intense Descent. The darkness, the fear, takes over – vocals step away, distance ensues, distorted guitars and a faster rhythm strike hard. Then the final third is the rightful downward spiral that is Lost Here. Slower-paced yet heavier still, more terrifying, more all-encompassing. Powerful screams and scathing guitar bends swirl and encircle the listener. Meanwhile that gentle leading vocal whispers hints of humanity and optimism amidst it all.
Within A Day paints an acoustic guitar and string scene, spacious and quiet, folk-like yet unsettling in mood. This album begins to play out like a movie, vast attention to detail meets with a clear and specific underlying concept or series of stories, giving the project in full defiant identity and value.
Midnight softly whispers a melodic highlight into the room. An addictively calming, heart-breaking and comforting track that’s still evidently loaded with those juxtaposing ideas and feelings that rule the album. A personal favourite.
Lush acoustic guitar work returns for an introspective, thoughtful Inward Spiral / Heading Home. A seductive, subtle composition that works its magic in humble, natural ways. Final Winter then injects perhaps the most memorable, recognizable guitar riff yet. Another absolute highlight, floating somewhere between the likes of Seth Lakeman and Eddie Vedder again, though with its own individual sense of darkness.
Urn Shadow keeps the style and mood alive for one last breath, utilizing this natural world ambiance and acoustic finger-picking in unison to entrance and engage. An epically intentional piece, coming in at over 14 minutes long, the track brings the project to a seemingly limitless finish – implying a sense of infinite existence; that all of this will go on, continue to happen, until you inevitably return to witness it again.
A sublime journey – skillful, professional, with phenomenal artistry at its core. Unlike anything else you’re likely to be listening to of late.