The latest album (their fifth) from Netherlanders Lesoir, Mosaic seemed to take this philosophy and run with it. The cover art is, indeed, a mosaic – one I find quite beautiful, if perhaps somewhat untraditional – and the music follows suit. (A mosaic is an artistic picture or design made out of any materials assembled together, in case you were wondering where the small square tiles are.) There are so many different sounds, or colours if you will, across this album, or even within a track, each adding to and embellishing the whole. And while it is often easy to compare some of these sounds to other bands and artists, there’s no way you could consider them to be ripped off. If Lesoir have followed Bowie’s philosophy, they’ve definitely done their own thing with any new colours they’ve found.
There are some comparisons I could make to bands which I doubt the band has ever heard of, which immediately puts into doubt whether anything I hear is actually an influence so much a reflection of what I’m familiar with. This is the greatest reason I don’t usually like to make such comparisons in my reviews, but I think it’s worth doing so, just to show how contrasting the colours on Lesoir’s palette are. For example, the second song, Is This It sounds like the collision of Duran Duran and Faith No More. These two unlikely styles crash against each other gloriously, and this song is easily one of my favourites on the album because of it. And just to add to the mix, there’s some surprisingly Balkan sounding folk thrown in too.
I find the album somewhat let down by the third song, Somebody Like You. The album starts with a bang, with the title track (which I find quite reminiscent of Headless Chickens – one of those bands I’m sure Lesoir have never heard). It’s immediately engaging without being too bombastic – that’s saved for the following Is This It. After such a strong beginning, Somebody Like You struggles to stand up to what’s come before. That’s not to say it’s not a good song. Clearly the band think it is as it has been released as a single to promote the album. It’s actually a really nice song, which reminds me a little of The Pineapple Thief – but its placement on the album doesn’t really allow it to shine.
If Somebody Like You reminds me a little of The Pineapple Thief, then I guess the following The Geese is reminiscent of that band’s former stablemates, Anathema, as the song builds and crescendos in that familiar fashion. It’s a far more enjoyable song for me than Somebody Like You, and definitely has the album back on track, and the following, almost Celtic sounding Measure of Things is another fine song – but it’s what comes next that is a real stunner! Dystopia is a tour de force. If I’m going to keep to the Kscope theme, then Nordic Giants definitely come to mind. But what most people will immediately pick up on is the huge Floydian vibe. Dystopia is incredible for this alone, but doesn’t stop there. The song switches to Muse and rocks its way out. The spoken word of George Orwell really hammers home the dystopian theme.
How can Lesoir follow this? After having already been a little underwhelmed by Somebody Like You following Is This It, I admit I had reservations the first time I approached It’s Never Quiet. They were dispelled very quickly. Like Is This It and Dystopia, this is one of my favourite songs on the album – possibly my favourite overall. From a beautiful and quiet (it’s sometimes quiet) pastoral beginning, this song really feels like the mosaic of the cover art. The flute (last heard to just as great effect in Is This It) is lovely and really makes an impact. This is followed by a rather more jaunty folk sounding passage (as opposed to the more melancholic, but equally effective folk passage in Is This It) and some wordless vocalisations, before powerful singing returns with quite some urgency, and then surprising heaviness. In fact, I think these are probably Maartje Meesen’s best vocals on the album.
And yet, and this will sound a little strange after just praising her vocal talents, no matter how beautiful I find Maartje’s voice, sometimes it is too dominant. MXI proves a case in point. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to follow It’s Never Quiet than this short instrumental piece. I wish it were longer, actually, as it seems to fade out just as it is developing. If it were longer, I think this would even edge its way into my top three favourite tracks from the album. Regardless of length, it works perfectly to come back down from the dizzy heights of the previous song, and if there’s one thing this album could have had more of, it is instrumental interludes like this one. It adds another colour, another layer, another texture to the mosaic. Had there been a piece like this after Is This It, for example, it would have given Somebody Like You room to breathe.
That said, Mosaic is a vast improvement over the one Lesoir album I had previously heard (2014’s Luctor et Emergo). I bought that album from the cover art, and while I liked it (and still do), it didn’t really impress me enough to make any effort to follow the band. I am therefore quite thankful that this latest album came to me for review. Even without having listened to the intervening album, I feel quite sure that this is Lesoir’s greatest album so far. The balance between the dominance of Maartje’s vocals and the instrumentation is much better on Mosaic than it was on Luctor et Emergo, giving each a chance to shine. The album ends triumphantly with Two Faces, which I’m sure will be a favourite track for many. I’ve never given ratings before for any of my reviews, but if I did this would be four stars from five, with the expectation that whatever comes next is going to hit that magical five!
I began with a quote from Bowie, but I want to end with a quote from Lesoir: “Our lives are made up of various elements and parts; people, pets, work, our homes. They all have a colour; a shape and they vary in size. It is up to us to make our lives into works of art, using all these parts and elements, to make the complete picture.” This has always been true, but perhaps is more so than ever given current global events. Our lives can be changed, perhaps even broken or shattered, by sudden life changes. The novel coronavirus has definitely changed the lives of most of us, leaving us to start over – with the same pieces, but creating something new. Mosaic, the song and the album, have gained extra meaning and relevance from the time that they are being released. It’s an extraordinary album for extraordinary times, which I imagine only sounds more powerful and more colourful live. Hopefully one day, I will be able to find out…
01. Mosaic (4:30)
02. Is This It (5:51)
03. Somebody Like You (3:57)
04. The Geese (4:00)
05. Measure of Things (5:39)
06. Dystopia (6:46)
07. It’s Never Quiet (4:51)
08. MXI (1:59)
09. Two Faces (7:40)
Total Time – 45:13
Maartje Meessen – Lead Vocals, Piano, Hammond, Flute
Eleën Bartholomeus – Backing Vocals, Saz, Percussion
Ingo Dassen – Electric, Acoustic & Baritone Guitars, Synths, Beat Programming
Ingo Jetten – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Electric, Acoustic & Pedal Steel Guitars
Bob Van Heumen – Drums & Percussion, Backing Vocals
Record Label: GlassVille Music
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Date of Release: 1st May 2020