I first became aware of German band Electric Mud from a review of their 2018 album The Deconstruction of Light on The Prog Mind. I was intrigued enough by the review, and impressed enough by the music, to buy that album, and follow the band on Facebook. Now, a couple of years later, a new Electric Mud album has been released. First things first, I must say Quiet Days on Earth is not at all what I expected! Had this been the first album I heard from Electric Mud, I would of course have had no expectations. So, why was this album such a shock for me?
The Deconstruction of Light was a challenging, diverse, eclectic and adventurous album, full of distortion and dissonance, roaring guitars and edgy synths. Yet for every passage of King Crimson meets Black Sabbath heaviness, there were atmospheric and almost ambient Tangerine Dream meets Pink Floyd electronic soundscapes. Add in a little Camel and maybe some Deep Purple. Three of the tracks were lengthy numbers that naturally led to an expansiveness of sound, and progression of varying moods and ideas. But even the shorter numbers were not static. Wonderfully, for such an eclectic mix, as surprising as some of the changes could be, they were all beautifully fluid and organic. A lot of this consistency in the face of constant change is down to the bass of Hagen Bretschneider, who sets the tone for each track. The importance of the bass in any band is often under-appreciated, but it’s hard to overlook the contribution Bretschneider’s bass provides to the sound of Electric Mud.
Quiet Days on Earth is an almost entirely different beast. All the bombast and brouhaha has gone. I guess the title of the album should have alerted me to this, but it didn’t occur to me at all. And yet, as different as the album might seem on first impression, it has far more similarities to its forebear than are immediately apparent. While The Deconstruction of Light is probably best described as a heavy album, for its at times violent and industrial nature, it still has plenty of delicate and beautiful passages. It is those more cinematic and atmospheric vibes which form the mainstay of Quiet Days on Earth. Passionate, poignant, and restrained. It makes for an easier listening experience than The Deconstruction of Light – where the seemingly inexhaustible changes of mood, tempo and complexity could potentially be overwhelming – but whether that makes it better is entirely subjective. I think I like both albums equally, and it depends entirely on my own mood, what my preference will be at any one time.
Unlike the predecessor, much of Quiet Days on Earth is slow-burning. It creeps up on you, as layers and textures within the music intensify. I’m reminded often of Nordic Giants, but Electric Mud create even more affective soundscapes. Bretschneider’s bass, once again, shines. I often realise I am paying more attention to his nimble fingers than to other more overt instrumentation in the mix, and that is a shame, because the sheer amount of different sounds created by the other member of the duo, Nico Walser, is nothing short of amazing! So much of the music is so gentle and subtle, that it enters the mind subconsciously, and it’s only on closer listening that you realise just how much attention to detail has been made.
Yet, though it may seem like Quiet Days on Earth is all peaceful and non-threatening in comparison to The Deconstruction of Light, there are plenty of moments that are just as haunting and unsettling. The dreamy melodies might not quite be nightmarish, but there are definite moments where they are more malevolent than they might initially seem. It’s definitely not an entirely relaxing journey, but this keeps the listener on their toes, and a little on edge, just as effectively as the constant shifts of The Deconstruction of Light did.
I was going to pick highlights, until I realised I was listing almost every track as a highlight. After repeated listens I have come to realise that Quiet Days on Earth has just as many changes and shifts as The Deconstruction of Light after all. The difference is that they have been made within a far narrower scope, so they are not so immediately noticeable. I think I recall a review of the previous album where the reviewer mentioned that Electric Mud have as many changes in style in one track than other artists do over a whole album. That holds just as true for Quiet Days on Earth. And yet, just as with The Deconstruction of Light, the track never sounds incohesive, disjointed of forced. Every transition is seamless. There’s a sense that this album must have been incredibly meticulously crafted. Something that sounds this effortless clearly took a lot of effort to sound that way, and I can’t help but be impressed every time I listen.
01. Aurora Moon (7:03)
02. Silhouettes Floating Down a Rain-Slicked Street (5:18)
03. Mer de Glace (2:05)
04. Quiet Days on Earth (7:21)
05. Wading Through the Waters of Time (5:32)
06. The Echoes of Acheron (5:11)
07. The Loneliness of the Somnambulist (6:37)
08. Durance (3:45)
09. The Space Between the Shadows (6:00)
10. Adventures in a Liquid World (7:14)
11. The Blinding Absence of Light (4:35)
12. Eyes Watching Skies (3:54)
13. Foggy Postcard from a Barren Land (5:58)
14. Into the Great Unknown (4:30)
15. Sleeping Under a Green Desert Tree (4:04)
Total Time – 79:07
Hagen Bretschneider – Bass
Nico Walser – Guitars, Keyboards, Fretless Bass, Noises, Drum Programming
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 28th May 2020 (digital), 24th July 2020 (physical)