Lis Er Stille

Empirical Ghost

Written by: AP on 06/11/2015 11:30:39

If an award ceremony existed in Denmark for lauding the most overlooked artists in the country, then Lis Er Stille would make a strong case for claiming the top prize. The moniker was originally conceived by vocalist/keyboardist Martin Byrialsen as an art project for transforming the paintings of Vindril into music, and as a result, when Lis Er Stille eventually grew into a de facto band with the release of “Construction of the Amp Train” in 2006, Byrialsen’s unorthodox and unrestrained philosophy toward song writing enabled the creation of music that is broad in sources of inspiration, yet subtle in bringing those influences across — and altogether impossible to pigeon hole as belonging to any one genre or style. Perhaps this eclecticism is also the reason why after more than a decade as a band, Lis Er Stille continues to languish as a cult act of the underground, their talent blissfully ignored by most, yet obvious to the small but loyal following their four studio albums and an EP have collected. Whether this fifth full-length, “Empirical Ghost”, can change that is doubtful, but for any connoisseur of progressive music it should be mandatory to give it a deserving spin at least.

Mind you, to reduce the music that comprises “Empirical Ghost” to mere progressive rock would be doing Lis er stille a gross injustice — it’s not as clear-cut as that. Byrialsen’s singing alone ranges from the sort of soaring ethereality that has planted their countrymen The Entrepreneurs onto the domestic consciousness, to melancholy baritone harking back to gothic rock; while in the instrumental department, traces of 70’s prog and post-punk mingle effortlessly with cold washes of synth wave not unlike what you would hear on a Cold Cave record. The mixture is curious, and difficult to pigeon-hole, so perhaps it is prudent to adopt Lis Er Stille’s own expression of the style, modern epic, to describe it with any credibility. As you might already have guessed then, “Empirical Ghost” is no easy listening experience; it shuns traditional notions of verse and chorus, as most of the time the songs seem to take the character of an open-ended pursuit of a twisted train of thought, so that the heavy rumble of a more guitar driven section might suddenly evaporate without any warning in order to introduce spacy ambiance and Byrialsen's echoing voice, such as happens in "This Wonderful You".

Even at their most accessible in "Gold Future", Lis Er Stille's approach is seldom straightforward. It is only in the wake of some 80's synth and Robert Smith-esque baritone that the song unfolds into its catchy signature melody and rhythmic drive, and in the Envy-reminiscent "Wall Mark", the band lays its screamo and post-rock experiments against a neo-classical, symphonic backdrop to construct one of the strangest, yet most alluring tracks the album has to offer. Joining the list of standout picks are "Zenith", a dramatic and expansive prog behemoth clocking in past 12 minutes, and "Harlequin's Tale", the most theatrical piece here, complete with elegant brass and string sections and featuring a stunning vocal performance by Byrialsen. Like most bands with an eye for exploring the limits of a genre, "Empirical Ghost" also features a number of short intermezzo pieces (three, to be exact) that serve to generate unity between the seven remaining songs, and it is the whole that one should look to for the greatest rewards. The selected picks have the strength to stand alone, yet an unforgivable amount of ideas, details and texture would be lost if one's consumption of "Empirical Ghost" was limited to those songs. Much of what comprises the album is so different to what even the most revered progressive rock and metal artists work with, and that by itself is sufficient reason to immerse yourself in Byrialsen and his compatriots' audioverse.

There is, however, the inescapable fact that Lis Er Stille have a tendency to become lost in their own explorations and as a consquence, to meander unnecessarily, as a song like "Precognition" proves. On top of that, none of the album's contents have the immediacy needed to capture your attention at once; rather, it is only through multiple listening sessions that the complexity of ideas begins to make sense and the individual songs start to latch onto your memory. Do not view Lis Er Stille's resistance to accessibility as a stumbling block, however; when the music blossoms at last, you will discover it well worth the patience.


Download: Gold Future, Wall Mark, Harlequin's Tale
For the fans of: The Ascent of Everest, Crippled Black Phoenix, Steven Wilson
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.04.2015
G-Records / Rough Trade

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