Puzzlingly diverse album thrusts reviewer into miserable philosophical quandry
As you probably know, I’m not an artist. I don’t write music. Thank God, I hear you cry, and I also hear one or two of you raise the question of quite how anyone can pass criticism on a process (making music) when they have no experience of exactly how that process (making music) works, how it feels, or its affect on one’s soul.
I counter your intelligent and well-formed argument by saying that the role of the critic is to pass judgement on the product, not the process. Art can be defined as the process that leads up to the product, but the audience (of which the critic is part) can only form opinions on the product, and from this they can infer elements of the process.
This is a limitation of art criticism, but also of art itself. We can never bear witness to the artist’s individual state when embarking on, working on, or finishing a Work. The process is a fundamentally solo endeavour, while the product is a fundamentally universal one. Silence and noise. Black and white. It’s from this that the idea of the artist as a tortured, imprisoned genius probably comes.
In terms of Shulman’s new album, the fact that I am only able to review the product and not the process frustrates me.
The product, the album, is one thing but I am left with this suspicion that it’s the process that’s the really interesting part here. Which sort of leaves me unsure about what to say about this release.
I can say predictable, useless things about this release. I can say that the production is, of course, incredible. I can say that the use of live instrumentation adds colour and gravity. And I can say that the experimentation with world music styles is brave, even if it doesn’t work all the time.
I can also say that track 7 sounds like Sting’s Englishman In New York, that Transmissions In Bloom unfolds in the way that Shulman’s music does, or that Invention would get my vote as being the strongest track here.
The real interest is, I would guess, in what happened in the studio and in forming concepts of where this album was going to take them. Which unfortunately is something we will never know. It’s not an amazing record, nor is it a dreadful one. It’s certainly different, varied stuff with one foot (or at least a couple of toes) in Goa and one foot (or at least another couple of toes) in some Mediterranean beach bar. All in all, it’s endearing if somewhat baffling.