Plot spoiler… this is a great release!
Some years ago I ran a little music label and the experience was both rewarding and challenging. One of the challenges was discovering (the hard way) that there are often very legitimate and viable reasons for the loathesome behaviour of major labels. One of the rewards was discovering talented and likeable artists with massive potential. Both the challenges and rewards collided when I received a very impressive demo (which I still treasure) by an act called Cassandra’s Myth.
I liked Ben and his music straight away.. I could tell that there is immense talent and maturity there, and knew I’d be a fan for life. But my label was struggling – it wouldn’t survive long enough to publish the first Cassandra’s Myth album – and I was forcing myself to think like one of those awful A&R people who need to pigeonhole artists.
Cassandra’s Myth was stunningly eclectic, effortlessly spanning genres and styles. I couldn’t describe this artist in a sound bite. My own musical creations are characterised by genre-hopping so I knew what a curse it could be in terms of marketing. One one hand, we want all the songs to sound distinct and to know that the artist has range and scope… but we also want an essential “them-ness” that unifies it all. We’re playing a risky game of lucky dip every time we purchase from a musical chameleon – we have a feeling we could do as well taking a random sampling from any unthemed compilation.
Thus, I was tempted to steer Cassandra’s Myth towards aspects of their sound that might be easier to sell by description than winning hearts one at a time by getting people to hear for themselves. I wish I hadn’t articulated this concern at the time; I risked alienating a friend and constricting one of the most talented independent musical artists in this country. That’s a big regret, but I was hemorrhaging funds and wanted as many people to hear this guy as I could.
Fast-forward nearly a decade to now, and I’m pleased to say that not only is Cassandra’s Myth still making music, but that it’s as effortlessly eclectic as it ever was… and it’s sounding better, more beautiful, sophisticated and interesting than ever. Which brings us to High Tide, the latest album. Of his rare releases, I’ve already listened to this one more frequently than the others.
This is a more reflective piece than the others… the last release, “Maintenance” started with energy and edginess, and revealed a more introspective side for the people still listening to the second half of the album. The new offering, “High Tide,” begins with a softer piece called “Devotional” that is a beautiful entrée, letting us know that we have a special and intimate experience ahead.
There are still, however, surprises. The autotuned vocals in the album’s eponymous track caught me off-guard. Once I got over the initial shock, though, I enjoyed how well it worked in the song. It could be something of an affront to the darker or more industrially-based listeners, but Ben has a way of keeping your faith by weaving together unlikely sonic elements and making them work.
The production values here are immaculate too, and the best exemplar is “Xoff” with it’s perfectly captured acoustic guitar riff, textured pads and layered vocals. Ben’s become quite the audio engineer and the whole album’s sound has the champagne sparkle of well-executed production techniques.
“Wings” was the first song I heard, in demo form, from this album and I fell in love with it straight away. It’s a lovely tune, filled with mellow and wistful ambience. It would sit nicely alongside a lot of the tracks by The Church in their Remote Luxury era. “Wings” is a perfect chillout song and, to me, is the heart of the “High Tide” album.
This album has it’s darker side, from the sinister soaring synths of “Neutable” to the dark electronics of “Womb Nest”… and it all belongs in a complex and beautiful tapestry that is the “High Tide” listening experience. Earlier releases might be characterised by more of the kinds of songs that more readily stand out as ‘singles’, but I’m confident that history will vindicate High Tide as the most rewarding and endearing album yet. It signifies a lot of musical talent and maturity and makes me very proud to be acquainted with it’s creator.
The music industry is a frustrating and contradictory beast and notions of fairness simply have no place. Acts like Ke$ha will be installing diamond-encrusted X-boxes in their personal jets, while unsigned independent artists find it hard to even give their music away. We probably can’t do much about the first half of that sentence, but we can fix the second bit – “High Tide” by Cassandra’s Myth is offered as a completely free download at his website, www.cassandrasmyth.com
That’s right, Ben’s giving this away. You can totally take it and listen to your heart’s content. Check out a stunning offering from one of Australia’s great unsigned underground indie artists and you won’t have to take my word for how damn good it is.