“The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.”
The Myth of Sysiphus – Albert Camus
Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man’s futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values. Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers: “No. It requires revolt.”
Let me introduce you to the fifth studio release from Cosmograf, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ is an existential concept album with an alien theme, based on ‘The Myth of Sysiphus’ by the French philosopher Albert Camus.
“It’s essentially a more modern re-telling of Camus’s writngs about makind’s struggle to understand the universe and our role within it”, says the concept’s creator Robin Armstrong.
“Camus desribed man standing face to face with the irrational, longing for happiness and reason which leads to a confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”
Cosmograf is a progressive rock project lead by Robin Armstrong, a multi instrumentalist progressive rock musician from Waterlooville nr Portsmouth UK. The sound is rooted in 70s classic rock with a contemporary and progressive twist. Influences are Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Porcupine Tree, Muse and many others.
Through four previous albums, ‘End Of Ecclesia’ (2009), ‘When Age Has Done Its Duty’ (2011), ‘The Man Left In Space’ (2013) and ‘Capacitor’ (2014) Robin has been joined by a ‘who’s who’ of musical collaborators to create amazing jewels of intense musicianship woven around immaculate storylines and ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ sees him tackle his most ambitious project yet.
Music produces something inside me that mere life cannot replicate and Cosmograf’s work has, on occasion, opened up the universe with a clarity I haven’t seen before so a new release is always something I am going to look forward to with intense longing.
Robin’s cast of distinguished guest performers includes Nick D’Virgilio (drums), Nick Beggs (bass), Dave Meros (bass), Rachel Hawnt (vocals) as well as a number of voice acting contributions (including my dulcet tones, but don’t let that put you off).
Between our quest for knowledge and refusal of the world to give up its secrets, lies the concept of absurdism. Camus, in his original essay, describes Sysiphsus condemned to a pointless labour, to illustrate the absurdity of human existence. Robin Armstrong twists the story to portray a modern character disillusioned with his own life to the point that he believes his destiny may reside in another world.
‘The Unreasonable Silence’ explores the themes of paranoia, social withdrawal and conformity, and ultimately the search for meaning in our own existence.
“The Absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and The Unreasonable Silence of the World.”
Echo $abduction is the atmospheric instrumental opening to this theatrical feeling work. It fades in quite ominously with a languid guitar line and atmospheric keyboards. The sound of a V8 Mustang engine piercing the uncanny and supernatural gloom beginning this mysterious paranoiac tale perfectly.
“10ft tall and eyes of black, I saw them on this lonely track, Lights around me in the sky, couldn’t move I thought I’d die.”
This Film Might Change Your Life begins with a distorted soundtrack and then the drums join in before the whole thing erupts with a video game vibe. A voice over holds you rapt, the music rooting you to the spot, holding position perfectly. The cinematic feel is tangible, it’s like a movie running in your mind to which you can only hear the soundtrack. A big riff kicks in, rhythm section complimenting perfectly before Robin’s guitar breaks free on a convoluted, contorted guitar run of intense brilliance. The wait has been worth it, this is Cosmograf and then some. A calmer mid-section precedes another spine-chilling voice over, the tension building before the vocals finally begin. The story begins of an encounter with a supposed alien, the protagonist’s terror is almost tangible. The music and words depict the paranoia perfectly and you are already awaiting the next instalment with bated breath…..
“These toys are the same again, They make the same noise, The feel of the plastic men, imagine their voices.”
A dolent piano note opens Plastic Men, overlaying a telephone answering machine filling up with messages for the missing man. There’s solemn tone pervading the track as the vocals begin with an impassioned note. Dark thoughts from a disillusioned mind, the music imparting this feel perfectly. A massive riff hits you along with Robin’s tortured voice, almost screaming the words. This ebb and flow between the almost cathartic verses, low key and downbeat, and the thunderous delivery of the chorus really plays on the mind allowing you to sympathise with what misapprehensions may be present. Another worried telephone message closes the song with a disquieting feel.
“Ask me what I can see, ceiling pushing on me. Feeling stress in a queue, lost without you.”
Uncertainty and anxiety are at the core of the notions here and the opening to Arcade Machine is no different. Tension builds again, the lyrics convey a man lost in his own world and the music just builds on that thought. Cinematic and theatrical concept music that you feel a part of and hang on every note and word. A wild and heavy riff and impassioned vocals lead into the seriously icy cool chorus, keyboards and guitars whirling around all Pink Floyd like and the bass and drums providing perfect accompaniment. There’s quite a 70’s psychedelia party going on under the conspiracy theory, mind-bending and multi-coloured and you find yourself slap bang in the middle of someone’s kaleidoscopic meanderings. The music is utterly engrossing and absorbing, the guitar solo tears at your psyche, never letting go, deliciously compelling……
“Born. Live Die. Insert a coin, lose a life.”
“The TV’s on. Addiction Strong.”
“John Gibson we are coming for you…”
RGB is a dramatically tense four minutes of delicate music overlaying Robin’s hauntingly whispered vocals. The tension is delivered more by what you can’t hear than by what you can, like the days when you hid behind the sofa watching Dr. Who. It seems to have a hallucinatory atmosphere like you are trapped in the mind of the man who is confused by reality. I really like its nostalgic and obsessive ambience.
“I don’t believe you. When you say it’s brighter on the outside. These walls are friendly. They don’t intimidate or argue or exhaust me.”
A psychedelic guitar opens Four Wall Euphoria with a far out feel to it before the vocals begin, telling the story of a man deep in his paranoia. Stuck inside his own ‘four walls’and happy to be separate from the outside world. A real Pink Floyd sound permeates the whole song with the epic backing vocals from Rachel Hawnt,the 70’s infused keyboards and the funky guitar note. There is a really insular aura emanating form the track, the lyrics speaking of fear, dread, religion and medication. Superb musicianship enhances the believable storyline and you feel as if you are in the middle of a man’s very personal breakdown.
“Hit the road with a tank full of gas. Watch the gauge if you’re driving too fast. Take it slow and the journey is long. Go too fast to the nd of the song.”
For those of a delicate nature, look away now, my voice over is somewhere in The Uniform Road, I won’t spoil the surprise any more. The edgy, suspenseful atmosphere is brought to boiling point by the phone messages and industrial feel to the opening. Harsher notes from the keys and percussion underscore a hushed vocal before a heavy, staccato riff and Robin’s piercing voice ramp up the intrigue even more, real ‘edge of your seat’ stuff. Is it just paranoia or are they really coming? The riff has a feel of Led Zep’s Kashmir to it and the ever increasing power of the vocals give it real stand out presence. The 70’s edge is more and more of an influence as the Led Zep comparison increases. There’s a real sci-fi feel to the off-kilter guitar solo with the impression of lasers firing and you sense you could be in the middle of an alien invasion but, is it real or imagined, this song really screws with your mind in a brilliant way.
“I’ve seen them….”
“I drive to this field. It’s lonely. They need my design. They need my mind.”
Spooky and euphoric, the groove of The Silent Field is definitely full of expectancy and suspense. Our protagonist believes he is going to meet the aliens and seems happily resigned to his fate. The song gets under your skin and definitely leaves a question mark in your mind.
“Leave the ground, I see myself ascending…”
Relativity is a dreamlike song, much akin to the tracks on The Man Left In Space, laid back and chilled even. There’s a surreal aura around Robin’s laconic vocal and the airy guitar note is almost hypnotic. In his self-absorbed psychosis The man really feels he has been abducted and you have the box seat as you absorb and ponder over his experiences. Punchier riffs and more emotive vocals bring an undercurrent of anguish and despair to the song and the restless and uneasy guitar solo and drum beat do nothing to dispel that notion. A deliciously dark track that lays itself bare before and leaves nothing behind.
The final, and title, track on the album, The Unreasonable Silence is Robin Armstrong at his absolute best. A superbly constructed and thought out song that probes and quests and holds your attention rapt throughout. The laid back, uninhibited and self-possessed guitar solo that opens this piece is sublime and then the vocals begin with world weary depth to them that feels like it spans the ages. There are subtle ebbs and flow, hints of things unseen and an intelligence that is most definitely of alien origin. Next comes an utterly mesmerising solo that steals your soul,at this point you raise the white flag and surrender to the stunning and superlative skill on show. The tension then builds to a mouth watering close to the song and the album with Rachel providing the dramatic vocal ending to this sobering and inventive tale, was it all in his mind though?
Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.
Released 13th June 2016