Review – Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi – by John Wenlock-Smith

When  I was growing up there was no internet, we used to have to use encyclopaedias and other forms of reference books to find out about things. Nowadays, of course, it is all there waiting to be delved into and discovered for yourself.

It is a whole different ball game now, although there was a time in the late 1980’s /early 1990’s that you could ring up the reference people at Birmingham City Library and they would find things out for you. This was especially useful, and was well before Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded what we now know as Google, this company that they founded as students at Stanford university is now one of the world’s premier search engines. Folk now often say ‘google it’ to find information.

I did that whilst listening to this album as it is largely music set to poems that were written by William Butler (W.B) Yeats (Born in 1885 Died January 1939). Yeats is widely acclaimed as one of Ireland’s most famous poets, dramatists, and prose writers, in fact, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

Spiritus Mundi’ sets those poems to gentle and orchestral sounding pieces with vocals from Nad Sylvan and guitars from Andrew Laitres, a US based composer and musician, who Nad had worked with previously on his last album, ‘The Regal Bastard’ – The final part of his Vampyrate trilogy.

Nad is joined by some famous guests on this album, namely Tony Levin and Jonas Reingold on bass and Marko DeMaio (The Flower Kings) on drums with Steve Hackett also featuring. The bulk of the lyrics are taken verbatim from Yeats’s poems, apart from the first bonus track, You Have Got To Find A Way, that has Sylvan’s own lyrics. This approach has left the music room to breath and allows the beauty of the words to shine through clearly with the music clearly supporting and enhancing the impact of the words. That intention has paid off excellently giving the album dignity and weight.

The tracks are mainly short and as they focus predominantly on the words the album will take several listens before it really begins to make sense. Having said that, the longer tracks, The Second Coming and Sailing To Byzantium, work the best for me as there are musical interludes within in them that work well. The instrumentation is supportive and sympathetic, you will not find long ego fuelled solos here, you fill find empathy and delicacy throughout. The whole album lasts about 52 minutes including the two bonus tracks.

I think this album is a great, intensive listening experience and will appeal to any who like Yeats’ poems or who are fans of Nad Sylvan’s earlier solo albums as he is certainly in fine voice on these songs. This project is certainly different and a brave, bold move by Nad, as an album this is certainly different and somehow the lyricism of Yeats’ poetry works well in this format and will hopefully bring it to a whole new audience of people. They may find much within the words of these pieces that speaks clearly to their hearts and minds and hopefully leads them discover more of Yeats’ works for themselves.    

The sound of the album is sparse and the space between the words and the music is wide and open allowing subtle nuances to be realised and appreciated with repeated listening. There is a fabulous slide guitar part contained on the last track on the album, The Fisherman, (performed by Neil Whitford) that really drives the piece along.

It is not an album that is immediately easy to access but I sincerely recommend that you persevere as it is truly worth it when you finally do click with it and its treasures and beauties are finally revealed to you. ‘Spiritus Mundi’ is a journey of discovery into a different world, but it is a journey that you need to decide to undertake. 

Released 9th April 2021

Order the album here:

Spiritus Mundi (lnk.to)

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