BY DESIREE DEMOLINA
When romantic imagination has us returning to the past, we forgo the present for the simplicity and perceived beauty of long-ago. Music is curious in this instance. It purposely endows us with the feeling of timelessness. Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden encompasses this effect. Released in September of 1988, Spirit of Eden was Talk Talk’s fourth album. With six songs lasting only forty minutes, the short length is not indicative of the depth and creativity contained within.
It is difficult to place this progressive and experimental band within a single genre. Spirit of Eden’s musical resonance metamorphosis’s from song to song, and more often than not, from moment to moment. The fragile jazz, stunning vocals, powerful guitars, fresh brass and strings, the distinct shifts within the songs feels spacious and natural.
The album opens with “The Rainbow.” True to its title, the listener sees and feels every color. From the slow and hushed beginning that is violet, to its profound and moving exit that is red, it is a prime example of Spirit of Eden’s emotionally charged diversity.
The tempo begins to race, if only for a moment, when fading into the second track, “Eden.” Here, lead singer Mark Hollis offers smoky and raw vocals. With quickened beats that suddenly fall to a fade, the listener may feel a bit disoriented. Perhaps that is the purpose as Hollis tells his audience that, “everybody needs someone to live by”. While this track may take time to find its place, it certainly is a moving piece.
A lucid trance, “Desire,” feels much like swaying on an air mattress in a sea of jazz. It isn’t until you’re completely comfortable that you are abruptly met with the song’s beautifully strained vocals that contribute to the sudden, anxious feeling of being helplessly adrift in the waters.
The following track, “Inheritance,” has its listener falling into a consistently slow daze with an airy structure. Though Hollis’ vocals sometimes ache, it all contributes to the emotionally cathartic collision the lyrics aim for.
The climax of Spirit of Eden is “I Believe In You.” Blending dense melodic choirs with poignant and soothing guitar, this track feels especially infinite.
For the album’s profound and moving exit, the final track, “Wealth,” is lush with quivering and emotional vocals. A spiral of spring fading to summer, this deliberate departure off a cloud is accompanied by sensitively fueled keyboard strains.
Talk Talk takes the word ‘natural’ and aligns it to many forms. Spirit of Eden is transparent and unforced. It seamlessly floats from track to track, making noise beautifully and effortlessly. Like spring, it offers rebirth and transmutation with ethereal vocals and guitar alongside ambient piano. It will drop you only to caresses you. Spirit of Eden moves you like salt water either in the form of tears or the quiet sea.
As Spirit of Eden closes, the listener is left weakened yet charged. The fade from such musical exhilaration to silence is chilling. Enchanting and challenging, timeless and effortless, Spirit of Eden expresses more than just the sounds the listener hears.