A third album for Extra Life, New York aesthete Charlie Looker’s band, and the first with a three-piece line-up. Their bass player left over a year ago, which resulted among other things in the significance of keyboards and 80s synth wave in the 2011 EP Ripped Heart. Extra Life had retained their medieval facet, but they also seemed to have softened.
Dream Seeds foreshadows something similar (but it will later prove to be a fallacy), with Charlie Looker’s focusing on vocals and keyboards, playing just a little acoustic guitar. Meanwhile violinist Caley Monahon-Ward gathers momentum as he deals all by himself with the electric guitar, the violin, electronic manipulation, and sometimes synths and backing vocals. His role in Extra Life has become essential and the band now appears as a perfect entity, a triangle with three equal sides – the extraordinary drummer Nick Podgurski is just as noteworthy –, an entity of which Charlie Looker is the base and the mastermind, the enlightened composer.
Dream Seeds starts out quietly with No Dreams Tonight. A wonderful ballad, medieval as can be and in keeping with the spirit of Ripped Heart. Actually Dream Seeds may sound more dreamy, and less rhythmic than the genius Made Flesh (2010) or Secular Works (2009).
Little One is also filled with delicacy, wonderful violin layers, and a soft piano which manages to spare us sentimentality and pompous conceit – a pure moment of grace and levitation. Even a track like First Song proves to maintain this enveloping and chilling softness despite the complex rhythmics. Extra Life is a special band, they are elsewhere.
Yet, Extra Life have sustained their ardour, except it is now channelled differently. Discipline For Edwin and Righteous Seed both reconnect with Extra Life’s two major features : the wonderful and lyrical tension on the one side, and the captivating, quasi-religious fervor on the other side. The splendid guitar backgrounds and the indecipherable but direct rhythmic patterns are still there, dominated by Charlie Looker’s out of season singing, and additional synths as support or counterpoint. The album ends with two bravura pieces : Blinded Beast followed by Ten Year Teardrop, both reaching a near quarter of an hour in length and representing Extra Life’s darkest, but also most lyric and stunning side. The whole musical range of the trio is brilliantly represented, reaching noise and madness – you have to hear Charlie Looker shouting « I Love You/I Love You/How I Miss You/I Buried You/We Buried You/We Buried You/I Love You », on Ten Year Teardrop. The band’s alchemical splendour is there, chiseled into its purest shape, at a level approaching magic.
Dream Seeds’ double themes (dream and childhood) are pregnant in Charlie Looker’s introspective and personal lyrics. In the booklet, a quote from Paracelsus, a rebel mind and Swiss Renaissance visionary, alchemist, astrologer and physician, sums up Dream Seeds’ demented and contagious content: « Blessed is he that is born during sleep ». Dream Seeds is already one of the most prodigious and bewitching album of this year.
Extra Life – First Song (right click/save as)
Extra Life – Righteous Seed