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Formato: CD de audio
Back in 2004 when I first heard it, I had not paid much attention to Midlake's first record, Bamnan and Silvercork; not that I found it a poor first effort from the Denton-based band, far from it, but I was left with the taste of something unfinished, with a band that was still working through their (impressive) list of influences. Two years later, I chanced upon a live recording of "Roscoe" and "Van Occupanther" on the radio and I knew that I was hearing something special, nothing short of a small miracle.
I find it intriguing that the name of Radiohead (probably my favorite band ever) should appear so often in reviews about this "Trials of Van Occupanther". If they have anything in common, it's probably this apparent (yet not so) staggering transformation from ugly little ducks to majestuous swans - although I would argue that in both cases, the seeds of their musical genius could already be found in their respective first albums.
Certainly, Radiohead has profoundly influenced Midlake (this is particularly obvious on "Branches", which would not have been out of place on an EP of the "Ok Computer" era), and in particular the singing of Tim Smith, but unlike many bands which are still clumsily struggling to comprehend the riches of "Ok Computer" or even "The Bends", Midlake has succeeded in not only understanding, but also seamlessly merging that influence with many others, Fleetwood Mac and America immediately springing to mind. As a result, "The Trials of...." proposes a musical landscape both familiar and foreign, drawn by layers upon layers of melodies deceivingly simple where you feel oddly at home although you've never quite been there before.
Overall, the greatest achievement of this record is not to break new grounds or to revolutionize a genre, but lies in the net of sensations, images and atmosphere it weaves around you. Certainly, some songs will awaken your interest on their own merits - "Roscoe", which I would undoubtly choose as my favorite song of 2006, and deserves the title of "instant classic", "Head Home", "Young Brides" or even "We Gathered in Spring". But a handful of songs, no matter how convincing, is not enough to make a great album. What's so outstanding about "The Trials of Van Occupanther" when all is said and done is that feeling that we've just been invited to witness a ghostly gathering in forgotten woods, an enchanting picture full of nostaliga but refusing to slumber in gratuitous sadness, almost miraculous and so fragile that you barely dare to breathe for fear that it would disappear in an instant.
I am sure some people will find this same record tedious, or at least forgetable, and they would be just as right as I am for lauding it: for it is in the nature of such a musical piece which stands out, not for its bravery (unless publishing a honest work is considered such - which may just be), but for creating its own, peaceful niche in the music scene of today, to fall flat to some ears, depending on their state of mind of the day or their sensitivity. But I can only speak for myself here, and I would conclude by saying that it's this very sense of being witness to something unique and almost miraculous, of urgency contrasting with the luxurious pace with which the songs unfold, of extreme frailty of something that could vanish at any moment that makes "The Trials of Van Occupanther" an outstanding recording that belongs to no other genre but its own