By Various Artists
'The Creator' is a slice of prog-rock madness you're either going to love or not understand in the slightest. But, even if it leaves you completely baffled, you have to give The Velvet Orchestra credit for their ability to sling so many strange noises together and make them sound, for the most part, coherent.
'The Creator' gets off to a shaky start, alternating between galloping guitars and fluttery riffs while someone beats the hell out of their drum kit in the background. Putting the final twist to this mix is vocalist Leemun Smith, who shrieks and warbles in what might very well be a foreign language. Your initial impression will be one of complete disbelief.
'The Creator's major downfall is that it lacks that much-needed early window into its madness. However, it does eventually slip into a more accessible groove, and the chorus (or what passes for a chorus in prog) is vaguely reminiscent of Muse's bonkers masterpiece 'Knights of Cyndonia.' Smith's celestial-tinged warblings skitter all over sprawling, space-aged riffs, and the overall sound is absolutely huge. Once you've found this window, the rest of 'The Creator' starts to make sense. While there's still some too-odd-to-like moments (the sudden breaks for hand-clapping sound effects, for example) 'The Creator' is a puzzle that anyone with prog-rock leanings will have enormous fun working out.
While 'The Creator' can be puzzled out, second offering 'These Children Are The Future' does a good job at resisting the listener, and is too much hard work. Still, Smith's abrasive yelping is as addictive as ever, and the music periodically cuts out and Smith's strident vocals re-launch us into a stew of high-tech riffs that even prog-masters Muse would be proud of.
The Velvet Orchestra aren't a band the masses are ever going to like but, if you sound like this, then chances are you don't care about the masses. The Velvet Orchestra are worth checking out, if only because they won't waste your time: twenty seconds into the first song, you'll know whether this is your new favourite band, or someone you never want to hear again.
After all the prog strangeness, Solus Locus' contribution is surprising. 'We Can Go Home' is a lush instrumental complete with brooding electronic effects, tinkling piano notes and melodic riffs. It gradually builds from its gorgeously sombre beginning to an upbeat midsection and a hopeful, piano-led finale. It has that essential instrumental mystique, convincing you that Solus Locus are trying to express something through music alone - even if it's not clear exactly what that is.
Solus Locus cover more musical ground in this one song than many bands will in their entire careers, and they have enough talent to ensure 'We Can Go Home' flows smoothly from one musical style to the next. You can easily imagine this playing in the background of some Hollywood blockbuster, but as a stand-alone track, it doesn't quite do enough to win Solus Locus new fans.
This release comes complete with some intriguing and unusual artwork by The Velvet Orchestra's frontman. If it wasn't already obvious from the bands' radio-unfriendly sound, the self-styled artwork confirms that this split single is a labour of love. Even if you don't have the pre-requisite soft spot for prog and are therefore left cold by The Velvet Orchestra and Solus Locus' efforts, you have to respect them for putting so much hard work into a record that's unlikely to earn them mass attention. This single seems determined to sound exactly like it wants to sound, and it's up to you whether you like it or not.