Sound — 8
A few weeks back I heard the good news of Bruce Soord collaborating with Jonas Renkse on a new project. Like many of the followers of their respective bands The Pineapple Thief and Katatonia, I was immediately curious and excited to hear the outcome. And to tell you the honest truth, I'm not entirely disappointed by what I heard. While most of us on the scene are aware of Katatonia's favorite subject being depression and loneliness and a terribly broken heart described in songs filled with crisp production and beautiful atmospheric textures, it also happens to be a Pineapple Thief favorite. Their last two records have forayed into similar territory and are absolutely stunning albums, with Soord handling production and songwriting apart from his usual guitar and vocal work. And this record is no different. Jonas Renkse's voice is magic in itself. The heavyset Swede has always made it a point to convey his deepest emotions through his vocals in Katatonia, and he doesn't disappoint here either. While the songs may have more of an electronic feel compared to Katatonia (actually it's a complete 180 degree shift), Renkse's voice doesn't fail to convey the loneliness, depression and a general feeling of a cold Stockholm evening. This, when backed by Bruce Soord's guitar tone, synthesizers and a drum machine, present you what "Wisdom of Crowds" is all about. The band maintains a sound some may consider in the same league as Depeche Mode or other synhtpop acts of the '90s, mainly due to a heavy electronic influence on most tracks. While both artists have been making headlines in the progressive rock news lately, the prog influence is rather scarce on this record. As stated by Soord earlier, the songs were written with Renske's voice in mind, and it suits the tracks well. However some tracks may get a tad bit repetitive in their general presentation. Tracks like "Stack Naked" and "The Light" may go unnoticed and don't come off as shining moments. However, the album still sounds fresh and layered. Album opener "Pleasure" is a sheer delight, where the two musicians actually get to give the listener a glimpse of what they've tried to achieve here. The following title track and the hard hitting "Radio Star" also leave their marks. Overall, repetitive moments do exist in the 8-track album, although they're scarce.
Lyrics — 7
Jonas Renkse needs no introduction as a vocalist. He's got a remarkable set of vocal cords, and he always manages to use them well without going into falsettos and baritone ranges. His style has always been of holding emphasis on emotions and conveying what he feels more through how he pronounces words rather than what they actually mean. Lyrics on this record deal with similar issues both bands have dealt with in the past - loneliness, anxiety, depression and loss. Both artists don't disappoint with whatever portion of words they've come up with. Songs like "Frozen North" (definitely the highlight of the album) and "Radio Star" come up with lyrics different from the norm. Bruce Soord has a very distinctive writing style which when blended with Renske's creates something heavily variant from what both bands have written in the band while dealing with the same subjects in a different light.
Overall Impression — 8
The album didn't face a large amount of pre-release publicity after it was announced. No music videos, no lyric videos, not many interviews (other than KScope podcasts) and no successive tweets were involved in building the anticipation for it. Very much like Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri's earlier KScope release, the anticipation was already built up by Katatonia and Pineapple Thief fans. So to say the album lives up to its "hype" wouldn't fit in this context. The album delivers, and at times it lags in a repetitive fashion. The album clocks in at just under 50 minutes, and most of the tracks exceed the 5 minute mark, but tight production, ambient interludes and good musicianship don't make them seem extra-lengthy for an electronic-influenced rock project. "Pleasure," the blues-influenced "Wisdom of Crowds," "Radio Star" and the magnificent "Frozen North" are the standout tracks, while songs like "The Light," and "Stacked Naked" go unnoticed and run in the repetitive vein. Overall, it's a decent record that lives up to the legacy of its creators.