Long ago, Cynic should have been among the more celebrated progressive bands. Their effusive, igniting mix of metal, harmonies, jazz and psychedelia made them one of the most bewitching combinations. But after debuting with the extraordinary Focus album in 1993 they split, only reuniting 13 years later. Yet even since then, they’ve had a sedate career, never rushing the writing or recording process, but allowing the music to dictate when it was ready for capture.
And if that all sounds a little like a hippie philosophy, then you simply have to listen to Kindly Bent To Free Us, their first album in six years (although there have been two EPs subsequently). The timbre and approach throughout has a freedom and expressive spirituality, which suggests the music was born from a spontaneity and eloquence standing apart from those involved, yet at the same time predicated on the most authentic emotions of the three men responsible.
True Hallucinations Speak has the feel of being suspended in a vacuum, with your own mind creating the sounds. It’s a remarkable evocation that few can hope to create, but what the trio achieve is a composition that gets so far into your own psyche that you feel it belongs there. As a result, the musical architecture allows for the individual to add their own sub-conscious extensions.
The same is true of the title track, which has a gliding wash, as if you are seeing a spectrum of colours for the first time. It’s an overwhelming experience. But if all this sounds like pseudo-psychoanalytical nonsense, then Cynic also encourage the listener to merely sit back and enjoy the brilliance of these ideas. The hypnotic feel of Moon Heart Sun Head is enhanced by an almost subliminal message of relaxation, while Endlessly Bountiful is the soundtrack to an engulfing drift through the infinities of space.
Of course, you can also warm to the musicianship here, because Paul Masvidal, Sean Malone and Sean Reinert are masters of their craft, intertwining glimpses of gentility with occasional strands of power. The album owes something to giants like Yes, Rush, Stockhausen and Charlie Mingus, because the band aren‘t afraid to draw from so many musical areas, without ever sounding derivative.
This makes Kindly Bent To Free Us an absorbing, challenging experience. It’s an album that transcends all the limitations of genre and era, and in the end will come to represent what you want it to be, nothing more, nothing less. There are few albums which can claim such a remarkable hold.