Music Reviews
Ganymede in a State of War

Nick Hudson Ganymede in a State of War

(Theme Productions Limited) Rating - 8/10

Ganymede in a State of War marks the intrepid finale in Nick Hudson's conceptual 'Phoenix Archaeologies Quintet,' which blurs lyrical lines between personal history, English-world identity, and a bit of Greek mythology. Its anthem, as artistically rendered on a mirror in paint: "No Gender, No God, No Guilt, No Government" is reflected amidst the sleek dark ambient beat, skittering textures, and vocal falsetto of The Day We Broke In. The track, perhaps most indicative of the record's musical flexibility, continues to develop the template Hudson established in the masterly composed Letters to the Dead (2013). Influence of Radiohead, Syd Barrett, Robert Wyatt, and Current 93 can be heard in the Brighton singer-songwriter's affinity for unifying pop song structures with sharper avant-garde sensibilities and surreal sound collages, but this set finds a newfound immediacy with a eulogistic nod towards poet and industrial music pioneer, Jhonn Balance, of Coil. The literate, atmospheric foundation derives a thrilling tension between its thematic juxtapositions and arrangements of diverse acoustic, electric, and synthetic instrumentation.

A sardonic choir introduces the sinuous tempi of John the Taxonomer, one of Ganymede's most progressive songs right down to the Waters-era Pink Floyd refrain. While the opening track embraces a sort of perpetual reinvention in the Flann O'Brien-quality caricature, it's the first single, I'm Not Looking for Love, which beckons its most consistently affecting heart of forsaken love. Through an up-tempo acoustic guitar-led melody kissed with subtle background vocalizations and emotive piano ornamentation courtesy of Patrick O'Brien, the tone echoes the elegiac ballad Rupert Brooke from the second album in the 'Phoenix' quintet, My Antique Son (2011). By contrast, the tremolo guitar-picking at the intro of Kid's Glove segues into a legato rock lead à la Sleater-Kinney by way of Lou Reed, but possesses a more pensive undercurrent that transitions into a superlative example of Hudson's layered work and articulate voice in The Truth and Three Chords, a further chronicle of a relationship's dissolution. While not amongst the album's utmost accessible, as glitchy electronics underscore sullen piano notes hitting an orchestral crescendo at the bridge, it amasses the greatest pathos and haunting energy of all eleven songs before concluding with a reassuring witticism: "A marriage proposal is only a hex / In denial about being a spell."

The mix's surprising density accentuates two mid-album tracks that wouldn't feel altogether misplaced on Radiohead's latest effort. Wake on Fire features a lovely jazz-infected chord progression and somber lead vocal by Carisa Bianca Mellado, and Cut Piece tributes Yoko Ono as its diversity of voices ultimately converge in a psychedelic denunciation of tyranny. Each gracefully acknowledges the polarity of hope and fatalism, sincerity and satire; Cut Piece, in fact, directly invokes the barbed chorus at the onset of the album, solidifying its compositional prowess and dynamic intention rarely heard in the idiom. Each lyric, whether tender or trenchant, thoughtfully contributes to Ganymede's active engagement. In the latter half, the bucolic imagery in the lyrics of Ballad in Jhonn D wistfully recall Hudson's own childhood on Hatfield Park Estate, and uniquely mesh with the recurring penchant for necessary political provocation. The closing cut, A Convoluted Man, then builds with an appetizing Wildean breadth and wordplay that's accompanied by waves of dramatic tension between acoustic and electric guitars.

As a multifaceted subject, Ganymede makes for a typically shrewd synthesis of preexisting mythology and astronomy on record that lyrically and sonically oscillates between the vividly earthy and spacey. In abstract interpretation of the beautiful mortal hero of Greek lore and phases of Jupiter's magnetic moon, Hudson utilizes his distinctively English singing accent and lexicon to inimitably comment on various affairs, interpersonal and global. Although the latter would seem evermore relevant in the tremulous period in the Tory of the UK, even preceding a public vote to split with the European Union, Ganymede in a State of War endures in its singular philosophical realm distant from political time-stamps as its anthemic words transcend specific boundaries. Whether heeding harmonized murmurs on Homunculus that sound of certain Pagan traditionals in Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973), or the title track's electronic drums padding the subject's immortal and erotic art in tandem, the record's revelations contain the intimacy of a musical diary as well as an epic theatrical fascination in the manner of Björk's Vulnicura (2015).