Creativity plugs us more forcibly into our own humanity and then into the humanity of other people.
- Kate Tempest
Writing liner notes for a new Grey Lotus album is a tall order. How to put the experience of listening to music into writing without losing its meaning?
Picture yourself in a cathedral. Your phone rings. The caller asks you to describe what you see. Where would you start? You can expound about the splendour of the woodcarvings, about the sunlight refracted by the stained glass windows, the curvature of the arches that effortlessly support the roof – but you can never capture the entire experience.
Similarly, I could sum up some of Nektar’s elements that struck me. The subtle sound of a ringing chain in the Overture, for instance. A very real violin and a highly convincing imitation of a musical saw duelling in the afterthought of Vengeance. A sing-off between two fierce Viking choirs in Cornflower. But by highlighting these elements, I would lose sight of the album as a whole.
A different angle would be to describe how the album affects me as a listener. To give the reader a personal account of ‘the emotional and cognitive effects’ of Nektar. I could explain how I now associate Break the Waves with the reflection of morning sunlight on the surf, with the sparkle of a dolphin’s liquid silver back cracking the surface. I could describe how I initially resisted Joshua’s fragility until I discovered my reasons for doing so. (Superficially, the song appears to be an endearing tribute to an infant. But if you scratch the surface, a very different meaning emerges, invariably evoking a profound melancholy.) I could explain how I discover new secrets each time I listen to the album.
But what use would such highly subjective experiences be to a reader?
Perhaps I had better write about what Grey Lotus’ work in general, and Nektar in particular, means to me.
We live in a narrative of glittering externals. A plastic world where the sun always shines and the images we present to other people should be a perfect reflection of ourselves. Look how happy we are! With our cars and toys and manicured front lawns and all that! However, as with the insincere smile of a flight attendant, there is a void beneath this shiny exterior that we seem unable to share with others. And we all believe we are the only ones, that this experience is unique to us. So we feel like imposters. This skewers our perception of the world; it makes things appear less real.
Nektar counteracts this dominant narrative. Listening to Nektar allows you enter a different world. A more painful world, for sure, but also one that is more genuine and more interesting. Nektar serves up a nuanced narrative with finely graded shades of meaning – a world in which vulnerability isn’t a weakness, but a forte. In which it is all right to be torn by doubt. In which there is room for your baser, destructive or covetous urges. In which you don’t need to smile your sheepish smile. In which you are allowed to be unreasonable, to shout and throw tantrums. In short, a narrative that leaves ample room for the ambiguity that we must deny ourselves in everyday life.
Thereby listening to Nektar quickly becomes a liberating and profound experience. For the duration of one hour it is pointless to keep up appearances. You can experience the full range of your emotions. You will confront uncomfortable truths – freedom is lonely; you can never fully know another person; love is ephemeral and easily lost – but also feel that these struggles are universal, and above all human.
In my view, Nektar shows that while these truths may be difficult to accept, there is beauty to be found in them, too. To me it says: Yes, on this wearisome road you will encounter danger and disappointment. Sadly, that’s the way things are. But you will never be alone on your journey.
And that’s what Nektar means to me. Something we all need from time to time: solace.
- Thijs Launspach, 17 August 2017
released November 10, 2018
Grey Lotus is:
Daan Arisz – Acoustic & electric guitars, baritone ukelele
Joost Verhagen – Vocals
Judith Wesselius – Vocals
Niels van der Weiden – Piano, hammond, synthesizer
Matthijs Tuijn – Bass, electric guitar, choir vocals
Tjalling Schrik – Drums, percussion, udu
Marius Bruijn – Hurdygurdy (on Impulse and Overture)
Inez de Boer – Violin (on Overture)
Roelof Ruis – Accordion (on Vengeance and Closure)
Blaine L. Reininger – Violin (on Vengeance)
Michel Duijves – Bass clarinet (on Overture and Ascension)
Robert Bakker – Saxophone (on Ascension)
Abriel Ferreira – Flügelhorn (on The King and Ascension), trumpet (on Ascension)
Sjef Huurdeman – Harmonica (on Cornflower)
Choir in Cornflower performed by:
Yara Burger-Polder, Juliette van Dijk, Jasmijn Helweg, Ilona Wildeman, Sarah Konincks, Linus Koning, Gerben Rebel, Jan Willem Reitsma, Gwan Brandhorst, Tom Hoenderdos, Gerben Rebel, Gerrit Eijkelboom
Recorded at White Noise Studio, Winterswijk by Marlon Wolterink and at Up The Attic Studio by Daan Arisz.
Liner notes written by Thijs Launspach and edited by Jan Willem Reitsma.
All songs written and performed by Grey Lotus, except 'I Break The Waves' (written by Maarten van der Vleuten, arr. by Grey Lotus)
Lyrics by Joost Verhagen (tracks 2,3,4,6,7) and Judith Wesselius (tracks 1,4,5,8)
Artwork by Jasmijn Helweg
Special thanks to: Danny van Leeuwen, Gert Derkx, Jaap Hartenhof, Mark O'Shea, Robin Arends, Freek Phillipi, Eric Molenaar
Ⓟ&© Grey Lotus, this release under exclusive license to No Hand Records Netherlands. Manufactured & distributed by No Hand Netherlands. NHRCD001.