soft cat – all energy will rise

soft cat all energy will rise
out april 7th via miscreant records/father daughter records

neil sanzgiri’s output at the helm of soft cat has often felt bucolic and in touch with his natural surroundings; those tenets resonate in full on his project’s latest effort, all energy will rise.  conceived from the remnants of personal tragedy, all energy will rise follows sanzgiri and his fellow musicians through a beautiful odyssey of chamber ensemble arrangements on their path to collective enlightenment.

sanzgiri and company often cycle between moments of hazy ambience and sustained periods of meticulously orchestrated counterpoint.  the ambiguity of the former could very well hold a secondary, symbolic meaning, but on record its presence seems to mark the beginning and end of cohesive musical ideas.  the first third of all energy will rise is structured around remarkable clarity and conscious melodic interplay, from sanzgiri’s vocal takes and finger-picking on “somebody” to the gradual polyphony found in “new song” all the way to the union of the two on “old song.”  the songs are a perfect execution of the camaraderie one would expect from a group identifying as a collective, but the pleasing harmonic consonance belies the darker undertones buried in this album.

there are shards of melancholy in all energy will rise, particularly in the mournful midsection that spans the masterful “diana” to the swaying “desert eyes,” but it doesn’t feel self-indulgent; it feels necessary.  it’s an inevitable, logical response to near total loss of personal livelihood, and soft cat would be remiss not to acknowledge these more plaintive feelings.

this vast chunk relies more frequently on sanzgiri’s lyrics to deliver each song’s main narrative – although the chill and sparseness of “field gap (for chris marker)” may most convincingly represent the somber nature of the album’s backstory – but its presentation doesn’t read as strictly linear.  rather, sanzgiri delves deep into the complexity of his natural surroundings and inspects their wide spectrum of impact, coming up with a narrative that reads largely as a wash, devoid of anything starkly positive or negative.  perhaps it’s this complexity that leads to the belated thesis of the album, found in its title track: a recognition that the world is bigger and more beautiful than the sum of any one individual’s parts.

all energy will rise is an album of reconciliation.  its themes move through moments of premature clarity, past the melancholic entrapments of writing about personal loss and confusion, and pushes on to firmly assert a victorious stance; there’s a level of cohesion felt on this record that is exceedingly rare.

perhaps most importantly, sanzgiri and his host of collaborators have succeeded in conveying this wealth of emotions on a purely musical level as well.  the lush string arrangements and warm brass tones gradually brim with confidence as the album progresses – though they never spill over into an artificial state of euphoria – and the moments that feel disorienting in their lack of clarity are carefully calculated bits of contrast, allowing the ensemble a fresh palate to draw upon.  for an album that is so indebted to the inner workings of the natural world, all energy will rise unfolds impressively in an appropriately organic manner; this feels like the record sanzgiri was always meant to create.