Since the conclusion of the monumental Amanuensis tour, John Browne has obviously been using his downtime wisely. The product of his endeavours is this sinuously muscular instrumental album, which is released under the intriguing moniker of Qatsi.
First of all, those already familiar with his work in Fallsilent and Monuments will find lots of familiar landmarks. But just like walking both directions along a road, the sensation is one of augmented, modulated familiarity. Like seeing the backs of houses from a train, Flux Conduct allows one to experience a rougher and infinitely more nuanced side to his musicality.
The riff structure feels similar to those crafted for Monuments, but rather than being squat and hench they are long limbed and languid, always ready for the extended sprint into the metaphorical sunset; one of the perennial goals of progressive metal. All those hours playing intensely familiar material must have allowed Mr Browne much time for musical daydreaming and he has focused those moments of personal attenuation into kite-like songs, which soar dazzlingly high yet remain tethered to a viable, earthy reality.
In many ways parallels can be drawn between this solo album and that of Jakub Zytecki of Disperse. Both explore a similar realm to the music of their band, yet do so with an adventurous edge that fills their solo music with a highly personal sense of revelation. As though each song forms part of a larger personal epiphany, which is the motivating force behind its construction. So it is suitable and fitting that Mr Zytecki should feature on a track, the dazzling, The Heart Of Atlantis. But whereas the moods of within Jakub’s music are often ethereal and flighty, there is a metalic edge to each riff on this record. Sometimes those edges are jagged and unrefined, others they are artfully folded and seriously incisive.
There are moments when the progressive muse overtakes him, but mostly he stays within the oeuvre that he very much helped to define. Fans will recognise the quintessentially Brownian motion of some of the riffs and I can imagine him receiving criticism as well as praise for this. But he adds to the bludgeoning spirit of Monuments with a delicate, almost naïve appreciation of how a delicate counter melody can broaden the scope of a song.
If I was to voice any criticisms of this record, they would centre around how every song operates at a very similar tempo to its neighbours. And that this tempo has the unfortunate trait of making one feel as though the primary goal of the music is to provide the quickest route between start and finish. Admittedly this feeling only began to be a problem towards the end of the album, but I believe in concious variance of pacing and for me there was little of this here.
But this is a mightily impressive album, which never feels empty or contrived, which is often the fate of many instrumental recordings. Indeed it is so packed with ideas and euphoric expressions that John Browne could have been more frugal and created 2 records from his inspiration. But as it stands, we are the lucky ones, who get to revel in his musical fecundity, which precocious as it may be, is a delight.
– John Whitmore