“I think music is the strongest medium we have to share ideas, feelings and views. And what I hope for is that whoever listens to my music can take something away with them. Be it a thought, feeling, idea or inspiration.” – C.K. Flach
Given that music is indeed the universal language (or at least a global language), there is every reason that C. K. Flach should take comfort in listeners taking something away with them, having listened to his solo debut release, ‘Empty Mansions‘. It simply seems unlikely that listeners will be entirely indifferent to this work of Americana, “indie”, folk-pop. There’s a strange blend of beat-poet-meets-protest-balladeer that Flach employs in his work, that is certainly engaging, though perhaps bordering contrived. Of course, the notion of “high art” is almost instantly thought to be at least a little, if not entirely affected.
Choosing to believe that Flach is true to his work, it seems that he embraces the reality of treading on the ground, but aims to send his music aloft, into the clouds through some high-minded lyrics (including some little shred of Shakespeare).
Now it’s no secret, to anyone who has read his bio, or press release, that C.K. Flach recorded this sensitive solo album in a spare room in his apartment. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, it is a relief to know of an artist who can truly be called an indie musician because of the circumstances of recording, and not some notion of genre (which “Indie” has become over the years). Given the fact that the vast majority of the somber sounds found in this album are come from a spare room studio, it almost excuses the slightly out of tune guitar in the opening track…but it still hurts one’s sensibilities a tad. At first I was sure that I was mistaken, but the slightly off guitar is not reserved solely to the opening track of ‘Lazarus‘. In that way, one wishes that he had simply stayed in his tomb. One might also wish to be ‘Tranquilized‘ come track three, as there is some off key piano as well.
However, that bit of guitar and piano is pretty paltry in comparison to the much larger production that is ‘Empty Mansions‘. And given the loose feeling of the album, and the predominantly morose lyrics, it could very well be the case that Flach wanted to add some dissonance, and one should therefore not write the album off for those little moments. Indeed, the album as a whole is very enjoyable, and interesting. Though lyrics have always been a form of poetry, Flach makes a seemingly noticeable differentiation between standard songs, and those that play like poems to music. And it doesn’t hurt that his lyrics are very interesting.
It might make for a bit of ‘Calamity‘, but the album is beautifully ballad-laden, and that makes for some great work on the ivory. Not to mention some harrowing harmonica, and haunting harmonies effectively strewn about. There’s even an appearance by a mandolin, and the bass is a constant thrum throughout that keeps everything relatively together, with occasion for a sexy slide every once in a while. Considering that almost the entire album was written, composed, and played by Flach himself, it is a pretty impressive collection of tunes he’s put together. And that’s not to say that he hasn’t found help from friends and family in the making, but the individual focus is clear, and certainly creative. There’s a bit of Nick Cave, a little Jace Everett, and even some loose Johnny Cash permeating these ‘Empty Mansions‘, and sure that is no thing to scoff at.
Closing the ten track album with a reaching out to the ‘Firmament‘, Flach recites a poem. with a bit of Bible, a little political incorrectness, some Billy Idol, and a touch of Zeppelin, he speaks some sorrowfully true words, but with a staunch determination that seems to rise above the mundane. It could be a great close, but for a few things, in my opinion. First of all, it opens and closes with a gong, and while that might strictly be meant to steady and ready the listener for some degree of somber utterances, it is so far removed from the rest of the album, and so caught up in mystical hooey that it detracts from the overall experience. It doesn’t help either that one can really hear the spare room studio in this piece. A bit of EQ to rid us of the room and put us in the mystical place he seems to want us might be a bit more conducive to active listening. And then, sadly, the delivery.
The words are wonderful, but the delivery is stale. Does Flach truly feel what he’s saying? He seems to in his music, but perhaps there’s a vulnerability, or insecurity in the stripped, and silent speech. The poem doesn’t need music around it, it simply needs feeling. If you’re going to laugh in the writing, then really laugh in the reading. We want to experience what you feel. Make that poem musical with nothing more than the intonation of your voice, and we’ll be with you on that journey. So please, take us all the way, and don’t leave us hanging at the end.
Intrigued to hear more of his work, I’d say swing on by HERE to at least take in this creative concoction that is C.K. Flach’s solo debut: ’Empty Mansions‘. And if you want to know more about the man, and his upcoming music, head on over HERE!