18 Apr 2021

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Gramsci - Album Review: Inheritance

06 Jul 2020 // A review by Mike Alexander

Paul McLaney has, metaphorically speaking, found his voice again. After a series of largely conceptual electronic albums as The Impending Adorations, he has rebooted Gramsci, the songwriting alias that has lain dormant since the release of Like Stray Voltage in 2005.

Inheritance also sees the renewal of his love affair with the guitar. He's always been an exceptional acoustic finger picker but, perhaps inspired by his recent collaboration with Jakob's Jeff Boyle and his admiration for Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, the electric guitar is left and centre stage with some riveting solos and lovely fluid but precise riffs that are mined from deep within the gut.

The album sets its identity with the opening title track , a semi orchestral style overture with electronic orchestration that has a panoramic sweep and introduces the first of many epic (in reach) guitar solos. The line-up for Inheritance features Greg Haver on drums, who is also masterminded the impeccable production, and Jol Mulholland.

The over-arching theme - referenced in titles that are deeply embedded in Greek mythology - Tantalus, Atlas, Icarus, The Golden Bough, Achilles' Heel - is mythological archetypes both personal and historic. The way we build our personal and social identities and the story of our lives around thoughts and ideas that don't necessarily have any basis in reality but are more our interpretation of events and circumstances.

The cover artwork powerfully illustrates this idea. It's an image of a painting by British artist Herbert James Draper called The Lament for Icarus, a cautionary tale from the Greek epics about unchecked risk and ambition and the consequences of such actions.

The track that complements it - Icarus - is one of several instrumentals and features an earthy rhythm and some soaring guitar lines that reach for the heavens - much like Icarus, who, to his peril, tried to reach for the sun on wings made of wax.

One of the more intimately revealing tracks Like A Scar bares its soul on the back of nature sounds and an almost wearied rhythmic pace as McLaney opens up about trying to find yourself but losing yourself in external stimuli - in this case alcohol.

It's that kind of insight and honest mental and emotional "inventory taking" that makes him such a compelling artist to listen. The way he weaves the personal with the universal has a transcendental quality to it that allows for deeper insight into the human condition.

The haunting album closer Atlas, does seem to have the weight of the world on its shoulders but finds catharsis in a stunning guitar solo and an eerie wind sounding whoosh and crackle that's a little unnerving but almost apt - paradigm shifts occur after a period of unsettling.

It doesn't seem to matter what guise McLaney uses to express himself musically. the result is always richly rewarding. Inheritance may well become a Kiwi legacy album.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Gramsci

The name Gramsci is taken from an infamous Italian political philosopher.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Gramsci


Year: 2020
Type: Album
Like Stray Voltage
Year: 2005
Type: Album
Year: 2002
Type: Album
Year: 2001
Type: Album

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