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eMolecule - The Architect (2023)

The new band project by Simon Collins and Kelly Nordstrom

eMolecule, the new band project of Simon Collins and Kelly Nordstrom, presents a prog rock concept album with its debut The Architect. Nowadays, albums of this genre often have it that you have to think of possible influences and inspirations for every song, and with some artists, songs then tend to degenerate into imitation, or if you want, into homage through citation. What doesn't happen so often, however, is that within an album, sometimes within a song, memories of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, Coldplay, Alice in Chains and Porcupine Tree come to mind, without becoming a copy of either one or the other, and also the transitions and the interplay of these influences don't seem forced or artificial, but organic, even if a techno rave seems to pass by in between. Simon Collins and Kelly Nordstrom achieve this feat over long stretches on The Architect. The two have been working together since 2005, Kelly has contributed to all of Simon's solo albums since then and was guitarist for Sound of Contact on the album Dimensionaut. In eMolecule, both contribute as equal songwriters and producers - sharing credits for all tracks on the album. Simon takes over vocals and drums as well as keyboards, programming and sound design, Kelly the guitars, bass and also vocals, keyboards, sound design and programming. After Simon found the chemistry with Kelly so inspiring and liberating during sessions for a new solo album that he preferred a band project to another solo album. The duo first developed a concept for the album and then produced 16 to 18 songs, eleven of which were selected for The Architect. Not only they used new song ideas, but Kelly in particular dug into his fundus. The track eMolecule, for example, went back to the Becoming Human session, and Kelly wrote parts of the title track The Architect in his teenage years.

The concept

eMolecule - The ArchitectThe Architect is, roughly speaking, about the self-discovery of a vicious exploiter and power broker after he learns of his fatal illness. After the track eMolecule sets the scene for the plot, the following tracks characterise the protagonist, the Architect and Mastermind, who has to realise in the track Dosed that he is doomed to die. The largely instrumental The Turn marks the transformation and leads into the second part, in which the protagonist virtually turns around (Awaken) and finds fulfilment in spirituality (Beyond Belief, The Universal), love (My You) and realisation (Moment Of Truth). The two halves are also musically different, the first dark, hard, metallic and electronic, the second positive, anthemic, more organic and acoustic. Simon even partially moves away from the otherwise always used distortion filters on his voice, showing his vocal skills especially on My You, a ballad suitable for a single release. It is difficult to understand the plot of the concept through music and lyrics alone; this required the explanations of Simon and Kelly in our interview (available here). The lyrics to the songs are written in such a way that they can stand on their own and are also more universally and personally relatable. Not surprisingly, the composers reveal that ultimately also their own experiences were processed in the lyrics. In Dosed, for example, we learn about Simon's experiences with various substances (Simon confirms this in an interview with Ray Shasho), a topic he also dealt with in This Is The Time on Becoming Human. Prison Planet is, in a way, a reckoning with pandemic politics, and the surveillance state dystopia Mastermind plays with conspiracy theories, since it is simply about the great power broker and world leader who determines the fate of us all. With both tracks, eMolecule are walking on thin ice if you want to read them as an examination of current politics. But in the context of the album, they are part of the plot in a sci-fi setting.

The Music

If we detach ourselves from the plot and look at the music on this album, comparisons to both Dimensionaut and Becoming Human are obvious. The difference to Simon Collins' last solo album naturally lies in the greater involvement of Kelly Nordstrom, which is reflected in a more important role for guitar and bass. On both instruments Kelly shows himself to be a master of subtle soundscape-like work, song-serving, as it were picturesque guitar lines, as well as a soloist of Floydian character and a riff master in the tradition of Tony Iommi. Also with his vocal contributions, with convincing spoken word interludes in the style of a stage actor as well as a singer with a rough, rocking voice, he gives the album a human touch, which was sometimes missing on the all too electronic Becoming Human. He thus forms a counterpoint or a complement to Simon's more sterile, alienated and robotic vocals, which, especially in the first half of the album, is also due to the story. In the closing track Moment Of Truth, in which the eMolecule members share the lead vocals, they push each other to the max. The split between the raspy Kelly in the verses and the higher-singing and more effects-heavy Simon in the chorus gives this track a dynamic that mirrors the musical of this track consisting of organically sparsely instrumented piano sounds and harder, rockier sections. In general, it is the dynamics of the individual pieces that show themselves to be a great strength, as they did on Becoming Human. Loud-quiet, dense-minimalistic, mechanical-organic, all this alternates on this album, almost every track lives from this dynamic. The best example of this is the introductory eMolecule, the ten-minute-long track that also serves as the first forerunner of the album and can be seen as a "mission statement" of the band's project.

The tracks in fast forward

eMolecule oscillates uncompromisingly between electronica, dark sounds, organic, even Floydian sounds and metallic guitar riffs, a mixture that one sometimes heard with Porcupine Tree, but rarely in just one track. At the same time produced with "boom" and yet minimalistically instrumented, it sets the direction. The Architect begins metallically and "heavy", in the middle of the song follows a spacey part with acoustic guitars and background synths, which accompany a first spoken word passage by Kelly, which seems like a dream sequence and is covered with reverb, before a metallic pace is set again. In Prison Planet, calm soundscapes open the space before programmed drums kick in. Stylistically clearly belonging to the so-called "New Artrock", the brilliant use of "real" drums by Simon forms a highlight. The epic Mastermind, which runs through several sections, offers a soundtrack feeling, industrial-like reminiscences of Nine Inch Nails and aggressive vocals, before a dynamic change to a more airy arrangement with strings follows. This is followed by two more passages, whereby the changes are carried out less organically, first to an acoustic interlude and finally back to the threatening main theme, whereby Kelly is once again able to shine with a spoken text.

eMoleculeDosed is a hard rock song with hints of the grunge era, the supporting bass riff and the distorted guitars are reminiscent of Alice in Chains. After the largely instrumental interlude The Turn, which builds up slowly from piano and synth sounds as well as guitar lines, then hard and finally spacey, the focus is finally (!) on Simon Collins' vocals in pure form in Awaken. Accompanied by spherical guitar lines, the typical Collins timbre shows itself in all its glory. Only in the last third of the song does the full instrumentation kick in. The effects-loaded, catchy melodic Beyond Belief is the track on the album that most resembles the material from Becoming Human. The Universal morphs from a techno intro to a poppy rock anthem before, again in the final third, the atmosphere thickens in an oriental Led Zeppelin-esque way, with driving percussion elements. Finally, the programmed techno riff and the anthemic chorus return. A classic pop-rock ballad follows with My You, Simon's voice shows itself in its full glory without effects, initially accompanied only by keyboards, electronic effects and cymbals, the song ends with a melodious guitar solo by Kelly. The track would also look very good on a Papa Collins album. Moment Of Truth closes with the already mentioned outstanding duet of the two eMolecules. The chorus, accompanied by Coldplay-like piano playing and sung by Simon, achieves anthemic qualities that point in the direction of arena rock. After a sparsely orchestrated beginning, the track thickens musically in a tried and tested manner and heads for a climax, which unfortunately does not quite live up to the promise of the build-up.

All in all

In the press releases and on their website, Simon and Kelly are quoted as having created the best music of their career with The Architect. Now this is practically a standard phrase for every new release and yet it seems to have been rightly made here. If Simon had already proven his dramaturgical qualities in terms of song structure with Becoming Human, he was missing another element, or even an eMolecule, the more organic, raw and earthy one brought in by Kelly as co-composer. While Dimensionaut by the Sound of Contact foursome perhaps seemed too much like a prog album (which also characterises Dave Kerzner's solo albums since then), the present mixture of the Collins/Nordstrom duo, which is definitely worth listening to, seems more personal and uncompromising. The willing listener will certainly wish for a continuation of the obviously fruitful collaboration.

Author: Siegfried Göllner

The Architect is available on CD, Vinyl and digital and is available for preorder everywhere, i.e. AmazonUK.


01. eMolecule 10:43
02. The Architect 6:05
03. Prison Planet 4:58
04. Mastermind 8:39
05. Dosed 5:07
06. The Turn 5:56
07. Awaken 5:09
08. Beyond Belief 4:47
09. The Universal 6:03
10. My You 5:27
11. Moment of Truth 6:56

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