It is often found that from tremendous despair comes profound and reflective art. It is such a tragedy that seems to hang over the current works of one Mariusz Duda; that being the unexpected death of Riverside guitarist and close friend Piotr Grudziński in 2016. Outside of Riverside, Duda took his own personal grief to creating last years phenomenal Lunatic Soul release, Fractured (Kscope), a release that saw the ambient outfit to new experimental heights across an emotional spectrum from pure desolation to showing signs of hopefulness.
Taken from these sessions, Under The Fragmented Sky (Kscope) was initially intended as a maxi single release before Duda instead managed to flesh out and expand on the existing material resulting in an album’s worth. Due to its nature as a companion piece to the aforementioned Fractured, UTFS will be seen as a parallel release, and at first and in this mindset proves detrimental. Fractured had such a wide diversity on its palette, and was so layered and ever-changing, that in comparison, UTFS feels bare-boned and even lacking. Much more akin to the earlier Lunatic Soul works, UTFS is more reliant on loops, repeated passages and more minimalist compositions, and therefore initially feels unfinished or, perhaps, over-stretched.
After a few listens, however, UTFS really opens up and shows just why it works so well as a sibling piece. The grieving process is not a clear, linear path, and UTFS continues the emotional variety of Fractured; not reaching the extreme sorrow that its predecessor achieved but not without sadness entirely. Where the likes of album opener ‘He Av En’, with its choral hook and dreamlike build, generate a sense of catharsis, ‘Trials’ maintains an evident sense of loss. The acoustic-led title track is a tear-jerker that once again reveals a tenderness allied with a sense of acceptance and even some strengthening, before the album closer similarly shows an uplifting underbelly; both highlighted by Duda’s earnest and sumptuous vocals.
Under The Fragmented Sky is in some ways a throwback to the project’s early, experimental and ambient forays, and where it may at first seem simplistic in relation to its counterpart, further, in-depth listens reveal it to be a captivating, soothing and highly resonant work of art that is so easily