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subtractiveLAD – The Language Of Flowers

‘When Words fail’, the first songtitle here, could almost be a reference to me as reviewer. How many subLAD albums have I had the pleasure to review now? The Language of Flowers is Stephen Hummel’s eighth album as subtractiveLAD Eighth ! It is the first since 2011’s Kindred although,last year saw Hummel step outside his subtractiveLAD guise to deliver Meld , an album of synth pop songs released under his own name. Considering the title of the whole collection ‘When Words Fail’ clearly isn’t aimed at me or anyone else. The music is more suggestive of renewal. This is another classic subLAD track, quietly unfolding before flowering into full beauty. There’s a vocal coo that brings to mind Sylvian’s ‘Heartbeat’ and the whole piece bursts into luminous joy around the 4 minute mark. ‘When Words fail’ is as epic as Hummels previous work. A sense of hope and wonder pervades, the melody is loaded with love but the mood will not last. Hope springs…but not eternal. The rest of the album slips into more reflective mood.

The Language of Flowers is clearly a deeply personal record for Hummel. Think of it. “The language of flowers”. What does that mean?. That we grow, we flower we close up and we die? And then we replenish the soil and begin the cycle all over again? The rest of the album continues the reflective aspect. ‘Little Flood’, the shortest piece here at 5.24 mins, is a piano lament in a swirling cloud of synth. There are ominous tones towards its end. ‘Finding And Letting Go’ is closer to old, Vangelis leaning subLAD – that Tyrell building has never looked so pretty. Eno is in here too. This is old school ambient – the angel in the architecture. Know what I mean? It is also a beautiful listen.

The album closes with its longest, and most demanding piece, the well-named ‘The Opposite Of Easy’ . Here it is really the guitar which takes you on a journey. I would suggest that might be an inward journey. The music suggests contemplation rather than meditation. Have some patience with ‘The Opposite Of Easy’ because it is 24 minutes long. 24 minutes of a man putting some very testing thoughts and moments behind him and reaching some kind of resolution. ‘The Opposite Of Easy’ isn’t difficult. Not to listen to. But it is the sound of the process of turning the page. There is hope within sadness and sadness within hope.. Somebody close has been lost to Hummel and one suspects he wrote this album as a way of dealing with that loss. What a stunning tribute.

How many subLAD albums have I reviewed now?
Not enough.

Find out more

Review: Life At The End Of The World

Review: Meld