Mad Ducks 2023
Silver lining everywhere: soaring to atmospheric heights, Texan musician locates beauty beyond the clouds.
Constant experimentation is a perilous process – at least it has proved so for Cédric Theys: a regular shift of perspective has led the Austin-based composer to the point at which potential descent seems to be in sight for “Colour Spectrum” is, no doubt, his magnum opus. Symphonic thinking played an integral part in Theys’ creative method from the start – up to 2022’s "Légèreté De L'Être" employing a real orchestra – yet that album’s successor achieves much more magnificent effect without ever resorting to use of strings other than those of Cédric’s Touch guitar and Deborah Schmit-Lobis’ piano, two music tools bearing the principal onus of shedding light and providing shade here. Facilitating such a delightful flight of fantasy couldn’t feel more fascinating!
For all its celestial grandeur and understated wonder, there’s nothing otherworldly or new-age-like on this record – which is not even devoid of a sharp riff, as the heavy “Coding Shades” demonstrates in style – and opener “Weaving Light” introduces the stormy crash-and-flash, courtesy of Troy Jones’ drums and glockenspiel, to build momentum right from the platter’s onset, allowing Elsbeth Williams’ bass clarinet to outline the initial abstractness of Theys’ passages and frame his twang and strum into a series of arresting art-rock figures. The delicate onslaught may dissolve in a dewdrop beginning of “Silver Sands” before the ivories are fleshed out with Cédric’s fret-wrapping harmonies and percussive panoramas that give charge to his finger-work and intense, if diaphanous, interplay of the entire ensemble – crossing over to the deliberately flawed balladry behind “Sea Of Change” whose crystalline shimmer and anxious ripples merge with each other to immerse the listener in a meditative nightmare, rather than reverie, until “Translucent Rainbow” pays homage to “Tubular Bells” by presenting a multilayered electric tapestry to the awed audience.
Lured towards the chamber core of “Fallen Feather” wherein the composer’s rage and fear come married to a meandering melody, one should experience the xylophone-induced buzz which the mini-epic “White Moons” will soothe with nocturnally silvered keyboard motif and an almost anthemic eight-string tide to let “Colouring The Skies” be filled with a gradually receding gloom and triumphant melding of the four instruments’ nuanced delivery. This is when the iterative construction of “Invisible Light” becomes mesmeric, and the thunderous, menacing finale of “Magnet Metal” is met with a regret that the album has neared the edge of its time. Spin it again, though, and the miracles appear to return in a different shape, so there’s a continuous rediscovery of “Colour Spectrum”: how can Cédric Theys find a way to progress beyond it is a mystery – but he undoubtedly will.