It is hard to write about this album as a novelty, if it is understood as something exceedingly innovative. Even before its release, after hearing the samples of songs on the German artist’s web, it was obvious that the album would be rather a musical diary than a desire for exploring new territories of sounds. And if Frozen Plasma vocalist and Diorama keyboarder tried to put in lyrics everything that had happened to him in the last 10 years, in music he travelled into worlds which he simply knows and likes. He probably kept surprises for his next albums, this time presenting the music of his head and heart.
Yet "Pathways" is surprising. If the novelty can be understood as something already known but presented in a completely different configuration, Felix certainly managed to fill in the emptiness in the souls of listeners who are interested in old pop songs about love as well as the new, dynamic and aggressive electronics, those who have been searching for something in-between for years. Because even if they found obvious references, whether to the musician''s own projects or to his sentimental inspirations, the whole thing remains quite unique.
It is music which gains in colour and depth with every listening. Thanks to his ability to combine what is old and tested with what is new and fresh, Felix Marc offers quite a new quality and an excellent dance album. What is more, the album is absolutely sincere in its music and lyrics. In spite of the simplicity of words, in spite of the texts whose meaning is either literal or expressed with obvious metaphors, the album allows for a variety of interpretations. The listener can stand on either side of the barricade, never sure to what extent the artist is playing with him.
The most brilliant example is "Sweet Dancer" with one of less popular works of William Butler Yeats as lyrics. I have always associated this poem with Baudelaire''s "The Albatross". Seemingly simple and rhythmic, it carries huge load of hidden drama even more moving than that from the Frenchman’s work. The same can be said of Felix Marc’s music with delicate, sentimental sound of the piano is devoid of any concern. The screams of seagulls in the background bring to mind gentle nostalgia for Ireland. But behind it there is madness which embraces us when we are alone with our thoughts. Ascetic musical background allows us to focus on the meaning of the poem, in which joy and hope, symbolised by dance, seem to be catharsis for cruel memory and unfulfilled yearning. A sweet dancer is perhaps completely ordinary to others but the moment she escapes from their eyesight, she loses herself in a mad dance of her desires. That is her world and she won''t let anybody in, even the closest person. And that insane, dancing girl, although portrayed by the different poet, seems to be the most faithful reflection of the vocalist''s alter ego which is lost in his memories and emotions.
Those who like melancholic mood and retro sounds will enjoy the ballad "Separation". It is one of the most beautiful compositions I have ever heard. Although I admit that in time the sensational "Sweet Dancer" became my favourite, I kept listening to “Separation” at first. Beautifully led and, where necessary, skillfully broken voice, together with romantic sounds which are a mixture of "live" piano and electronics (pleasantly associated with the early 80s) make an overwhelming impression. In addition, the intentionally monotonous, expressive rhythm, like the beating of a desperate heart, will deeply move any listener. The composition has a chance to be the full-time "sheeting piece" on electro parties. It’s hard to say whether it will survive in a listener’s memory because the feeling of fascination for this piece probably remains as long as that of grief after the most important person has left - until you hear another, more beautiful ballad (until you meet another person).
"Winterwalk" is the most original piece on the "Pathways" album because it is almost spoken. It is the tangle of thoughts, fear and hope, accompanying a new discovered feeling, and the world seen with "new" eyes. When everything we have experienced on our pathway, seems to be different, better, more expressive. The atmospheric music emphasizes the climate of the composition, saturated with peace and a kind of gratitude.
Although Felix Marc is very good as the mood creator, he has great expertise in fast pieces. The best proof is the opening song, "Give Back The Moments", where the vocalist shows his musical and vocal artistry. It is an unquestionable hit of the “Pathways”. Everything is there, including brilliant, danceable rhythm, catchy refrain and the whole range of emotions: fondness mixed with fury, satisfaction from the current state of affairs interwoven with helplessness in the face of the passing time.
The next composition on the disc is a perfect reinforcement for "Give Back The Moments". "Thorn Inside My Head" is a vision of destruction based on the austere beat. It concerns the "ideals", capable of leading people to wars, terrorism and damage. Both in global and personal, even intimate, sense. Uncompromising, humdrum rhythm and desperate words "trust me" as well as the fanatic idea symbolizing the greater good, almost identified with love, stay in our memory for a long time.
"Follow The Demons" which initially was my favourite fragment amongst samples of the "Pathways” is, in fact, a bit disappointing. I tried to find pleasure in it but, in spite of its professional sound, I could not. There is a kind of unjustified, momentarily unbearable, monotonous rhythm, in the background which could work in either stanzas or refrain, but not both. Only close to the end does something start to happen but that is not enough. As if the author has not really finished that piece. Still, the text is truly moving, presenting the relationship of two closest persons who have together decided to drive title demons away. Their common fight is often difficult, but in the end it gives satisfaction and relief.
"Belles" is definitely more convincing. The piece emanates a kind of natural joy and energy, though they are traditionally disrupted with a strong dose of melancholy. The piece enraptures the listener with its thrilling beat, a variety of musical tricks in the background and a very unusual echo effect. All that creates the climate of fascination, almost insane pace of a night-time party, words pronounced with the speed of light and yearning for something unknown. It is certainly one more candidate for a parquet hit. It is also the piece which I found most enchanting while listening to the album for the first time.
Now, however, the most entrancing composition for me is "Back To Life" - a piece which I almost skipped at the beginning. Simple, "male" - both in words and the rhythm - but filled with such a positive load that it could bring the dead to life. The strange thing is that the energy grows here not as the dynamic, happy beat, but in the form of a very subtle gradation. With every second the vocal gets more and more intensive and sounds become brighter and brighter. The ornaments here are minimal "kraftwerk-like" notes and uncomplicated sounds of "the 80s" keyboard. Yet, the work is brilliant in its simplicity.
Even more synthetic is "Digital Love" which is about Internet relationships where everyone can introduce himself in a way the other person will find satisfactory. A pair of "robots" create its private virtual universe with no place for conflicts. This entails lack of frankness, which could disturb the structure of this automatic sweetness they’ve created together. By analogy, the more exaggerated refinement of sounds would destroy the structure of that brilliant composition which is the next candidate for DJs’s favourite piece.
"All The Words/Catharsis" is probably the most aggressive work on the "Pathways". The intriguing, rich bunch of sounds, fastened on the straight melodic line, perfectly illustrates anger, disappointment, sadness, helplessness and longing for something valuable, but lost in favour of the internal peace. A similar blend of moods can be found in a danceable song "Control". Although it is much less diversified musically, the song reflects splendidly a merciless bustle of questions whirling in one’s head. And the fear that we can rely only on our intuition and if we don''t answer some of those questions right, nobody will give us the second chance.
The composition which offers a whole range of beautiful and surprising sounds is a closing piece "Pathway". Both romantic and expressive, the song seems to be the true affirmation of life which is a continuous search for the right path. Life that does not always pamper us, but it surprises us with every footstep. In order to hold in our hands the fire of life, we must resort to any stratagems. Otherwise, we’ll be left with only a barely smouldering glimmer which reduces the pathway we share with somebody into the worthless substitute of life.