Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi: Album Review

After three solo albums, Nad Sylvan changes direction to interpret the poems of Irish Romantic  poet WB Yeats. He may be familiar as Steve Hackett’s  lead vocalist in his Genesis Revisited project  but here he  shows his creative credentials on the enchanting Spiritus Mundi.

Release date: 9th April 2021

Label: Inside Out Music

Format: Special Edition CD Digipak (incl. 2 bonus tracks) / 180g Gatefold LP Vinyl Edition (incl. the entire album on CD) / Digital Download 

Amongst the many talents with which we are already familiar, as well as seeing Nad Sylvan as a singer and performer, we can now add a brave interpreter. It takes some courage to step into the shoes of a Genesis icon as he does in Steve Hackett’s band, but to delve into interpreting musically the words of prodigious Nobel award-winning poet WB Yeats is a supreme challenge.  One Nad and his collaborator on this album, the multi-talented musician and orchestrator Andrew Laitres, have met.

Adapting any poetical verse to music is never easy, don’t be fooled into thinking taking established words then putting them to music is easy. The soundscape has to reflect the mood, the delivery has to match the phrasing of the words and you need to understand the message.

One would need to ask Nad the extent of his research and understanding of Yeats’ descriptive, delightful poetry and although I am no advocate of early 20th century poets, what he has created is sensitive, enchanting, and pleasant to the ear.

Nad and Andrew tackle the apocalyptic words of The Second Coming with acoustic and atmospheric orchestration which swirl around the poetry, reflecting  Yeats’ belief that in 1921 the world was on the cusp of major dramatic events.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Poignant and somewhat predictive. The choice of poems is interesting too. For example, Cap And Bells would be familiar to early Genesis fans as there is some similarity to the lyrical themes explored on Trespass and Nursery Cryme. You could put this track on either of these and you would be none the wiser.

The Stolen Child resonates with modern thought that in many ways the innocence and gullibility of childhood is lost as indeed are children’s lifestyles in the modern world losing that protection that childhood once held from the fears of the real world. Musically it seems more simplistic with a delightful melody and a catchy beat. This poem was also interpreted by the Waterboys on their Celtic sounds album The Fisherman’s Blues. Take time to compare both. The words “the world is more full of weeping than you can understand” summarises the message.

There is a Genesis feel to the brief track The Realists: an intricate mellow acoustic accompaniment following echoing guitar strumming with delicate keyboards as does the following track To An Isle In The Water. To complete the collection of poems with The Fisherman, which although more upbeat is interesting in that listening to an actual reading of this poem the phrasing is very similar.

The vocal responsibilities are shared with fellow collaborator on the album, Andrew Laitres and also guest musicians have been assembled.  Tony Levin and Jonas Reingold share some bass responsibilities, Flower Kings drummer Mirkko DeMaio enlisted too.  Steve Hackett makes an appearance on one of the bonus tracks titled To A Child Dancing In The Wind.

Although the music is pertinent to the poems it doesn’t dominate but enhances. Nad admits that it is the words that are the main focus: “the music is a bit more sparse, there’s more air. The whole album is based around my vocals and Andrews guitars spiced up with some orchestral stuff. ” 

Just as Yeats’ poetry evolved so does Nad’s musical style and tone show change.  His music reflects Yeats’ romanticism and these tracks portray Yeat’s themes of love, loss and the mythical. Nad is rightly proud to believe this album includes some of his best work and although I am no specialist on the work of Yeats I am sure many of his advocates would appreciate and applaud his and Andrew Laitres’ efforts.

Here’s the video for The Stolen Child:

Nad Sylvan online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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