As a newcomer to the music of Inal Bilsel, listening to his new album ‘Paradise Lost’ has left a very lasting impression on me. What Bilsel has created with this concept piece is an immersive journey of sound that takes the listener deep into a dystopian fantasy world in the aftermath of nuclear war, and with only a brief opening description and the music as a guide, acting as a soundtrack to a film but where the film only exists in the imagination of the listener.
The title is of course a reference to John Milton’s epic poem of the same name, perhaps showing that what Inal Bilsel is trying to achieve with this piece is his own futuristic interpretation of ‘Paradise Lost’; a poem exploring ideas of religion, temptation, worship, good and evil, amongst other themes.
The opening description talks of a “clandestine company SimEX” whose “simulated reality machines exploit the desire to escape the gloomy existence of the post-war” and which are “highly addictive brain-mangling devices”. Almost sounding like something out of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series which explores ideas of how modern technology may be used or abused in the often dystopic future, acting as warnings but also as reflections of the world we already live in. Would it be too much of a stretch of the imagination to compare the highly addictive simulated reality machines of Bilsel’s ‘Paradise Lost’ to our current mass use of highly addictive social media where we escape the world around us through mindless Facebook scrolling or constructing selective - almost imaginary - online personas for ourselves? All whilst the world around us continues to be plagued by war, inequality, climate change and for the first time since the Cold War, very real threats and anxieties of the use of nuclear weapons. Maybe a bit of a stretch of the imagination or maybe not. Anyway, back to the music.
Over the course of the album, which spans twenty tracks, the music drifts between a real variety of different sounds and atmospheres, at times interspersed with fragments of cinematic speech and glitchy recordings which really add to the dream-like quality of the experience and help to guide the listener through the loose narrative of the story.
‘Mesaoria By Dawn’ almost sounds like a deliberate ode to the music of Vangelis and in particular his brilliant soundtrack to the original Blade Runner film, with a similar ethereal ambience and use of a gliding lead synth. ‘Memory Initialized’ develops on this, starting off in ways very much resembling Radiohead’s ‘All I Need’ with its instrumentation and uneasy use of melody, but then veering towards a more psychedelic rock influenced crescendo that leads beautifully into the soothing jazz sounds of ‘Long Lost’. Tracks like ‘Wait For Me’ again contain the use of warm jazz keys but effortlessly combine them with influences and sounds from rock and more classically orchestral music.
A lot of the music at times reminds me of the 70s music of Italian soundtrack and library music composer Piero Umiliani, who experimented with a wide variety of different instrumentation and influences that often included jazz and funk as a backbone.
‘Dropout’ acts as an ambient interlude that almost serves to jostle the listener out of their dream with its unnerving atmosphere and use of glitch effects before dropping back into what has got to be one of my personal favourites, ‘Off The Beat’, with its laidback jazzy groove and vocals that are reminiscent of Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz project.
All in all, ‘Paradise Lost’ is a very accomplished and inventive album that serves as a great cinematic journey, managing to effortlessly weave together so many different influences and drift in different directions, whilst maintaining a real sense of wonder and interest as to what is around the next corner. Like all good albums, this needs to be listened to in full and deserves repeated listens - with its various layers of detail surely making this a world I’ll be looking forward to revisiting again and again.
Released January 12, 2018