Concept albums and progressive rock share a long history that has produced many a quintessential genre milestone and all-time classics. Sylvan from Hamburg/Germany have tackled this challenging format throughout their recorded history, Posthumous Silence (2006) or Home (2015) come to mind. Over the course of nine studio albums, one live-document and a remarkable live-DVD, this quartet has been racking up in numbers all over the globe, all due to Sylan`s relentless touring schedule.
Their tours saw them playing in Mexico, USA, Canada, Latvia, Spain, Italy and all over Europe obviously, sharing the stage with heavyweights such as Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Jethro Tull or Spock’s Beard. And now they are unveiling their most recent outlet, and since it is their tenth record, they aptly named it One To Zero. Well, that may be true of sorts, but marks only a selection of the truth, since One To Zero narrates a plot that simply fascinates in its timing and reference to the age we live in.
So here we have Sylvan`s newest concept album. Why does it fall under this particular category? Because it unfolds the autobiography of an A.I. from its own perspective over the course of ten tracks. One To Zero starts off with seemingly random white noise. Zeros and ones intertwine into a short overture, byte by byte they puzzle themselves together into a fragile awareness, before the actual plot runs its course with the opening title Bit By Bit. In the beginning, there was the algorithm: it is Encoded At Heart and given the task to save the environment by repairing what the morally flawed mankind had so deliberately damaged.
The mission is righteous, brace you it says in the optimistic and opulent outro; prepare yourselves, help is coming. In Start Your Life the A.I. is processing itself, driven by eternal self-optimization. Unleashed Power narrates the algorithm’s coming of age, all of which is staged neatly by a 6/8-ballad with piano, background singers and chamber instruments. But with awareness comes a dilemma, the quest for identity. Trust Yourself marks a turning point in Zero To One’s narrative and subsequently, its sound design. For the first time, the electronic elements move to the forefront. The epic chorus manifests the machine’s cogito, ergo sum, along with a backdrop of heavy staccato guitars. But the creating man is still there, represented by organic instruments, such as Cello.
The guitar solo however leans towards electronica, using a whammy pedal. On My Odyssey underlines this motif, the A.I. addresses its creator, and a dark undertow is established musically. Electronic heartbeats accompany Part Of Me. Emotions like anger stir up digitally, based on behalf of the inherent human imperfection it was given at the beginning. In realizing its superiority, the A.I. also understands that it is Worlds Apart with mankind.
The offer of being the sole leader of humanity is being delivered by clever choral arrangements. Sylvan`s sound is wide open and broadband, the takeover may not be a there at per se but is finished. Go Viral starts off with 8-Bit sounds and beats, the A.I. reigns. But it develops a conscience given its destructiveness, while the algorithm stoically maintains its mission for eternal growth. A machine’s lament: no no, this is not my way…
Mankind does not deserve the A.I.’s qualities. Not A Goodbye also starts with electronica. It shall not be suicide, but merely the beginning of a new life cycle. One To Zero closes in the same fashion it began, with seemingly random white noise.
Glad I lived artificially only, Adorno comes to mind with his famous quote: «There is no living a false life correctly”. Was it capable, the A.I. might even apologize. The efforts Sylvan took to create this introspective motif over the course of ten tracks, invite to be enjoyed it its entirety, although every listener will develop his or her favorites obviously».
One To Zero is lush and airy at the same time. It is intellectual, yet entertaining. The riffs, the solos, the interplay, und last but not least the lyrical depth, are all the complex culmination of a mere idea that was unfolded and magnified into epic proportions. One to Zero fits well into these times, in which tech billionaires name their child X AE A-XII, or the often dystopian Black Mirror is a mainstream hit series.
That is only logical, given the actual reality that that we all live in. One To Zero was conceived in the Farm Studios in Freising/Bavaria und the careful supervision and production of Kalle Wallner and Yogi Lang, who also mixed the album. One to Zero will be available in physical and digital format on March 25th 2021, via Goam with distribution by Soulfood.
Marco Glühmann, vocals
lker Söhl, keyboards
Sebastian Harnack, bass
Matthias Harder, drums
Johnny Beck, guitars
Kalle Wallner, additional acoustic guitars
Yogi Lang, additional keyboards
Katja Flintsch, violin & viola
Bine Heller, backing vocals
Bit By Bit
Encoded At Heart
Start Of Your Life
Trust In Yourself
On My Odyssey
Part Of Me