CD Review: The Sevens Collective - A Too Much Divided Heart

The new album from The Sevens Collective A Too Much Divided Heart is a fantastic showcase for everyone involved.
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The release of A Too Much Divided Heart by The Sevens Collective is something of an all-star event from the mysterious Beta-lactam Ring Records label. From their very beginnings the boutique label have created their own niche by coupling handcrafted artwork with exquisitely intricate music. A Too Much Divided Heart by The Sevens Collective also features Beta-lactam artists and associates from around the world. Much like the recent work of Current 93 or The Legendary Pink Dots, there is a peaceful aura about many of these songs, at least on the surface. Listen a little closer however and things become a bit more disturbing.

The disc opens with the intoxicating Spanish guitar of Paul J. Rogers on "Extraordinary Witch." As the song moves past this introduction we hear the vocals of Michel Leroy in something of a chant, offset by the violin of Jennifer Hames. This melding of chant/spoken word continues with "The Rose Room," this time featuring the vocals of Simeon Nu Psimian.

Those two tracks very effectively set the stage for "And Slowly Fell My Ocean Drone." As the title indicates, the song celebrates the drone. When this type of music is done right, it can be fascinating. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of bad music passed off as "drone" over the years. The Sevens Collective know the difference, and this track is one of the finest on the album. The guest vocalist on "Ocean Drone" is Soriah.

A haunting tour-de-force of music titled "El Adios Del Sol" is next, with Michel Leroy again as guest vocalist. The piano playing of Jennifer Hames captured my attention the most here, although the song is multi-textured. "The Levy Flight" is perhaps the most difficult to describe, as Philippe Petit has sculptured the sound to resemble that of a bubbling cauldron, against the pizzicato cello of Matthew Webster. This is a very intense track, with multiple crescendos giving way to the acoustic guitar of Paul J. Rogers once again.

The commanding voice of Randall Frazier enlivens the dark ballad "These Heavy Wings." Here again the piano of Jennifer Hames is highly notable. When I first heard of the many Beta-lactam guests on A Too Much Divided Heart, I kind of expected an album of bizarre sounds. After all, who knows what will happen in the studio? The avant-garde side of The Sevens Collective rears up on "The Island Apes." This very cool and offbeat piece also features the percussive talents of Jack McCarthy and the vocals of Simeon Nu Psimian.

The closing "Don't Dig So Deep Now" is an acoustic ballad which ties A Too Much Divided Heart together in an oddly traditional way. Leave it to The Sevens Collective to confound expectations at every turn. This is an album that covers a lot of ground, and does so in a way that is completely genuine. It is hard to say exactly what I expected with so many guests, but those expectations have been exceeded in spades. A Too Much Divided Heart is a fantastic showcase for everyone involved.