David Axelrod was well known for his composing skills in jazz music that can best be described as a genre-blending master who worked through sound as a tool. It was a tool used for creation, but also destruction and that is apparent on Songs Of Experience. A delightfully jazz influenced, but atmospheric mix of wonder, deceit, and danger.
Songs Of Experience begins with the playful “The Poison Tree”, a dancing number that is collected through the use of these vibrant strings and percussive piano that bounces around. It almost creates this overbearing sense of a funk groove, but slides back to feature stinging string sections that flare up and then create these waves within the track. The harsh rising to the then gentle fading of the strings is a highlight of the introduction and the strange twists that Songs Of Experience begin to take over the thirty-two minute run time is audacious. The tracks begin to form together and play as a single entity of instrumental story-telling devices that strum, hum, and shift together.
It is truly the masterful recording and mastering behind the instrumentals as to where they are bred into life. Axelrod does a magnificent job of displaying the instruments, but there is also the signification behind his moments of peaceful and relaxed styles of playing where the grouping of instruments are still well-rounded and tight as can be, but the tone and mood is less rigid at times. This decision of relaxation is reflected upon “The Sick Rose” where Axelrod takes a psychedelic approach and lets these synthesizers form the backbone of the instrumental while percussion and strings take the foreground. The recording process of the album must have been interesting as the product output is simply marvelous and will carry the sound through till the final last note.
Even the almost broken up track “The Human Abstract”, has moments where the beauty can shine through a cracked mirror-esque reflection of pianos and strings that take over the darkness and ambiguous nature of Songs Of Experience. The deafening beauty and ultimate destruction of the tracks present make for an adventure all within itself. Axelrod commands the instruments in a progressive nature and makes sure that each horn undertone or every string capitalization gets a fair share of sound. There is no additional noise that does not directly influencing the tone of the track. Hearing the sudden electricity of the strings on “The Human Abstract” is charging as it allows the percussion to perk up and become this lively orchestral display of colors.
The final sinister moments of Songs Of Experience showcases “A Divine Image”, a disturbed and suddenly revolting mix of horns and razor blades on violin strings creates this intriguing, but deathly stare into the unknown. Before the listener is able to react, the instrumental pounces and becomes reminiscing of Earl Sweatshirt’s “Centurion” of which “A Divine Image” is sampled from. The pounding percussion and strange oddities of random outbursts are made even more clear here and when the album finds a groove that can become a booming beat that adds to the schizophrenia.
Songs Of Experience becomes this beast of unknown power at the finale of its time present and the final track, “A Divine Image” is the strangest beast of all. Its twisted contortion sets the send-off for the album and is as interesting as it is odd. Songs Of Experience takes a shifted turn toward the deep end and becomes a substantial jazz piece that is as atmospheric as it is gifted.