The Book of Knots‘ latest release, Garden of the Fainting Stars, is an unnerving exploration in experimental music. The Brooklyn-based group, comprised of members from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Skeleton Key, Pere Ubu, and Sparklehorse, are known for embracing themes with their albums (their previous releases explored nautical themes and America’s rust belt), and Garden is no exception. This time the quartet has tackled the often confusing but ultimately spellbinding prospects of space, and there to lend a hand to the experiment is a diverse group of guests including Mike Watt, Mike Patton, and Trey Spruance.
“Microgravity” and “Obituary for the Future” bookend the album, both tracks featuring Carla Kihlstedt’s airy vocals, with Spruance adding his skillful touches to “Future”. In between, you will find a range of songs that dazzle, befuddle, and sometimes creep you out (much like space itself). Some tracks touch more on rock, and others lean more towards celestial tinkering. On the latter, we have an eerie spoken-word narrative by the formidable-voiced Blixa Bargeld in “Drosophila Melanogaster” (which, by the way, is the scientific name for the fruit fly, a pest that plagues Bargeld during this Twilight Zone-primed song), the NASA-like samples of “All This Nothing”, and the planetary screams of “Nebula Rasa”.
On the rock end of things, we have the druggy and melodic qualities of “Garden of the Fainting Stars”, which features Elyas Khan’s blistering vocals. Patton fittingly contributes to album standout “Planemo”, which elevates the unconventional metal track to another level with his distinctive voice that starts low over haunting violins and builds beautifully to a raw, passionate scream at the end.
Overall, Garden of the Fainting Stars is a good, albeit strange, album that grows on you after a few listens. Going with the space theme, it’s a bit like the night sky, a nebulous net of stars that twinkle on and off, teasing you with more questions than answers. It won’t blow your mind, but it will leave you intrigued and perhaps a bit confused. It’s a worthy addition to any experimental music fan’s collection.