When in the summer of 2017, Mariusz Duda was finishing the fifth studio album of his solo project, Lunatic Soul, he had already known that it would have a supplement. It was supposed to be a mini album complementing the music journey he had embarked on while creating “Fractured”. Soon it turned out that working on a few ideas he had put aside absorbed him so much that, as a result, we are getting a brand new Lunatic Soul album called “Under the Fragmented Sky” mere months after the previous one and exactly 10 years after the project’s debut release.
Mariusz Duda has gained popularity and recognition as the leader of Riverside, the band which, over the years, have established themselves as one of the most important and highly regarded bands within the progressive rock genre in the world. And even though Mariusz is not the founder of Riverside (the band was formed by the drummer, Piotr Kozieradzki and the guitarist, Piotr Grudziński), he has been the leader and the main composer in the band as he wrote all the lyrics and stories, as well as most of the music. Therefore, Lunatic Soul was not borne from a lack of artistic freedom in creating music but, as the musician himself has said, “from the need to explore different music territories.” “I wanted to create and record more,” says Mariusz. “One band was not enough for me. I was simply not able to tell all the stories in Riverside.”
The debut album of Lunatic Soul (Mystic Production/Snapper Music) was released in October 2008. Mariusz explains, “I didn’t want to release anything under my own name at that stage, nor did I want to record exactly the same things I did in Riverside, so a different project was born, more serene, oneiric, ambient, focused on oriental sounds, inspired by such artists as Dead Can Dance, Peter Gabriel or the Swedish group Hedningarna.”. Mariusz worked on his solo music with a little help from his friends, Maciej Szelenbaum (keyboards), Wawrzyniec Dramowicz (drums), with guest appearances of Riverside keyboardist, Michał Łapaj, and their current live guitarist, Maciej Meller, and with Magda and Robert Srzedniccy as coproducers, but the main element that made Lunatic Soul so different from Riverside was the absence of the guitar.
In spite of the use of a monicker, it was clear from the start that Lunatic Soul is a solo project, and this fact was further confirmed by the configurations of letters, which corresponds to the number of letters in the artist’s name.
Initially, there were going to be only two Lunatic Soul albums, the black-and-white diptych. The second of the two, Lunatic Soul II (Mystic Production/Kscope Music), was released in October 2010 and although it was not backed up by a tour, it established the position of the project not only in Poland but also worldwide. Having signed a contract with Kscope Music, a year after Lunatic Soul II, Mariusz released a complementary album of instrumental music called “Impressions” (Kscope Music), which, as he says, was “a kind of soundtrack to a non-existent film”.
It seemed that the experimental “Impressions” completed the history of Lunatic Soul. The artist went quiet for a few years until 2014, when he entered the Warsaw Serakos studio again. Together with Magda and Robert Srzedniccy at the mixing desk, and with Dramowicz on drums, he started working on new solo songs. The recordings resulted in another October release, the album called “Walking on a Flashlight Beam” (Mystic Production/Kscope Music).
“Just like every musician who has something to say, I try to explore new music territories,” he said when the album was released. “And I really wanted to try something different. I did the previous three albums in a similar vein and it was time for a new music experiment.”
The new album was not only a departure from the music aesthetic of the first releases as folk inspirations were replaced by electronic instruments, but also brought a new theme. While the first two albums (with the complementary instrumental “Impressions”) told a story about a journey through the underworld, inspired by clinical death of the artist’s mother, “Walking on a Flashlight Beam” dealt with depression and suicide. As it turned out, all the Lunatic Soul albums, linked by different graphic representations of the “LS” sign, started to form a cycle described by the artist as “The Circle of Life and Death”, whose yet another part was “Fractured” (Mystic Production/Kscope Music) released in 2017.
Certain traumatic events experienced by the artist in the recent years (the passing of his friend, then his father and his friend from the band) inspired songs about mourning and coping with the loss of friends and relatives. Mariusz admits that death has always fascinated him. “Dream, death, darkness, mental illnesses, social withdrawal – these are the main themes I talk about both in Riverside and Lunatic Soul.”
“Fractured” has also turned out to be a new stage in the music development of the project as the range of sounds has been enhanced with a saxophone (played by Marcin Odyniec) and, what is even more impressive, a symphonic orchestra, Sinfonietta Consonus Orchestra conducted by Michał Mierzejewski, in two songs, “Crumbling Teeth and the Owl Eyes” and “A Thousand Shards of Heaven”.
Just like “Impressions” complemented the story about the journey into the underworld from the first two albums, “Under the Fragmented Sky” supplements the story about mourning and an attempt to cope with the death of a friend or relative. Before the album was released, Mariusz said, “Let’s say it will be a supplement to ‘Fractured’ because it was composed mostly during ‘Fractured’ recording sessions, but I have been working on it in Serakos mainly recently, between December 2017 and February 2018. I call it a mini album but the truth is, it’s 36 minutes of new material and these days for many artists it’s the normal length of a full album. The new release will be mostly instrumental but there will be two songs on it as well. It has turned out to be a very coherent, beautiful release, intimate, nostalgic, very cinematic, different than ‘Fractured’ and different than everything you have heard from me so far, but at the same time, very ‘lunatic’.”
This, however, is not the end of the Lunatic Soul story. As Mariusz says, the cycle called “The Circle of Life and Death” will comprise eight albums. Depending on where we are, the side of life or the side of death, electronic or ethnic instruments dominate. And so, in the future, we can expect two more main studio releases, one on the side of life, and one on the side of death, while “Under the Fragmented Sky” is an album in between.
For now we look forward to more gaps in the busy Riverside schedule hoping that, just like Meller Gołyźniak Duda who released “Breaking Habits” (Rock Serwis) in 2016, Lunatic Soul will also play live one day. When asked about it by his fans and journalists, the artist – in contrast to the theme of his works, a lovely and cheerful guy – always replies with a smile, “Maybe…”