[Reviewed by: Damiano Lanzi]
Thomas Nöla is part of that inner circle of non-classifiable artists whose music spreads its roots in such a vast panorama that it can’t be explained in just a few words. Furthermore, he has the rare ability to assemble an extremely personal language from these many suggestions, that are often difficult to track down. “Future Illusions” may be less direct than his previous work “Monoliths”: here the classic rock lineup with guitars, drums and bass often gives ground to sparse atmospheres, widespread reverbs and an experimentation on the spatiality of sound (just listen to the symphonic string score of “Go Make Magic” or the vocal track in “Olivia”).
In “Masters of Men” the essential arrangement, structured on long notes of electric organ, displays all the warmth and expressiveness of Nöla’s voice in an articulated and fascinating melody. “Solstice Canyon” begins as a crooked folk song from the ‘60s; the guitar strumming and ethnic percussions, together with a somewhat sinister feel, almost recall the musical output of Charles Manson. Then it evolves into epic strings and a western whistled part. A song built on a dialectic between fullness and emptiness that flow continuously in a natural way.
All the elements of Nöla’s poetry are epitomized in “Childhood’s End”: a nostalgia made of ancient objects with a dusty charm and broken toys, of cheap carousel organs and twang guitars, of summer evenings filled with melancholy. “Unknown Unknowns” has a strong percussive power in the obsessive beat of the piano and electronic drum patterns, attenuated by the vintage synth line with a fat sound that we find again in the ironic cabaret piece “Baboon Park”. We know that Nöla is also close to the neofolk world, and from this perspective “Hall of Colors” may seem as if sung by an unusually joyful Douglas P; an impression supported by acoustic guitar chords, martial drum machines and the wooden sounding theme that wouldn’t have been out of place in “Rose Clouds of Holocaust”.
I really think that Thomas Nöla’s versatility and originality deserve a much wider appreciation: he’s able to create an old fashioned mood with modern songwriting, while at the same time he never indulges a stagnant style. All the songs in “Future Illusions” have a peculiar identity and are worth being listened to in all their nuances, from the jangling Rhodes piano of the title track, to the post-punk, sweeping synths and feedbacks of “Feel the Hole”, and ending with the spiritual “Let the Sun Shine In” (and the beach choir ghost track!).