Soulitude, So Came Restless Night: The Storm above the Marksman’s Range

In the liner notes for So Came Restless Night, Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Christian Peters mentions that he’d never intended to release anything under the moniker of this Soulitude project, but that it was the encouragement of the few for whom he played this material that finally brought him around to the idea of doing so. Peters, who serves also in the guitarist/vocalist role for Samsara Blues Experiment and doubles as the head of Electric Magic Records, which is releasing So Came Restless Night, conveys that kind of inward sensibility throughout the album’s nine songs. Instrumental but for the closer “All that’s Left Behind,” the 39-minute span of what has wound up as the debut release from Soulitude (for which Peters also handled the artwork/layout as part of his Sun Art visual side) keeps to a layered, exploratory feel that results in an intimate take on psychedelic/acid folk, Peters‘ penchant for sitar flourish, keys and mandolin adding depth to the arrangements while keeping a balance with the solo-project vibe. There are a variety of moods throughout, but most of them joyful, and for anyone who might know Peters‘ work from Samsara Blues Experiment or his time previously in Terraplane, the softer sound of Soulitude could come as a surprise, but I doubt it will. Much of the atmospherics he brings to┬áSo Came Restless Night, Peters has worked into the sensibilities of his other projects, so it’s less that Soulitude is coming out of nowhere than it is focusing on a different side of similar elements to what Peters has done all along. The lush acoustic and electric guitar interplay on the penultimate “Voices of the Forest” will be recognizable, and certainly his affinity for Eastern textures is carried over as well. Soulitude doesn’t come without context, but even for someone who perhaps isn’t familiar with Peters‘ work, there’s plenty here to latch onto for fans of acid folk and the solo psychedelia proffered by the likes of Lamp of the Universe.

Peters originally self-released So Came Restless Night on CD-R in 2009, so technically the Electric Magic version is a reissue, but I’ve been thinking of it more as an official release for the solo-project, which was also remastered by PetersSamsara Blues Experiment bandmate, Richard Behrens. Either way, the greater likelihood is that these songs will be new to those who hear them, and given the inherently classic nature of the material, it’s not like it comes across any more dated four years later than it’s meant to be. I don’t know what span of time these recordings were made — there’s a palpable jump in volume as the more synth-driven “Ballad of the Black Swan” gives way to “Last Farewell to Elisabeth” — but nothing really interrupts the molten flow that emerges song to song, and with Peters as the uniting and driving force behind the album’s 39 minutes, there’s little to account for in terms of hiccups. Interestingly, centerpiece “The Albatross” is credited to French poet Charles Baudelaire, but I’m not sure if it’s an interpretation of his poem of the same name or if there’s speech buried somewhere in the mix, because although the recordings throughout So Came Restless Night are relatively bare-bones — it’s not underproduced, but it’s self-made — there’s still a sense of dimension and of depth to each track, beginning with the airy guitars of “Intro,” which set up a subtle post-desert rock influence soon to emerge and find resolution on “Morninghope,” the winding notes of which spiral out in full color and provide an early highlight following the melodic effects wash of opener “Natural Mystic,” where effects mania (think: guitar as theremin) is buried under sweet electric guitar leads. Much of Peters‘ output is based on variations — he’ll work with electric guitar principally on “Morninghope,” acoustics and sitar on the subsequent “Awakening” — but if the album is assembled of these experiments, it’s not without some clear effort put into the construction. It moves easily and brings you with it.

“The Albatross” is about as close as Peters comes to minimalism, keeping for a time an undercurrent of synth to sweet acoustic lines, but the back half of So Came Restless Night is more lush and packed also with longer titles — the last four tracks comprising four or more words each while the first five were one or two words — “Ballad of the Black Swan” generating something of a swirl before “Last Farewell to Elisabeth” complements the synth wash that track presents with layers of electric guitar, engaged in a deceptively bluesy solo. At this point, Soulitude is at its most immersive, and if you’re ever going to get lost in the record, it probably will have happened by the time the song’s 5:38 are over. That leaves “Voices of the Forest” and “All that’s Left Behind” to close out, the two songs accounting for about a quarter of the album’s total runtime and the vast majority of that going to “Voices of the Forest,” which is the longest cut on So Came Restless Night at 7:50. Unsurprisingly, the track takes its time unfolding its full breadth, but when it does, “Voices of the Forest” steps in line behind the acoustic guitar and presents the collection’s most definitively folkish moment. It makes for a gorgeous, fitting culmination, and while there are multiple ideas presented here I’d hope Peters could see fit to develop for future Soulitude material, I’d be most interested to hear how he might combine the ethics behind the instrumental build of “Voices of the Forest” and “All that’s Left Behind,” which is an automatic standout as the closer for being the only piece here with vocals. Peters‘ voice is no less suited to the quiet acoustic-led psych here than it is to some of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s more out-there jams — which is to say it’s quite well suited — and while it’s curious he’d end So Came Restless Night with vocals where the record preceding has none, neither is this out of place, feeling more like an arrival after “Voices of the Forest” than a departure to somewhere else musically. Such is the fluid nature of this material, and while I don’t know if Peters has any plans to continue on with new recordings as Soulitude — he does not seem to be lacking in ways to keep busy — there’s plenty of potential here for growth should he get a free minute to pick up the project somewhere down the line. And if that doesn’t happen, and So Came Restless Night is all there is, that’s okay too. These songs have held up pretty well already and I hear nothing in them to indicate they won’t continue to do so.

Soulitude, “All that’s Left Behind” from So Came Restless Night (2013)

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