Thomas Feiner & Anywhen, "The Opiates – Revised"

"The Opiates" opens like a journey: on "The Siren Songs," an anxious orchestra buoys the captivating baritone of singer Thomas Feiner. But Feiner takes a powerful turn at the chorus when, instead of fighting, he succumbs to the sirens, letting himself drown. This sets the tone for an album that's stunning in its beauty – and that once lay on the brink of disaster.


2001's "The Opiates" was the band's third full-length, and its last. With support from their label, Clearspot (run by Andreas Schaffer), the band constructed its own simple studio in two basement rooms in Gothenburg. But while the album began as a group effort, the band dissolved in the two years it took to complete – leaving Feiner to finish the project alone. "As the project progressed, it became apparent that we all had very different ambitions. I was the person most committed to making this record, and as it became obvious that the band members had grown apart – without conflicts or harsh words – I remained alone on the project most of the time, occasionally assisted by drummer Kalle and bass player Mikael."


The band's new studio lay empty having played out its role, and eventually Feiner moved the recording to his own graphic studio – "A stately heavily ornamented place, perfect to go crazy in." As he recalls, "I worked and slept during the days, and made music at night, when the building was empty. I think I suffered some kind of burn-out during this period. Being around people had always caused me some tension and discomfort, but this time the problems took on new dimensions. When I went to Warsaw for the symphonic session, I was a nervous wreck... On the other hand, musically this was one of the greatest moments for me."


The final album is intoxicating yet unsettled, a wanderer's record that loses itself on the way. On the Scott Walker-like ballad "Dinah & the Beautiful Blue," Feiner tests his lowest register over the brooding strings of the Warsaw Radio Symphony Orchestra. Atmospheric ballads blend seamlessly with more traditional rock songs such as "Mesmerene," and the album's romantic impulses temper its intricate arrangements - like the swirling woodwinds and delusional guitar of "Postcard," or the gentle woodwinds on "Toy," which echo Mark Hollis' self-titled album. And while the lyrics of closing track "All That Numbs You" ridicule a quiet suburban life spent hiding behind fences, Feiner's narcotic delivery sounds curiously sympathetic.


"At the time of making the record I had a sense of us all gradually being dragged into the 'doing job you hate to buy things you don't need' kind of lifestyle. Coming of age and getting respectable, in short. And once those glasses were on, I'd see this all around me. A kind of sleepiness, people being lulled into their respective roles, compromising dreams, ideals and inspirations in the process."


This updated edition of "The Opiates" includes two of Feiner's more recent songs: "Yonderhead," and "For Now," which was also featured in the German film "Love in Thoughts". The reissue on David Sylvian's SamadhiSound label comes several years after Sylvian first heard the album, which he regards as a lost classic. Sylvian recalls, "The dark, brooding, romantic nature of the material and, in particular, the emotional gravity of Thomas' voice, came as something of a surprise to me as it was quite out of keeping with my listening habits of the time but I couldn't help but be drawn into its widescreen, colour-drained, soundscapes."


Sylvian tracked down Feiner at his workplace in Gothenburg, Sweden, with an invitation to bring his work to samadhisound. This meeting led to Feiner's appearance on Steve Jansen's "Slope", where he performs on the track "Sow the Salt," and now to this well-earned reissue. In addition to his career as a digital artist and illustrator, Feiner continues to make music, developing a solo album which is intended for release on SamadhiSound.


Seven years after its original release, "The Opiates" remains a crucial discovery. The wild ideas and late, lonely nights that Feiner gave to this record are still here – and so is its sensual, uneasy beauty.