The Nottingham musician combines his evocative songwriting and vivid imagination, creating a fictional universe of endless possibility.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An adept musician whose ingenuity elicits art of endless possibility, Richard Self has consistently experimented with diverse sounds and unique concepts, in turn moulding an absorbing catalogue which captures the very best of his progressive vision. Writing music since the late 80s, the Nottingham songwriter currently finds himself at the peak of his creative powers, with his latest album ‘Lives of the ignorant, Pt.2’ combining his artistic nous and boundless imagination, culminating in a captivating and transcendent body of work.  

An assured follow-up to its 2021 predecessor, ‘Lives of the ignorant, Pt.2’ picks up exactly where part 1 left off. Narrating the journey of a humble spy recruited by the Intergalactic Secret Service, the story’s second instalment explores the latest endeavours of Agent 701, whose supernatural world of chaos and mystery breeds tales of love, heartbreak, and revenge. Written in East Midlands but located in galaxies far from Earth, Self’s ethereal production and meticulously constructed storyline will transcend you into a world you never knew existed, but instantly want to be a part of. The musical equivalent of an Isaac Asimov-Ian Fleming crossover, ‘Lives of the ignorant, Pt.2’ embraces every ounce of the Nottingham performer’s musical experience, with his profound, yet vivid songwriting leaving just enough room for the listener’s imagination to roam.

Providing a brief recap of Agent 701’s story to date, the opening narration on ‘Spectacular’ immediately paints the intergalactic landscape with its fuzzy, distorted synths and expansive mix. An insightful recount of the protagonist’s performance to date, the Head of the Secret Service issues a glowing report, before hinting at the looming threat of an interstellar war. The following track, ‘Blood’, sees Agent 701 continue on his mystical quest, unfastening the safety belt and embracing a world full of adventure, as stated by the lyric; “I can show you more than this world”. Employing an infectious modern twist on 80s new-wave, the track’s wavering synths, evocative vocals and pounding bass combine to generate one of the album’s most psychedelic tracks, with its momentous atmosphere leading you to become fully immersed in Richard Self’s fictional universe. This introduction is later backed up by the 7-minute epic, ‘Messier 42’, whose endless sea of heavily distorted guitars embody the sheer chaos which is unfolding all around him.

Stream ‘Lives of the ignorant Pt.2’ by Richard Self on Spotify.

As fascinating as Agent 701 is, he’s certainly not alone in this universe, as further characters are called upon to advance the story to even greater heights. In doing so, this opens up a broader soundscape for Self to experiment with. Unveiling the intimate bond between the protagonist and a fellow Agent 390, the talented Allison Chamberlain is invited to deliver some exquisite vocals. Capturing the cherished moment of realising you’re in love, ‘A gentle time’ is both pure and innocent, with Chamberlain’s ethereal vocals gracing the track with a delicate touch. Featured once more on ‘Love Again’, the elegant singer can be heard protesting, “I want a quiet life for you”. A synth-pop/house crossover which features an emphatic saxophone solo, this track serves as the quiet before the storm, where all hell is about to break loose.  

Agent 390’s tragic death precipitates a period of extended grief for 701, as he struggles to come to terms with love’s euphoric sensation being snatched from his palms. Coming face-to-face with the murderer (played by Robbie Spillaine) on ‘Tonight’, the Nottingham musician reaches inside for his Hard-Rock influences, delivering some excruciating metal riffs, which combined the abrasive percussion, administers an incredibly ominous atmosphere. This confrontation is followed by the album’s most despondent track in ‘Numb’, whose exasperating vocals and melancholic ambience present a poignant period of mourning. But sure enough, ‘Time to say goodbye’ closes this chapter of his life, with Agent 701 finding solace in the fact that one day he will rekindle their love in the afterlife.

‘Sky bound and happy’ closes the album in vibrant fashion, as 701 is introduced to an ancient God, (Lisa Dever) whose power and status elicit a trail of endless questions. A bustling closer brimming with life, the sparkling synths and thrilling guitar riffs capture the protagonist’s state of exuberance, whose jovial anticipation may denote the end of the album, but also signify the start of a new, spontaneous chapter.

Combining his vivid imagination, electronic production, and undeniable songwriting, Richard Self has once again outdone himself. An ethereal experience from beginning to end, ‘Lives of the ignorant, Pt.2’ is both innovative and effective, with its coherent blend of sci-fi and new-wave making it one of most emphatic experimental albums of the year. And with such a meticulously crafted framework, who’s to say there won’t be another edition in the future?

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