In 2014, former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and Flower Kings/Transatlantic guitarist Roine Stolt began a musical dialogue initiated by Inside Out Music boss Thomas Waber. Invention of Knowledge is their result. Co-produced by the artists, it features a prog dream team: Stolt's brother Michael and Jonas Reingold on basses, keyboardists Lalle Larsson and Tom Brislin, drummer Felix Lehrmann, and a five-voice chorus that includes Daniel Gildenlöw. Waber wanted them to extend the range of "Yes music." That happens, but there's way more to it. Anderson can still create in the mold of his former band, but he also brings his solo experience that explored a vast range of musical traditions. Stolt was deeply influenced by Yes, but he's a rugged individualist. His composing, playing, and modern production ideas are informed by jazz, fusion, electronic, rock, and world musics. He refracts everything through a third-wave prog prism.
The set commences with the "Invention" suite (also comprising "We Are Truth" and "Knowledge"). It is realized through the combination of shimmering folk (English and Swedish), sophisticated pop, jazz fusion, Indian modalism, rockist dynamics, and symphonic strings. Challenging guitar, percussion, and keyboard interplay create a frame for Anderson's contrapuntal vocals. His mytho-poetic lyrics continue to juxtapose physical and metaphysical realms, deep psychology, scientific investigation, and spiritual affirmation. His wide-eyed optimism is undiminished by time (neither is his voice). Second suite "Knowing"/"Chase and Harmony" weaves gorgeous piano and guitar counterpoint into spiraling musical feats. Anderson's melodic invention anchors this engaging mix and encourages flight. Stolt's weave of modern electronic soundscapes, instrumental savvy, and stacked backing vocals adds new colors and textures such as fat R&B horns, stinging bluesy guitar fills, processional percussion, and rhythmic string syncopations. The "Everybody Heals" suite embodies the segments "Better by Far" and "Golden Light." While Stolt's mercurial guitar playing and Reingold's roiling bassline are the instrumental hallmarks throughout, the work's harmonic architecture was erected on a chamber string progression. The interlocking pieces are brightly orchestrated and lushly illustrated with keyboards and choral vocals. Anderson's expressive delivery moves through labyrinthine pop, trad-inspired folk-rock, and elegant jazz, and even touches on Brit soul.
The gorgeous 11-minute closer, "Know," is a stand-alone track. Despite its length and changes in musical direction, it's a beautifully written, nearly hummable song. Its structure employs electric piano, organ, and vibes in jazzy, samba-tinged frames during the first third. Single-line synths (think Rick Wakeman), knotty guitars, and majestic drums append the second and uncover its third-wave prog persona, before a final section carries it out on a breezy wave of Caribbean rhythms and tender singing. On an already emotionally and spiritually affirmative album, this resonant finale is nearly transcendent. Invention of Knowledge displays the individualism of both men. They pursue grandeur, but leave out excess. They add to the depth, dimension, and legacy Yes established, but also make plain that the result is forward-thinking 21st century prog, free of overwrought nostalgia or self-indulgence. ~ Thom Jurek