Brno songwriter Michal “cosmonaut” Šimíček has long been seen as a man who knows how to write poetic, often multi-layered lyrics and link them with interesting music. Even the first album of his band Nevermore & Kosmonaut was for me was like a conceptual project. Although the songs lacked direct continuity in small details, lyrics and music, it was as if they were related to each other. In terms of novelty however Bleděmodré město (Pale Blue City) takes the band much further. This time it is a thematically sandwiched whole, dedicated to the city of Brno, worked out down to the last detail. “This conceptual album is our response to the current trend, where it has become a habit to do a single with a video and listen to the songs piecemeal, without order,” explains Šimíček in the album booklet, and this booklet is an integral part of this project and “story”.
Nevermore & Kosmonaut are by no means the first to react against the trend of distracted listening and streaming of individual works. In recent years there have been successful concept albums from the groups Epydemye (Kotlina), Radůza (Maraton – Příběh běžce) or for example Jiří Slavík (Mateřština). Even here in Brno in recent times there have been comprehensive recordings in various genres (instrumentally Raport from Tomáš Hrubiš, using recordings from the bustle of Brno’s streets, or Děcka posledního domu by the alternative rock group Vlněna), but Kosmonaut’s Bleděmodré město is a clear tribute to the city of Brno from start to finish, without the author resorting to local dialect or explicitly describing favourite or hated places. Šimíček’s lyric-writing language is poetic, in many places only slightly hints at things, letting the audience imagine the details. But for those who want an insight into the author's cooking - and perhaps even up to the plate - the booklet tells the stories linked to the songs, and gives many suggestions and even photos.
Since the last album Mezi planetami (Between the Planets), which was released four years ago, there has been has been a fundamental change in the band. The original foursome (Šimíček as a singer, Štěpán Axman on bass, Pavel Karas on guitar and Aleš Vosáhlo on guitars and keyboards) have acquired drummer Jakub Kočička. The music has moved on from folk more towards pop and rock, but basic attributes of a quality singer-songwriter’s work, the focus on the text and the story, have remained intact. The album has a very good sound and the arrangements also deserve much praise. Even in such details as that every song starts differently (one with a bass figure, from one guitar, one of the drums ...) which enhances and adds variety and gives it a certain tension as a whole. Other instruments such as the trumpet of guest artist Libor Třeška (Bufet Vesmír) or the pulsating rhythm that for example quite significantly takes the introductory song Hlas away from folk music, are used sparingly.
Besides the percussion the largest shift is in the use of the bass, which in some moments becomes the most prominent instrument. This highlights not only the rhythmic component that corresponds to the pulse of the city, the basic theme of the album, but also with Šimíček’s declamatory singing, which sometimes verges on rap.In fact, the absence of significant and memorable melodies is perhaps the only major complaint about the band, but this handicap is balanced by the already mentioned interesting arrangements and the powerful stories in the lyrics.
In individual songs Michal Šimíček returns to places that he likes or liked in Brno (including the house where he spent his childhood and which no longer stands). He wanders through the night-time streets, goes to bars, stops on the station platform, and sings of the spirit of places and people he encounters. With his wife Lada he then symbolically sings a duet of the two rivers in Brno, which in the city merge into one.
Bleděmodré město is an album about Brno, as it is, as it was, what it no longer is and what it has never been. We may miss the demolished houses, but also the missing embankment. All this is said by Michal Šimíček in his lyrics, the band illustrating it in music and David Konečný adds beautiful photographs which surprisingly do not feature members of the group, but actors from the Theatre Goose on a String. Some pictures illustrate the songs directly (Nádraží – Railway Station), while others give a new dimension to an idea (Až sněhem – Until it Snows). All, however, were created in photogenic locations in Brno and in conjunction with the songs offering listeners (especially those from outside Brno) tips on where to go in Brno. The band is helpful even in such details as that each text or photo has added GPS coordinates. After listening to this inspiring album you may be surprised how much this “pale blue city” invites you to take a stroll. And you will notice even the small details.
The christening of the album will take place on 18 June 2018 (Brno Observatory and Planetarium).
Nevermore & Kosmonaut: Bleděmodré město, issued at their own expense in June 2018, 11 tracks, total playing time: 48:33