New in 5.1: From The Dark Side of The Moon
Our review of Mary Fahl’s 5.1 release of this groundbreaking reinterpretation of the Pink Floyd classic, produced by Mark Doyle and David Werner.
By Ben Jacklin
Mary Fahl is probably best known for her work as the lead singer of ‘90s folk-rock band, The October Project, but her musical passions and abilities stretch far beyond this, as we see in this updated 5.1 surround sound release of a real passion project from Mary. From The Dark Side of The Moon pays homage to one of the most innovative albums of all time: The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
This is no vanity album full of self-indulgent cover versions. It is a reimagining, a fitting tribute, and an incredible interpretation all at the same time.
Mark Doyle and David Werner co-produced the album, with Doyle supplying much of the instrumentation. It is clear to see from Mark and Mary’s discussions with Mike Vieira from Life in Surround that Doyle was as much invested in the project as anyone. Doyle’s jazz roots and incredible connection to the music are discussed in their interview, as he and Mary Fahl give some interesting insights into the conception and production of the album almost a decade ago. Its transformation into a high-quality surround sound experience – a revival of Bob Clearmountain’s original 5.1 mix – makes this album a promising Grammy contender in the future.
Further fascinating insights on the album come from Doyle’s own personal blog. He says, “For Mary Fahl, DSOM was all about speaking from her heart, but it was also like leaping off a cliff and free falling into the deepest depths of her own spontaneous intellect, femininity, and spirituality.”
Many music fans know the track listing of this album by heart. It is a rite of passage for rock fans of a certain generation. There’s nothing at all “samey” about the way Fahl’s interpretation creeps up on us, though. The rhythmic and almost abstract opener “Speak to Me” uses a different musical canvas, but the same drop into psychedelia is achieved.
“Breathe” brings Mary Fahl’s first vocals. The track is awash with reverb and echo that swirls and builds in three dimensions, and hits very differently to Floyd’s original. Shades of 1990’s Portishead can be heard in the way the huge soundscape takes on an almost electronic rhythm.
A choppy, jagged and electronically processed “On The Run” follows, and the unsettling tone of the album has been set, before “Time” creates a more traditional format for Fahl to show off her incredibly powerful vocals.
“The Great Gig in The Sky” becomes a mellow interlude of sorts. Transposed to a major key, it could almost be coffee shop background music. For those who know the original, prepare for “Money.” The iconic riff of one of Pink Floyd’s chart hits has been transformed, as Doyle, Werner, Clearmountain and Fahl create a composition that has all the attitude of the original, but with freedom to explore and improvise musically, and intricate layers of guitar and percussion, intertwined with Fahl’s chopped-up, rearranged vocals toward the end.
“Us and Them” feels like we’re back on familiar ground. A rich seven minute rendition of a song that pulsates and builds to a gentle, but very real crescendo. “Any Colour You Like” and “Brain Damage” further the Portishead vibes, with the unsettling layers of piano and processed drums bringing us to the finality of the iconic “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” line, performed with the vocal precision we’ve come to expect from Mary.
The almost reprisal “Eclipse” brings Fahl’s vocals to the forefront for our triumphant farewell. The layers almost fade away, and we are left with clarity and intimacy as the vocals become even more powerful, finishing an incredible tribute with a true flourish, and a fitting feeling of accomplishment.
Editor’s Note: In January 2021, over 1,500 readers voted to award From The Dark Side of The Moon our inaugural Listeners’ Choice Award for Best Immersive Audio Album of 2020.
About the Author
Ben is a writer and musician from the UK with a background in music technology. He writes about engineering and production, musicianship and music equipment for a number of publications including his own site, subreel.com