Adjy – The Idyll Opus (I-VI)

I first reached out to Adjy frontman Christopher Noyes through Bandcamp in 2018 (this was the most evident way to contact the band directly, as they have no social media presence). Over a year of silence passed and I frankly forgot about the communication entirely. But upon the release of the two “A Boy Called June” tracks in 2019, Noyes greeted me with what is still one of the most memorable emails I’ve ever gotten. I’ll simply leave it at that. In this correspondence, I heard the first murmuring of what would become The Idyll Opus, a title befitting a multimedia effort, of which, at the time, the first part exceeded 80 minutes.

It’s no understatement to say this has been one of my most-anticipated albums in years. Sure, I’ve heard some truly life-changing albums recently. But these have largely come out of nowhere. With 2016’s Prelude (.3333), Adjy had not only set the bar exceptionally high on songwriting and wordcraft – they hinted this was a mere teaser of what was yet to come. Ever since, I’ve been eager to see the fuller extent of their work.

Before I dive into the album itself, there is a fair deal I feel I need to say. Firstly, nearly every song on this first half of the project is at least five minutes – with the longest exceeding 17. Much as Noyes promised, this piece of the story exceeds 80 minutes over its 15 tracks.

The artwork itself is also noteworthy, paying homage to that of Prelude (.3333). It has a similar form and theme, but now cicada imagery and a clock are central here, as well as outlines of two people reaching for each other. It’s a truly-nuanced piece that feels like the cover of a book. There’s a maple seed at the top and dandelion at the bottom. Of course, ALL of these elements are tied closely to the album itself. As a bit of foreshadowing, this is an album of liberal amounts of symbolism.

Lastly, the point of the album’s release date is fairly substantial. An album where nine tracks are tied to the convalescence of June and July feels appropriately-timed; while June and July are characters rather than literal months (or are they?), the heart of this album rests in the concept of summer. It’s where the heart of activity happens, and more so, it’s when Noyes and team spent a great deal working on the project in unison, with Noyes taking a more isolated approach to the project other parts of the year.

It’s important to note there is a larger story behind this album and its inevitable successor and it’s hard to tell how much of it is abstracted from Noyes’ life and how much is purely fiction. But as said on “Praepositio”, The truth of fiction is that it’s through the use of fiction we tell the truth.” It doesn’t feel like a stretch that to some degree The Idyll Opus would be in part biographical, even if obfuscated in a variety of ways. Noyes is definitely a skilled lyricist, and his writing abilities surely extend beyond that of music (I caught glimpse of this in the aforementioned email). And as a lover of language, I don’t feel I can adequately separate these seemingly-disparate elements. After all, this is meant to be seen as an opus of sorts. If there were not greater truth to glean here. As such, I’ll cover this album in two parts – first, speaking to the music and “surface” interpretation of the lyrics; secondly, looking at the entire album through the lens of what I have of the official story and my thoughts according to this framing.


Some listeners may notice familiarity in the opening track. But rest assured, “In Medias Res (Between Longing and Mystery)” is not the same single from years past. While lyrics remain the same, vocal melodies have shifted a bit, background vocals are looped, and the end result is a few seconds longer. It might feel remiss to not go into full detail on all the differences, this is the canon version of the track. This six-and-a-half-minute opener is odd to some degree – in medias res is a storytelling term that refers to a work starting in the middle of the action, typically followed by flashbacks to fill in the blanks of the plot. This plays a bit into the overall meta-narrative (more on that later), but given the definitive shift in characters to come, it might be hard to pick out where in the story this track actually sits. That’s not to suggest any of this is necessary to enjoy the song; if anything, it’s a simple nod to Noyes’ appreciation for film and literature.

It’s on this track that Adjy waste no time conjuring incredible atmosphere. Their arrangements feel huge, and this version of the song feels more vast than its previous iteration by far. The process is curious – Adjy is far from the most technical band in the world, nor are they the most immersive. Much of the mood happens in context of multiplicative simplicity – layered loops and parts, crescendos, melodies. Any piece on its own might be passable, but the sum is greater than its parts by far.

The Idyll Opus (I-VI) by Adjy

Semantics aside, there are certain expectations for bookend tracks. The first track should set the tone, guide the narrative, and formulate listener expectations. “In Medias Res (Between Longing and Mystery)” undeniably does all of this well. The audience is greeted with Appalachian-tinged progressive indie rock that is verbose and high-energy. There is no ease-in here; Adjy put their best foot forward and waste neither seconds nor words. When the opening track is single-worthy, you know you’re in for quite a ride.

On the top of singles, the next two “A Boy Called June” tracks were also previously debuted. These two seamless tracks set the first glimpse of tangible plot that carries on through the rest of the record. It’s the end of school and the start of summer. Youthful innocence permeates the lyrics – “Don’t even trust an order that enforces use of clothes”. There are images of swimming in the lake under the heat of the sun, run around with nothing better to do, swinging from a rope, spend time with friends without a care in the world.

But this is more than a simple mood. It’s this character of youth that is central to what follows. Context truly is key, even in the most surface reading here. We must understand that as we watch what unfolds, it may be through the lens of a world now inaccessible to us in our age. We are presented with what was and what might have been. For many of us, we are displaced from this reality. This is perhaps nothing new from the standpoint of fiction, but with many songs having no specific identifier of age, this is noteworthy. June, our protagonist, is young and wild, with life’s many doors open before him. One thing to note is the use of organic sounds – running water and chirping crickets that help solidify the narrative. Noyes breaks the fourth wall and invites listeners into these songs intimately. We might not necessarily feel similar to the protagonists, but we can feel near them.

These two tracks form a seamless anthology of Adjy’s dynamic spectrum; the former showcasing their more traditional, percussive indie prowess and the latter highlighting their newfound use of banjo and larger folk slant. It’s hard to say one is stronger than the other, but it certainly shows a development in the band’s sound (potentially due to member changes). While piano and synthesizers were more prominent on their earlier works, there is something more mystical happening here.

“Where June Meets July: I. Overture” begins what constitutes the bulk of the album’s narrative. It’s an instrumental track, something new for the group, but it helps ease in the core story and separate the newer part of the release from the more familiar first three songs.

Earlier, I mentioned how the artwork is similar to Prelude (.3333), but that’s not the only parallel here. Take this line – “Onward to the Land of Lincoln! / Set camp upon the eve of gala!” – and this one from “Another Flammarion Woodcut” – “We drove up to Illinois / And ran through a glowing field of hope”. There’s a lot more to be discussed in particular when it comes to the lyrics of “Where June Meets July: II. On a Road Trip That Summer’s Day…”, some which you might be able to piece together if you’re familiar with a certain summer music festival in Illinois, but needless to say, it does feel Prelude (.3333) is indeed a related work. If it’s to be taken as canon, June and July met approximately in their early 20s. June and his band are about to hit the road, open which a friend introduces him to a girl named July who accompanies them to the festival. In the midst of this narrative, Noyes references Greek mythology and astrology alike; his lyrics certainly demand full annotation at some point as they’re littered with all sorts of references.

Musically, this is quite a turn. The first half of the has a bluegrass sheen and banjo and fiddle which eventually give way to Adjy’s percussive focus. But even that is somewhat short-lived; though that the song isn’t as full as some of its compatriots, it still has a very progressive feeling to it.

“Where June Meets July: III. At a Dance Where the Stars Cross” continues seamlessly, adding even more instrumentation. Dulcimer augments the track beautiful and immediately makes it a highlight. Accordion is here as well, and when the drums kick in, it feels like festival in the mountains that would fit the title. “Can you fence life in?” This lyrical question feels rhetorical as the song moves forward with youthful whimsy. You’ll want to have a dictionary or search engine handy as references to Thomas Earnshaw and the term “coquettishly” are dropped casually. This track, like much of the album, is played out conversationally in Shakespearean fashion. It is a myopic narrative, one that briefly reminds us that other people do exist but rarely appear except in passing word. We see June and July’s relationship deepen bit by bit.

The album’s latest single (and perhaps the only track unmodified prior to release), “Where June Meets July: IV. O Tonight”, is easily one of the most captivating tracks on the record. June and July meet in the middle of the night, and the imagery of meeting late outside during the summer feels reinforced by the strong percussive drive. Bass and layered vocals all add a huge dynamic to the track, and each variation of the chorus highlights a different piece of Adjy’s dynamic. Gang vocals and harmonies are the icing on the cake. It’s instantly-catchy, yet it’s a technical marvel as well. I can’t help but admire the part around 2:30 as perhaps my favorite moment on the whole album. Even on a surface reading, the lyrics tackle the nature of Truth and the power of persuasion. July is from the city, and June chooses to challenge her thought process a bit on some of the rigid, mechanical elements of society. One important plot point here is that June gives July a maple seed to plant back in city so she’ll have something beautiful to remember later.

It’s uncertain if the song referenced in the title of “Where June Meets July: V. Maps (In the tune of “The Great Midwestern Summer Jig”)” actually exists, but it’s arguably a bit inconsequential. It feels real. The new songs using old melodies is something that has happened in the world of hymns and folk songs for centuries, so the idea that Adjy might be paying tribute to some lost song is entirely possible. Musically, the track is Anathallo-meets-bluegrass; it’s not the most immediately memorable, but it is a bit of a fun diversion. Lyrically, we’re told the cast are finally in the cornfields of Illinois.

“Where June Meets July: VI. The Cicada’s Song pt I” pays homage to “A Boy Call June, pt.II” instrumentally, and it’s this sort of continuity and self-awareness that keeps the album immersive. While the earlier track saw June’s reckless abandon, hope, and longing, here we see fulfillment and centering of his personality. While the two argue over the significance of a cicada shell, he eventually acknowledges he has finally found someone with a similar thought process and longs to be with July.

The second part of the Cicada saga is tinged with math rock guitar and explosive energy. I’ve already mentioned Anathallo, but I have to bring them up again. Adjy feels like a certain reincarnation, with much of the same variety of instrumentation, bridled chaos, and captivating song structures. This song in particular also feels like “A Flammarion Woodcut” by Noyes’ previous group, Solia Tera (in many ways, a direct predecessor of how Adjy would eventually sound). It’s subtle and it’s certainly something a very small portion of the audience would ever realize, but it feels that much more rewarding for the detective work I’ve done over the years to see this type of nod in the mix.

This is Adjy flaunting their rock chops at full force. While a good part of the album at least toys with Appalachian influence, here guitar, drums, keys, and bass are the main ingredients. The addition of new instruments isn’t a downside, but this song feels like a return to form for Adjy for fans who discovered the group during the Prelude (.3333) era. This is a rock song and there’s no contest against it. Of course, the crescendo adds strings, brass, and even woodwinds to incredible effect.

Much like the “A Boy Called June” tracks, these two Cicada tracks are both seamless and consistently-moving. The dynamic is reversed from their predecessors, building from quiet vulnerability to orchestral close. And to some degree, this is a microcosm of the record at whole. Both of these songs are some of the best on the record and waste no time leaving a lasting impression.

“Where June Meets July: VIII. Secretus Libre: Beneath the Fireworks that fell in Mystique Participation” is a hefty title and undeniably feels a little pretentious. This song is from July’s perspective and she reveals her childhood health issues that kept her inside for a year. During this period, she found a mysterious book in her grandfather’s attic. Halfway through, the story stops and she’s devoted to finishing it. “What’s inside became the world to me,” July notes. The two decide to go to the city to pursue their artistic endeavors together in an unexpected twist.

Musically, this is one of the quietest tracks. The vocals are tenderly whispered and there is no percussion to be found. It feels particular intimate and intense, especially in the final moments where horns come in. There are plenty more astrological references to be found, keeping with much of the album. Even though this is one of the longest tracks – and most bare – it never feels dull or slow as is common for many other bands. Even in moments of restraint, The Idyll Opus is immersive.

The saga closes on “Where June Meets July: IX. In The Space Between Pages…”, a song that reflects on how June and July’s relationship is not unlike the 17-year cycle of cicadas. There’s a yearning for Eden, a longing for redemption. There’s some commercial about this song, something strangely familiar. There’s a cinematic build, but even in these moments, the arrangement feels radio-friendly. It’s odd that amid the most accessible moment of the record, Noyes recounts tales of Cain, Romulus, and Gilgamesh – stories of literal epic scope. Even despite a perhaps more straightforward structure than some of its predecessors, the track ultimately still feels at home on the album.

“The Farmland and the Forest’s Edge” is a frenetic track with rapid-fire changes in drum patterns and equally-untamed vocal rhythms. This energy encapsulates the tension of the narrative – while June decided to go to the city with July, his growing frustration with vanity and narcissism of the culture there and decides to leaves. This is another rocker in the mix, with few frills beyond the standard fare of a typical punk band. Perhaps that’s the best way to label this song – punk. The anti-establishment sentiment is hard to miss.

The alchemist’s story takes over again on “Lake Adeyoha”. As he follows in the footsteps of June and July, he laments the cyclical nature of the relationship which has devolved to the pair meeting during the summers and separating again. “Will I ever feel a present tense?”, the alchemist wonders. This is a throwback to “Where June Meets July: II. On a Road Trip that Summer’s Day…” which mentions this very theme.

Musically, this is one of the more interesting tracks with its dual nature – one part Thrice’s Water, one part Anathallo’s Canopy Glow. Adjy has captured the essence of being on a lake, with an open and airy quality conveyed through gentle stick clicks and vibraphone. Noyes’ vocals carry a certain desperation, creating a powerful emotional context. The second half ushers in a powerful crescendo that fades off into stillness. There appears to be singing saw here as well, buried under a fair reverb for true ghostly effect. Noyes manages to saturate this track with all sorts of references, arguably to a denser degree than any of the others off the album.

Thus we arrive at “Eve Beneath the Maple Tree”, a 17-minute closing track that concludes June and July’s tale for this portion of the story. As to be expected, this is amorphous sort of track, manifesting in one manner only to dissipate and reform moments later. “Another Flammarion Woodcut” feels meager in comparison to all the shifts and turns here, as Adjy seamless move between rock anthem and sultry ballad. The full bag of tricks is on full display, with the track ultimately ending on an extended piano piece. It’s nice to see keys take a bit of a larger role here, even if it’s not in the same fashion we’ve seen on earlier Adjy releases.

Lyrically, this is one of the most powerful tracks. July’s health worsens, and with her days numbered, she vows to live with June and finish the book before her death. July asks June to plant the maple seed necklace with her – a phrase that seems innocent enough until you understand the weight of exactly what’s being asked here. The end of one beautiful life shall give way to another. Again, there are lyrical nods to earlier tracks which create a true sense of motif which is lost on many modern albums. It’s arguably not one the strongest tracks, but it’s definitely not one of the weakest – but the story does much of the heavy-lifting here.

Earlier, I spoke to the power of bookend tracks. Understanding that this is simply the first volume of a larger work, providing a proper perspective here seems difficult. We don’t know exactly where the next part will pick up, after all. But, if not for shear magnitude, there was some reason to delineate the two halves. So, with respect to this collection alone, “Eve Beneath the Maple Tree” proves an apt cliffhanger. It foreshadows both story arcs in dramatic and passionate fashion.

Musically speaking, The Idyll Opus (I-VI) has a mystical quality to it; its lyrics only augment this feeling, what with an endless supply of astrological, literary, historical, and mythical references. It’s heady at times, but again, even on a purely surface level reading, there’s a lot to enjoy here. That’s before taking into account the written element of the lyrics – Noyes is particular about the layout of his words, and while it’s something most listeners might entirely overlook or simply be confused by, it’s clear there is some sort of code hidden amongst the seemingly-random italics, capitalizations, and mid-work breaks. To some degree, there is almost an ARG element at play. In another sense, it’s akin to the film Frank, where the titular enigmatic protagonist and his band of misfits break off from society to craft an ambitious album which also happens to include a decent bit of organic sounds. In other respects, the dual-narrative nature of the record is reminiscent of Doug Dorst’s S. Indeed, given this fantastical allure, it feels odd to consider this collection of songs was created by real people. There are few works that are equally ambitious and shrouded in mystery as this album.


The proper story is a bit more involved than the surface reading of the songs might suggest. There are actually two narratives interweaving, the primary one being through the lens of an alchemist narrator. While he only speaks in first person a couple times, his introduction is the heart of “In Medias Res (Between Longing and Mystery)”. He desires to resurrect his dead twin brother, and he believes studying the tale of June and July might provide some clues to do so. Commenting on the full story of course is yet impossible, though I do have suspicions where things might go.

The rest of the story, unsurprisingly, is the actual relationship between June and July; the clash of worlds, the hints of understanding, mutual agreement, sacrifice, mystery, and uncertainty. June is a firebrand of sorts, intent on living life his own way and playing with his band. July is a writer from the city, bound to structure and predictability. The pair bond on a trip to a festival in Illinois and then meeting together over the summer becomes ritual for our two protagonists. June gives July a maple seed to plant in the city which she instead fashions into a necklace. July discloses her health concerns and the time she spent locked inside – it seems those issues might be resurfacing. But rather than stay confined, she wants to live life freely and fully, even if it means her life might be shortened. It’s a question of quality over quantity, one we should also wrestle with ourselves. July also has a mysterious book she has never told anyone about. It has no title nor author, and half of it remains blank. She hopes the two of them can work to finish the book together. Over the course of the story, we see these two characters, or perhaps two worlds, collide with tectonic force – but eventually, things are less seismic and the two seem committed to working together.

Undoubtedly, June feels allusory to Noyes himself. The summer festival and band trip, to some degree, align with Noyes’ previous appearances at Cornerstone in Illinois (most famously in the ska group, Send Out Scuds). The songs seem to outline a very real route he would have taken to get there, but that’s about all I can say confidently. Much of the rest of my discussion will be discourse.

And ultimately, some of this breaks down when it comes to the alchemist. Who is this observer? He does not seem to be any sort of cosmic being or he would not need to find answers in mortal texts; he is evidently finite, limited as a narrator. So, who is the alchemist here? It could be all of us, outsiders trying to navigate the uncertainty of life via proxy of others’ stories. But even this feels perhaps limited. The lost twin and the powers of alchemy feel far too consequential to project ourselves into this character.

It can perhaps be assumed the book the alchemist is reading is the completed book July had – that the pair had eventually finished their tale. We see a fair deal of development in the story of June and July, but the alchemist’s future is still uncertain. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next half of The Idyll Opus focuses a bit more on concluding his story as well.

But conjecture aside for a moment, brevity of life and the nature of time itself are not masked whatsoever as main themes on these songs. The alchemist seeks to overcome death; June wonders what the point of joy in this life is if death will ultimately undo it all; July, much like Vivi from Final Fantasy VII, recognizes that life is worth embracing even amid its restraints. The artwork contains a clock. June and July meet and separate time and time again. June, as a month, bookends the first half of the year; July starts the second half. The Idyll Opus, to some degree, does not feel idyllic when considered in this light. It is somewhat of a tragic coming-of-age story.

But I think I deeper reading is necessary for this very reason. As Hotel of the Laughing Tree once said, “Every story’s been told more than once.” The three-act format is nothing new. And love stories continue to fly off the shelves. Knowing Adjy’s non-commercial slant, I would expect that the love story is merely a convenient and approachable vessel for other ideas. Maybe July is not an actual girl but an artistic premise – one that represents the pressures of society that define which works are acceptable and which ones aren’t worth anyone’s time. The fact she specifically is a writer of course aligns with Noyes’ own interest in language and literature. She proves a convenient means for discourse regarding societal structure, especially regarding creative endeavors. Arguably, it’s possible that June and July represent the dynamic between Noyes and the rest of the band, with Noyes trying to sway his compatriots toward his vision and purpose – though certainly there being a degree of reciprocity at play. After all, the band has moved between Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee, with members at times spread out. That’s certainly limiting, and having everyone in one spot is much more conducive to the creative process.

The Idyll Opus (I-VI) by Adjy

And as discussed earlier, June seems to show a different angle of Noyes’ mindset. While some of it could be biographical, at the very least, much of this person seems idyllic. Everyone talks about wanting to build a tiny home or live in a camper. But talk tends to end before action ever starts. I’m not going to pretend to know anything of Noyes other than his enigmatic aura, but what little is known only leaves more room for imagination. There’s a certain “wilderness prophet” feel at play.

And ultimately, the crux of the narrative seems to involve reconciling these extremes. Personally, I enjoy this approach. In years long past, I created a short film that had two variations which coincided with a different character’s outlook. While these were never released, I can’t help feel reminded of that narrative angle. How do we live meaningfully and creatively when arbitrary forces seem to dictate meaning and worth? Should we compromise to any degree with structures and institutions who might help our creative reach? These questions, rather than posed in essay format, are instead presented as simple sung lines. This is where things start to feel particular eerie – maybe this medium would in fact prove to reach further than a mere written work would. Again, Adjy’s songwriting feels very self-aware.

What is a life lived fully? Each of the characters seems to have compromised in some way: the alchemist, to the inevitable; June, to passion; July, to comfort. Their stories intersect and diverge, but they have yet to reach a proper conclusion. But even in this inchoate state, we can start to see the larger picture. Images of fate, the fall of man, the host of heavens, myths, people, places, the music of the spheres… the weight of existence itself.

These are concepts of meteoric proportion packaged in a story that feels both relationally and traditionally romantic. Noyes manages to distance himself from his work ever so slightly, and while there’s certain something lost in the process, his lyrical notions exist closer to the philosophical nature of Truth; “If something’s true, it don’t need fancy frames” after all. And while the album is certainly a frame of sorts, even the alchemist himself meditates not on the otherworldly but instead the lowly and simple things of this earth.

Closing Thoughts

The Idyll Opus (I-VI) is large in form, ideology, and commentary alike. What might initially appears as an experimental indie-folk album with cliché love story is actually an existence, cinematic thesis of sorts. While Adjy doesn’t give us the answers here (and it’s questionable if they ever could, will, or should), they have at the very least given us a captivating and dynamic album that feels immersive and exciting. Even as someone not invested in fiction or myth, I enjoyed diving into the story behind these tracks – if solely for the fact that I know that fiction is merely the veneer for what Adjy hope to tell the world. Musically, most of these songs could easily pass as singles; in the larger context, that easily primes this album to be one of my most-played records of the year (and at 15 tracks per listen, it can get there pretty quickly in just a couple spins). Already, I’ve found myself listening to it regularly and it has yet to tire me. To put it simply, Adjy demonstrate here why many of my favorite albums exceed an hour.

While Adjy does not use social media, you can keep up with the band by joining their mailing list or browsing their website here.

-Casey Gallenberger

Check out these related articles:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *