When you are working as a psychologist, in music strongly influenced by the symphonic rock and record an album with the title "The Couch", according to me the point is made. So don't expect exuberant symphonic rock. The sympho-influences that you hear on this album are more in line with that of Anthony Phillips, Camel and the quieter work of Steve Hackett.
In the cd booklet Peter Swart aptly outlines a number of things you could do on a Couch: discuss your dreams with your psychologist, rest after an effort, read romantic literature, meditate or just strum your guitar. Well, these activities are exactly the topics which form the basis of the compositions on this album ...
Overall, I have listened to "The Couch" with joy. The pleasant listening experience was, however, disturbed in the song Dust, around 1:10, because of the use of a digital timpani or another strangely recorded percussive instrument. Recording-technically completely out of balance and so unnatural of sound that it seems utterly misplaced to me. Just too bad for this, in essence, beautiful atmospheric track.
The music on this album is often shaped by whispering vocals, waving melodies on guitar or keys, whether or not accompanied by a fairly static rhythm tandem. In addition regularly use is made of soundscape-like passages. Because all the songs bare these properties and have a high "couch" content they are quite exchangeable. In a number of tracks this is not a problem because their subjects seamlessly connect to that atmosphere. In compositions like Hedwig and Werther I had however, given their length, expected more musical depth. After all the books, to which these tracks refer, contain violent mental, emotional and social themes, and Die Leiden des jungen Werthers is even an iconic book from the Sturm und Drang period of German literature.
The programmatic aspect of these numbers is insufficiently worked out. The instrumental make-up is too one-dimensional. That also applies to the opening number in which Swart, with his Duncan Brown-like voice, sings of two lurid dreams against the backdrop of quiet, almost charming music. If you do not know the lyrics, you could be thinking that it's all about a butterfly.
But that said, when you dont mind these programmatic objections and you are a lover of the aforementioned influences, this album will come to you as very pleasant, without reaching to higher grounds.