Thursday, 20 September 2012
This project, the first of three albums worth of improvised material recorded as an assignment for degree students in Leicester gaining experience in audio engineering, features guitarist Mike Outram (who has played with such luminaries as Steven Wilson, Robert Fripp, Cinematic Orchestra and Photek amongst others) and bass player Steve Lawson, who continues to be a fertile collaborator and solo bass guitar experimentalist. For improvised music to truly come together there must be an element of understanding between the participants. This can be gained through familiarity of both the instrument and the collaborators involved. “Invenzioni”, although not initially intended as a cohesive piece of work, displays the kind of intuition between players that can make or break an improvisation.
The two instruments dance playfully around each other on the opening ‘A Beautiful Mind’ as if they are teasing each other and the listener is given the notion that this is part of the process of getting to be acquainted with each other. Delicate, yet furious lines, weave together, whilst the occasional abrasive shard of noise breaks through the pattern. A landscape reminiscent of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western is brought to mind on ’70 Degrees in the Dark’, as again, repeated phrases are used to carefully tease out the musical partners’ imagination and resourcefulness. Tantalizing electronic emissions punctuate the ether as ‘First One Home’ as the two guitarists, telepathically it seems, build layer upon layer over ten minutes a fragile, yet muscular, framework. As a more conventional sound is introduced we are reminded that we are in the presence of two very gifted and qualified players.
A piece such as ‘Light Over Water’ is musically evocative of the title, as manipulated sound pours over the guitar lines like a meandering stream, with the erratic sound of looped and treated instruments suggestive of breaks in the water flow. The gimmickry is never felt to be intrusive on these “compositions” but adds personality and a sense of curiosity. The longest piece on this particular release, ‘Dance Moves’ builds carefully from brooding bass lines moving alongside melancholic jazz flavoured guitar phrases. Just as the listener is being coaxed safely along to contentment, guitars swoop, screech and intimidate, mechanical noises move forwards out of the organic and into the future. Over the final few minutes the sound veers dangerously close to toying with a funk laden groove, as pulsating stabs of sound fade cautiously away....
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Tuesday, 4 September 2012
Swedish Vintersorg, essentially Andreas Hedlund and Matthias Marklund, is a symphonic banquet for the ears, with fresh and growling vocal lines soaring over luscious guitar riffs, lavish keyboard passages and even the occasional flute, violin and harpsichord adding a baroque feel to the whole feast. “Orkan” (hurricane), the eighth release from the band, follows on from the release of “Jordpuls” (earth), which featured a solid set of compositions paving the way for this opus.
The production on “Orkan” is raw when it needs to be, yet sterile where appropriate, which is a refreshing combination of techniques to complement the dense arrangements. What initially catches the attention on first listening to this release is the plethora of insanely memorable riffs and vocal lines. This is particularly apparent on the title track of the album ‘Orkan’ which is virtually raging with rhythm, vitality and joy. The second track, ‘Ur Stjarnstoft Ar Vi Komna’ bounces along astride grandiose guitar riffs and regal keyboard lines that are at once uplifting, enlightening and intriguing. ‘Polarnatten’ (polar night) opens with an almost fairytale like refrain before the mysticism is buffeted to one side by searing black metal. The opening track ‘Istid’ (ice age) could be argued to be one of the stronger tracks on this release, however, as clean, melodic vocals skirt around brutal growls, over a maelstrom of guitar chords and blast beat percussion. All the elements that make up the tapestry of “Orkan” are on show here.
This release undoubtedly showcases the vast array of compositional skills available within Vintersorg, sometimes several times within the same passage. Scenarios of ferocious Viking battle sit alongside tales of love and romanticism, but these disparate scenes come together to form a cohesive journey that would never disappoint the enthusiastic listener. This imagery may polarise the reader, but it would be reductionist to allow this. There are some evocative guitar solos which appear wholly in keeping with the moral fibre of the album, as can be heard on tracks such as ‘Istid’ and ‘Polarnatten’, which help stage the talent and restraint of those involved. Each song on “Orkan” is satisfyingly lengthy enough to allow the tempo and stylistic turns room to evolve without appearing claustrophobic. Some have described this style of metal as folk metal, characterised by this apparently seamless blend of catchy phrases and unforgettable vocal lines. With the themes of earth and air already considered, expect further releases from Vintersorg based upon the elements....
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