Karambolage — Prås
The last time I had an occasion to check (five minutes ago), Aarhus is 8662 km away from Phoenix. Which surprised me, as the debut album from Karambolage could have easily come from the Arizona capital as from the Danish city. Prås lives in the space between those two places. Moving through stoner rock into post-rock with ease, Prås is a great deep headphone listen.
Formed by members of Danish bands Bersærk, Eigengrau, IIIrd Alternative, and Los, the three players in Karambolage recorded Prås in two live sessions in 2022 and 2023. The album plays like the jam sessions it came from — opening with big guitar riffs from guitarist and composer Daniel Blaabjerg-Zederkoff with lots of open space for Kristian Koldbro on bass and Simon Gleerup Meiner on drums.
Karambolage at its best is when they fully embrace the post-rock side of their sound. The track Støvet is a great example of the band fully bearing down on that sound, while still moving in desert psych. It is also a raw sound, one that can really only be captured live, as Karambolage did here. Flab, the shortest track on the album, is the most raw of any of them, with drummer Gleerup Meiner flashing his skills at the end.
As put by Blaabjerg-Zederkoff, "We've aimed for a live album with a raw and transparent expression, which gives an unobstructed impression of our sound and interplay. An expression, where the music can speak for itself, leaving listeners with space to interpret and form their own impressions".
The space Karambolage has left is also what makes Prås a great deep listening album — it creates a wonderful zone to get lost in. There are moments where some riffs hang on a bit too long for what they are bringing to the table, particularly in Spankuler, but overall Prås is a worthy debut and one I would recommend checking out.
Lambert — Bon Courage
Behind the artist name of Lambert one finds Lambert Ringlage, owner of the Electronic Music label Spheric Music which since 1991 is home to musicians like Robert Schroeder, Bertrand Loreau, and Roger Universe to name but a few. Lambert also operates within this field of expertise, and foremost expresses a preference towards a melodic Berliner Schüle dimension inspired by Tangerine Dream.
Ringlage sees the term Bon Courage, French for wishing someone success and good luck, and follow up to his 2015 release of Drachenreise, as an encouragement and source of happiness. Something which the jubilant opener New Horizon couldn't be a much better example of. After its celebrating entrance, the cheerful uplifting pop-flavoured melodies express the experience of a spirited midsummer Nordic walk, rewarded by the joys of ice cream images and a 70s Terence Hill film thanks to the nostalgic drum patterns and emulated guitar melodies.
Dream Glide adds a touch of romanticism to this, with slow-paced, dreamy Didier Marouani pop melodies. This reference also surfaces in the nicely flowing and revitalising Bon Courage that concludes the album later on.
Darker in atmosphere, the calmness of Cave World is reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre. Fantasy Plays tickles the senses with the delicate sensation of futuristic sounds and dainty melodies that brings Tangerine Dream to mind.
Not only are TD a clear inspiration, as the wonderfully designed songs like Deep Cloud and Chain Of Images show. But Fading Memories even features a former TD member in form of Johannes Schmoelling. This collaboration they IMHO should be pursued further because this animated and uplifting album highlight shows a minutely crafted richness in variety. Chain Of Images also shows a beautiful concatenation of sequences that pulsates with Klaus Schulze.
Next to the oriental flavours of Secret Call and the intimate flute melodies of Candle, Ringlage finally offers two surprises that set him apart from several contemporary musicians. First, this involves the emotive, and as far as I can tell authentically played, acoustic guitar intermezzo Towards Truth. And second, the surprising Ranguar, that with its tribal rhythms and vocal incantations projects distinct images of Daniel Crommie's world of the avant-garde. Not only do these last songs offer nice refreshing alternative sounds, they also fully aid towards the adventurous flow of the album.
As an overall conclusion, I find the entertaining Bon Courage shows that Lambert can most certainly hold his own. And as such this nicely composed album comes fully recommended for melodic inclined EM-enthusiasts and fans particularly in favour of Tangerine Dream.
Leagus — Flora Eallin
Forget about black metal. Scandinavian jazz seems to be the ultimate and most loved musical trend in today's musical culture of Norway. And it does seem so for a good reason, because, really, few genres are as stylish & musically delicate as Nordic branch of jazz. Not to mention the fact, that it also provides fine soil for fusion with other genres from pop music to ambient to avant-garde leanings, which is exactly the case here.
Leagus is a fresh duo, consisting of Herborg Rundberg on the piano and Kristian Svalestad Olstad on the guitar, greeting its audience from one of the northernmost regions of the country – Sapmi. For the recording of Flora Eallin the duo collaborated with North Norwegian Jazz Ensemble, responsible for adding an impressive share of polyphony to the record and really enriching the guitar/ piano dialogue with multiple shades and colors.
The iconic names in Nordic jazz are Nils Petter Molvaer and Per “Texas” Johansson, and while the band certainly have a lot of common with these giants (plus the Dutch Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble), the music offers a bit wider musical spectrum, borrowing pieces of mosaic from other genres. If you like the pop influences of The Opium Cartel, Motorpsycho's winds section and sound experiments of post-Perdition City Ulver, chances are high, that you'll love Flora, even if you are not really into post-jazz. I also can't help comparing Kristian's guitar phrases to 80/90s Robert Fripp and Terje Rypdal (check, for instance, the atonal and moderately chaotic Pripyat), and occasional nods to ambient.
While Leagus are apparently not very fond of synths, they create ambient depth to their music by means of acoustic scenery. Apart from the electric guitar I noticed the vocoder usage, and that's more or less it – all the other instruments are unplugged, with no traceable intention to plug them back, he-he!
The atmosphere of the record is undeniably noir, cinematic and minimalistic, with some traces of light owing to Herborg's vocals and soft piano touches. Jazz-rock rhythm section is used episodically only – Tendril and the closing Hyperion are one of the few examples where it actually occupies a large part of the sound scene. For most of the playtime it's the percussion that carries the rhythm – and the subtleness of it is very well managed by the duo, both having master degrees precisely in rhythm music, as the press release affirms. Other instruments are more noticeable – specifically sax and string section, the latter is responsible for marvelous pads for sax insanity on the aforementioned Hyperion.
As a jazz layman, I have a hard time telling a difference between a bad Nordic jazz album and a good one, so from an amateur point of view this looks to me a high quality record, with many subtle nuances, genuine quality of sound and a certain hard edge in the material that separates Flora Eallin from easy-listening jazz. The record may not be a revolution in the genre, and it won't change your mind if you are not into such material, but as a debut album it deserves its share of praises.
This album has: A curious mixture of musical warmth and chill. Polyphony and polyrhythmia. “Less is more” principle embodied.
This album does not have: Lyrics in English. Epic tracks. Rock, bossa nova or cha-cha beats.
Subsignal — A Poetry Of Rain
Subsignal started when Arno Menses (vocals) and Markus Steffen (guitar) created a side project next to their band Sieges Even. Sieges Even disbanded in 2008 and Arno and Markus continued their collaboration with the name Subsignal. They released a handful of albums and now fifteen years later A Poetry Of Rain is their sixth album. It has been five years since Subsignal released their previous studio album La Muerte. An album that was received very well.
On A Poetry Of Rain, new on bass is Martijn Horsten. Still present are Dick Brand on drums and Markus Maichel on keyboards. The music of Subsignal is often classified as neo-prog, but I think that classification is a bit too narrow. Subsignal provide good quality progressive rock and if it was up to me some tunes would receive some mainstream radio airtime.
Opener and title track A Poetry Of Rain is an acoustic instrumental guitar piece. After that mellow intro on The Art Of Giving In, the Subsignal engine is firing on all cylinders. Complex structures and many changes, a song that will appeal to many progressive rock fans. Marigold is not as complex and a beautiful mellow pop song. This is a song that I think could bring them some attention if they could get it on the radio. Some may feel it is too commercially, but it is just such a good song. Real prog-heads do not worry, on Sliver (The Sheltered Garden) we're back to good old progressive rock. Fans of Porcupine Tree, take note.
Impasse and Embers Part II: Water Wings are more mellow songs, with the latter ranging more towards a power ballad. Melencolia One starts mellow but during the second part of the songs it is fully blown progressive rock with a lot of complexities in it. A Wound Is A Place To Let The Light follows that same pattern. The chorus is easy digestible but the centre instrumental part has many neo-prog elements.
Another nice element is the saxophone solo in The Last Of Its Kind, a song that will be instantly liked by many progressive rock fans. Then, just like the opener, the album is closed by acoustic guitar, although this time it is a fully developed song.
On this album, Subsignal has found a lovely balance in their sound. The La Muerte album was already very good, but on this album the sound has matured even more. A Poetry Of Rain is an album that delivers on many levels, and adds another fantastic album to the Subsignal discography.