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Old 12-27-2017, 10:31 AM
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Default Re: One of those 'Wat'cha Listenin' To?' threads.

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Old 01-17-2018, 04:37 AM
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Default Re: One of those 'Wat'cha Listenin' To?' threads.

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Old 02-12-2018, 08:57 AM
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Default Re: One of those 'Wat'cha Listenin' To?' threads.

I'm going to have to make a late addendum to my "best albums of 2017" list (which I never actually posted here, because I never really finalised my choices. I'm very, very indecisive about these things). From Silence to Somewhere by Wobbler (link to Bandcamp where you can stream this album in its entirety as well as the band's three others) has in all likelihood dethroned the albums I'd placed at the #1 spot (a tie, listed below). The progressive rock website ProgArchives.com currently has this as the highest ranked album of the entire 21st century. That seems about right - I'm not sure I've heard another album released this century that more quintessentially encapsulates all the traits that drew people to progressive rock in the first place (the only real competition I can think of is Änglagård's Viljans öga, but its songs aren't as catchy).

There are points where you feel like you're hearing a lost work by one of your favourite progressive bands - here, there's an homage to Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells; there, there's a vocal counterpoint that could've come straight off a Gentle Giant record. It often feels like it would've been a natural evolution from Close to the Edge or Selling England by the Pound; vocalist Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo even sounds a bit like a cross between Chris Squire and Peter Gabriel (although even more so like Gentle Giant's Kerry Minnear or Derek or Phil Shulman, particularly during the contrapuntal harmonies employed from time to time). The musicians are, naturally, all virtuosos; in particular keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie is up there with your Rick Wakemans and your Keith Emersons, while bassist Kristian Karl Hultgren might as well actually be Squire. Lead guitarist Marius Halleland, making his first appearance on record with the band, is equally at home with Iron Maiden-type guitar harmonies, Steve Howe-esque solo pyrotechnics, and acoustic passages that sound like the work of Anthony Phillips or Steve Hackett. I can't actually place any references for drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen; he sometimes manages to recall the style of other drummers I've heard, but overall his style sounds almost unique, as though it sprung fully formed from the head of Athena. The album has flutes that would've fit perfectly on a Jethro Tull or Genesis record, and many of the quieter passages would've fit wonderfully on any of Genesis' albums from Trespass to Selling England; in particular, the opening of "Foxlight" could've been slotted without any real difficulty into "The Cinema Show". (The closing, meanwhile, could easily be a Gentle Giant composition, given the renaissance era-sounding contrapuntal melodies that absolutely will not leave your head.) There's also a lot of influence from Italian bands like Premiata Forneri Marconi and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso; "Fermented Hours" even contains lyrics in Italian (the band is Norwegian, in case the names didn't give it away).

With only a couple of brief exceptions, the album sounds like it was buried in a time capsule from 1973 and only released last year. Even the production is immaculate, without any of the typical "loudness war" stunts that suck the warmth and depth out of so much modern music; this album is not merely dynamic by contemporary standards but no less dynamic than any album from the 1970s. The only real concession to the present is the occasional metal riff (Frøislie plays in a number of metal bands such as In Lingua Mortua, and the other members may also - I haven't checked), but none of these songs would actually qualify as metal by today's standards - there's nothing heavier than the typical Black Sabbath album, and these passages probably make up two or three minutes of a 46½-minute album.

Despite its clear trappings in the past, the album manages to avoid feeling like a retread because of the vitality of its performances and the top-notch quality of its compositions. This album consistently manages to accomplish a feat that not all that many prog bands actually managed that well: it's catchy as hell while still being head-spinningly complex. There are passages that will immediately get stuck in your head after one listen, and they won't leave after ten. Unlike the more annoying earworms, you'll be glad to have these stuck in your head. A large part of this is because, alongside the album's complexity and catchiness, it's also incredibly emotionally resonant. I haven't paid that much attention to the lyrics yet, but the music speaks for itself.

Oh, and it's the first album you've ever heard that manages to make a kazoo sound majestic. I shit you not. I don't know how these guys stayed off my radar for so long, but I instantly had to order the LP. They have three other albums as well. They haven't been quite as rapturously received in the press and on ProgArchives as this one has (in addition to topping PA's albums of the century, it also topped several year-end "best prog albums" or "best Norwegian albums" lists), but they've still been quite favourably received. I haven't gotten around to them, but I'll be doing so soon.


The other thing that's been affecting my music listening lately is a great deal I saw from a label that had released quite a few albums I'd already enjoyed, Avantgarde Music, which, despite its name, mostly specialises in extreme metal (though they focus on the more avant-garde strains of it). Having seen praise for a band called Sojourner, I went to AGM's Bandcamp and saw an offer for €3.33/month for a year that gets you access to new releases when they come out and 40 items in the label's back catalogue (including the Sojourner record). It's an absurdly good deal for people like me who can't stand streaming and want high-quality copies of music on their HD. (I almost always process modern records before listening to them either because of dynamic range issues or EQ issues. Since I do most of my listening on headphones and low dynamic range causes listener fatigue [i.e., headaches] on headphones, I inevitably end up processing such records in ways that increase the DR - usually declipping and/or phase rotation.)

In any case, Sojourner is one of two bands that I've ever heard that I'd think to compare to Caladan Brood (the only other one is Summoning, both bands' biggest influence). Caladan Brood is one of my favourite metal bands of all time despite having only released one album, 2013's Echoes of Battle. (It's not clear if they'll ever release another; a person who claims to have spoken to Jake Rogers, one of the two members, claims that they've laid the project to rest, but I don't know how much stake to put in Internet rumours, particularly since they released a fantastic cover of Summoning's "Farewell" just a few months ago.) Sojourner also has quite memorable songwriting and distinguishes itself from traditional atmo-black by its lush female vocals which show up from time to time. (The songwriting is split between husband-and-wife team Mike Lamb and Chloe Bray, who also perform all the instruments except bass; vocals are split between Bray and Emilio Crespo, with bass handled by Mike Wilson. The band members also hail from all over the world.) It also feels like a film soundtrack.

I've also grabbed about a dozen other records from the AGM Bandcamp feed. I'll probably grab all of them that are in the subscription at some point, but I want to clear off some drive space (I'm running lower than I should be). One of the bands I've listened to is Progenie Terrestre Pura (Progeny of the Pure Earth? I'm not 100% sure), whose cover grabbed my attention as it's one of the most beautiful album covers I've ever seen. It's sort of a futuristic, spacey take on black metal, but not spacey in the sense of Darkspace, which sounds like the void of space. This is more spacey in the sense of - IDK - The Orb? I'm not entirely sure how to describe it after one listen, and since I don't know that many electronic music artists I don't really have that good a frame of reference.


Really, though, I've mostly been obsessively listening to that Wobbler album. I haven't been this obsessed with a studio album since Falls of Rauros' Vigilance Perennial last year, and I think this may already even have exceeded that. (Vigilance Perennial was tied for #1 with Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "Luciferian Towers" before this album knocked them off. My lists are usually pretty tentative, but Ne Obliviscaris' Urn, Enslaved's ᛖ/Ehwaz/E, Fen's Winter, and both of Krallice's new releases would also be on it. And the Grateful Dead's Get Shown the Light - the only other obsession I've had recently that even comes close to this album - would tie with Falls and Godspeed if releases of old live shows count.) If you even remotely like prog, go listen to it, and then go buy it if you like it. I think people may genuinely be talking about this record in 45 years the way we talk about Close to the Edge and Selling England by the Pound today.
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Last edited by The Man; 02-13-2018 at 12:17 AM.
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