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(48:47; Karisma Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Machines and Men 10:48 2. A Day at the Beach (Part 1) 3:54 3. Into The Unknown 10:27 4. Sunsets 8:16 5. A Day at the Beach (Part 2) 5:33 6. Megalomaniac 9:49 LINEUP: Asle Tostrup - vocals, keyboards, programming Bjorn Riis - guitars, keyboards, vocals Henrik Fossum - drums with: Kristian Karl Hultgren - bass
Prolusion. Norwegian band AIRBAG can trace their roots all the way back to the 1990's, but it was a decade later that the band solidified and started to release material. Initially with a couple of EPs, that are now deleted if I remember correctly, and then from 2009 and onward the band has been going from strength to strength with a succession of acclaimed studio albums. "A Day at the Beach" is the most recent of these, and was released through Norwergian label Karisma Records in 2020.
Analysis. As most everyone aware of this band will know, Airbag started out as a band heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, and the Gilmour era of the band in particular. And while Airbag have developed their own brand of accessible progressive rock over the years, some Pink Floyd references will just about always be a feature on their productions. Often by way of guitarist Bjorn Riis and his guitar solo runs. This is the case also for this 2020 production, but arguably a bit less prominent on this occasion than on previous efforts by Airbag. Gentle melancholic landscapes are conjured up with a liberal spirit on this latest album by Airbag. Atmospheric landen creations, more often than not featuring sequences, interludes or transitions with more of an ambient style as key recurring elements, and otherwise staying put in landscapes of a more careful and delicate nature. Layered effects from keyboards, synthesizers and the electric guitar are used gleefully, more often than not as delicate additions rather than dominant sounds, at times giving the material something of a psychedelic and perhaps even cosmic sheen. The rhythm department deliver much of the drive on this album, and some of the bass lines in particular were delightful to experience with a tight, tension-oriented momentum that really added life and contrast to the songs where these were used. The lead vocals are just about always the dominant element when present, and the light toned, carefully controlled vocals is a most effective contrast to the more energetic rhythm department as well as the often more frail effects and textures from both tangents and the guitar. Guitarist Riis complements the various levels of contrasts with a multitude of sounds, light as well as dark, smooth as well as almost gravelly, and of course we get a few instances of atmospheric laden guitar solo runs well worthy of a person that runs a website called gilmourish.com too. As will be the case with many albums that revolve more around the finer details, mainly careful contrasts and gentler nuances, Airbag's new album isn't one that you will establish a firm affection from straight away, unless you already love the band of course. It is a gradual experience, and one that will take a few listens before it sits I suspect. One of the PR firms that promote this album use the words cinematic ambient rock about this album, and as long as the word progressive is inserted into that description I'd say that this is a fitting manner in which to describe this album.
Conclusion. "A Day at the Beach" is a strong and solid production through and through. From my perspective there aren't any weaks congs at hand here, although for my taste in music I'd say that the opening cut 'Machines and Men' is a slight cut above the rest here. An album well worth spending time with if accessible, melancholic and delicate progressive rock is your thing, and those who enjoy the softer sides of later day Pink Floyd strikes me as something of a key audience for this album.
Progmessor: June 2020
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