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(64 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Flight of Shamash 9:13 2. Chair of Life 5:36 3. Black Hole I 1:30 4. Dreams of Butterflies 8:31 5. Black Hole II 1:49 6. Spirit of Time 8:42 7. Desert Blues 6:14 8. Sometimes 5:09 9. A Giant's Lullaby 9:43 10. Dark Horizons 8:03 All music: by Jensen, Johansen & Lieberknecht. All lyrics: by Jensen & Johansen. LINEUP: Anders Jensen - mellotron, piano; acoustic guitar; vocals Ronny Johansen - synthesizers, mellotron, electric piano Kim Lieberknecht - acoustic & electric drums, programming John-Eric Gretland - electric guitar Christian Torp - bass With: Odd Andre - saxophone Tomas Roger - flute (2, 10) Irude Bergli - vocals (2)
Prolusion. "A Giant's Lullaby" is the second release by Norway's KVAZAR. Their eponymous debut album was released four years ago (also via Musea Records). I also narrowly observe the creation of their countrymen Mikromidas, as these two are definitely from the contingent of the most interesting bands that came out from Scandinavia in the new millennium.
Analysis. The lineup has undergone some significant changes; gone are guitarist Alexander Krosmoen and bassist Endre Tonesen, who was also one of the two key figures responsible for vocals. No cello players are among the guest musicians this time around. Instead, there is a saxophonist, Odd Andre, whose performance touches most of the album's content and, unlike those by the other two invited musicians, plays an important role here. All these changes, and also the more sparing use of vintage keyboards (except for pianos) than before, exerted certain influence upon Kvazar's new music, which, though, is generally rather different from that on their debut outing, by quite a few parameters. In the absence of Endre Tonesen, with whom he usually sung as a duo, Anders Jensen sings here mainly either alone or along with an opera-like 'choir' (as on the first two and the last three tracks), which he created by using vocal samples and overdubs. Eight out of the ten tracks on the album are songs with English lyrics. On each, however, the amount of purely instrumental arrangements exceeds that of mixed ones, the vocals appearing as an attendant rather than a central part of the overall musical picture. Some compositions are largely instrumental in the truest sense of the concept. The opening number, Flight of Shamash, is a bit more accessible than the other songs and features some obvious repetitions, which aren't unnecessary, though. There are some intensive Art-Rock maneuvers, but most of the music is made up of atmospherically symphonic textures, the vocals at times slightly resembling those in Enigma. It was wise of the band to put this song first, as it can serve as the stage to comprehend the entire album and is an appropriate introduction to the album in general. Chair of Life and Dark Horizons are classic symphonic Art-Rock at its best and are the two more or less easily comparable in sound with Kvazar's first disc. On the other hand, however, the presence of elements of folk music from one side and the absence of any heaviness (which is typical for the entire album, by the way) from the other creates certain difficulties for drawing direct analogies even in these cases. The instrumental piece, Black Hole I, continues developing the storyline of Chair of Life's final part with the solos of acoustic guitar brought to the forefront of the arrangements. From the fourth track, the stylistic picture begins changing, and it's not because saxophonist Odd Andre has joined the band's staff members here (to stay with them almost to the end of the show). On their second album, Kvazar appears as a group of versatile musicians, whose musical horizon is far wider than the traditional Art-Rock framework. It's clear that the band was primordially disposed to present something unusual here, and the invitation of a jazz musician was just a consequence of that decision. The song: Dreams of Butterflies only in places reveals elements of Jazz-Fusion, but it ends with a purely improvisational instrumental jam, which for some reason was placed on a separate track, Black Hole II. Later on, the events develop as follows: Spirit of Time features quite a few of composed improvisations, Desert Blues is already a blend of Art-Rock and quasi Jazz-Fusion (with a strong oriental sense in addition), and the next two songs, Sometimes and the title track, can hardly be defined otherwise than as symphonic Jazz-Fusion with symphonic and improvisational harmony being not only excellently balanced, but also wonderfully complementing each other. All these are simply brilliant compositions, uniting Prog's two oldest progressive genres into one amazingly cohesive whole.
Conclusion. Symphonic Prog lovers don't worry! All the significant Art-Rock features are kept everywhere on the album. To say that "A Giant's Lullaby" is a much stronger effort than Kvazar's debut album is to say almost nothing. This is a highly innovative music, most of which doesn't remind me of anything and, often, Kvazar itself. I sincerely congratulate the band on this masterpiece and I believe it will notably widen their audience. Top-2005.
VM: Agst 6, 2005
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