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(54:38; Karisma Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Picking up the Pieces 6:15 2. Beehive 4:37 3. All at Sea 5:04 4. Songs of Us 4:31 5. Child 4:22 6. You Were a Drum 3:25 7. Honey 5:49 8. Across the Ocean 4:43 9. She Goes 4:16 10. Where Do We Go From Here 4:53 11. Lay It Down 6:43 LINEUP: Johanne Kippersund - vocals Knut Kippersund - vocals Eivind Stromstad - guitars Aasa Ree - violin Ingvild Nordstoga Eide - viola Ole Gjostol - piano Morten Strypet - bass Mats Lillehaug - drums
Prolusion. Norwegian band MEER have a history that goes back to 2008, and in this initial phase they were known as Ted Glen Extended. By 2016 they had opted to change their name to Meer and released their self-titled debut album, and now in 2021 they return with their second album "Playing House", which is set to be released at the end of January.
Analysis. Meer is another one of those bands that explore progressive rock a bit on the side of the main progressive rock veins. Their label use the description alternative progressive rock, and while I can understand the reason why they do so the music isn't really all that similar to alternative rock as such. Personally I'd place this band in the category that used to be called art rock back in the day, where a blend of pop/rock, orchestral details and slight tendencies towards the avant arguably are core characteristics of the band. The compositions themselves are fairly expressive in structure, and while a verse and chorus structure is something of a backbone we have phases in both of them on several occasions, alongside transitions and interludes, and by and large enough of the expected twists and turns most people will expect from a band described as progressive rock. That the different parts will alternate somewhat in intensity is a given, and that quite a few of the songs use sparse and layered arrangements as contrasting elements rather comes with the territory. That quite a few compositions also feature core parts that develop and otherwise are subject to changes and alterations are also features many will expect. The gist of it is that the material by and large can be described as sophisticated, and that the manner in which the songs have been assembled will give plenty of substance for the intent listeners to immerse themselves in. A key feature throughout this album is the use of plucked guitars and plucked string instruments, often intertwined or as more subtle supporting details, but also as one of the more dominant instrument details. The violin and the viola will also be used to provide gliding textures as overlays as well as supportive layers, stabbing dramatic staccato impact drops and also to provide more elegant, orchestral layers with a clear and distinct reference to classical orchestral music. The guitars are also used in different manners, but often somewhat subdued. The occasional hard or jarring impact riff will find its way into the songs here and there though. Otherwise wandering piano motifs, floating keyboard textures and a wee bit of retro style keyboards soloing is a part of the totality as well, and in the rhythm department drummer Lillehaug in particular shines with intense rolling patterns, expressive and at times jazztinged details and otherwise intelligent and captivating work throughout. The stars of the show for many will be the vocalists though. With a male and a female vocalist we do get some really well set up and tasteful dual vocals parts of course, but also when the singers are the sole providers of vocals the end result is excellent. I was also suitably impressed with the manner in which they can glide in and out of a dual vocal delivery, this album features some of the most smooth operations of that kind I've heard in quite a while. One detail that struck me several times on this album, the first time on the song 'Beehive' was how the vocal melodies as well as the tone and mode of the voice was intriguingly similar to a band from the US called Bent Knee. As far as the vocal melodies goes, this is a feature for both vocalists here, and at least as I experience it this isn't just a case of singers with a similar voice. I'd guess it is more likely that we have singers as well as a band here with some similar reference points and influences.
Conclusion. Meer strikes me as a fresh breath into the progressive rock universe. Traces of post-rock and pop/rock are applied to a subtly avant-oriented aspect of progressive rock on this production, complete with orchestral details and effects broadening the sonic palette. While it may be a somewhat lazy description, the best mway I can describe this band is that they come across as a more accessible variety of US band Bent Knee in many ways. I suspect many fans of Bent Knee will enjoy the music Meer provides us with on this album, but I also believe that quite a few who think that Bent Knee are intriguing but a bit too off kilter will find Meer to have a slightly more grounded, open and accessible sound and expression.
Progmessor: January 2021
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