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(55:18 / 'Panzerpappa')
TRACK LIST: 1. Koralrevens Klagesang-I 2:43 2. Koralrevens Klagesang-II 4:54 3. Kantonesisk Kantour 9:12 4. Apraxia 3:26 5. Snill Sang Pa Band 5:55 6. Etyde 6:19 7. Vintervake 5:35 8. Frenetisk Frenologi 14:15 9. Koralrevens Klagesang-III 2:48 LINEUP: Steinar Borve - saxophones; keyboards; vocals Jarle Storlokken - el. & ac. guitars; accordion Anders Krabberod - Stick, bass, ac. guitar Trond Gjellum - drums & percussion With: Christine Gullhav - flute, clarinets Morten Westerfjell - French horn Anders Tomasgaard - trumpet Trond Borgen - trombone Ola Lindh - vibraphone Richard Sinclair - vocals
Prolusion. PANZERPAPPA, from Norway, is nowadays undoubtedly the flagship of Scandinavian RIO, even though their music doesn't always perfectly fit the requirements of that genre. Since the group's formation in 1998, their lineup has undergone many changes, but nonetheless the two founding members, Steinar Borve and Trond Gjellum, are still with their brainchild. "Koralrevens Klagesang" is their fourth studio album, following "Passer Gullfisk" (2000), "Hulemysteriet" (2002) and "Farlig Vandring" from 2004.
Analysis. Containing nine elaborated compositions, and this time around within a chamber rock configuration (if you have omitted the lineup above, it's still not too late to check it and see how many brass, woodwind and other acoustic instruments are involved), this new album by Panzerpappa is of the same inspiration that permeates its predecessor. Musically however, it's not a blind copy of "Farlig Vandring" by far, nor even it is a review of the past. The three relatively short cuts, Koralrevens Klagesang-I, Apraxia and Koralrevens Klagesang-III, while having much in common between them, all vastly differ from the remainder and are generally rather atypical of the group's work. Performed without drums, these are classical-like pieces, all involving quite a few (mostly acoustic) instruments, and are as if designed to portray three different phases of a melancholy. The two parts of the title track that, so to say, frame the album, both are pronouncedly dramatic in character, but especially Part I, which has the nature of a requiem. Part III comes at least without that distinctly tragic feeling which penetrates its track list counterpart. Finally Apraxia, which is located in immediate proximity to the album's core, suggests a mild sorrow. Prelude, interlude and postlude? I think, just so. On both Kantonesisk Kantour and Etyde, the music features a classic RIO component combined with that Scandinavian sense of melody, raised to the power of the symphonic strain, which is the highlight of Anglagard's work (yeah exactly: think "Epilog"), with a little jazz-fusion piquancy on top of all that. The former is notable for its episode where the dark instrumental canvas, in conjunction with low-pitched - recited rather than sung - vocals in the manner of Guy Segers, instantly brings to mind Univers Zero's "Heresie". Otherwise the music is completely original, eschewing any direct comparisons, so please, readers, don't take too seriously any subsequent references. The only real song on the CD, Vintervake, is the same story overall, save its first third where Caravan's Richard Sinclair's singing reminds me a bit of that of Pete Bardens in those parts where the music is generally accessible. The track's subsequent, all-instrumental content stylistically resembles something halfway between "Red Queen" by Gryphon, U Totem's "Strange Attractors" and Camel at their jazziest, i.e. "Moonmadness". Koralrevens Klagesang-II and Frenetisk Frenologi both belong to Belgian-school RIO almost in their entirety, though the former stands out for its somewhat simplified approach, more typical of the same U Totem or Samla Mammas Manna than of classic bands of that direction, such as Univers Zero, Present and Finnegans Wake or even Etron Fow Leloublan. (I didn't list Henry Cow, amongst some others, over their much jazzier approach.) The biggest treat is the 14-minute Frenetisk Frenologi, the most staggered and angular thing on the disc, whose content fully conforms with its title - Frenetic Phrenology, of course. Unlike its cousin in style, this is positively crazy RIO, going through mind-blowing changes in theme, tempo and mood all alike, with dissonant sonorities much more often popping up, plus once revealing a fair dose of heavy, aggressive sound (which I call MIO: Metal-In-Opposition), delivering nearly everything that I like that genre for. The remaining piece, Snill Sang Pa Band, while stylistically more or less well suiting the prevalent picture, is for the most part a very linear flow. There is a swingy jazz-rock movement to be found here, but overall, this is, well, the most jovial and, at the same time, most straightforward RIO I've ever heard. Neo RIO? Only due to the presence of this opus can I not regard this recording as a complete masterwork; hence no exclamation mark in the rating.
Conclusion. What makes this CD especially appealing is the incredible amount of freshness in the music. Some mature RIO lovers may find themselves wishing for more adventurous, uncompromising maneuvers, but anyway there is still a lot of excellent and complex music here to please even the most exciting prog heads. Highly recommended.
VM: April 25, 2007
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