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Major Parkinson - 2017 - "Blackbox"

(47:36, Karisma Records)


*****!
    

TRACK LIST:  
                 
1. Lover, Lower Me Down! 4:47
2. Night Hitcher 5:46
3. Before the Helmets 1:25
4. Isabel - A Report to an Academy 9:41
5. Scenes from Edison's Black Maria 1:46
6. Madeleine Crumbles 5:06
7. Baseball 10:20
8. Strawberry Suicide 2:57
9. Blackbox 5:48

LINEUP:

Jon Ivar Kollbotn - vocals, piano
Eivind Gammersvik - bass, vocals
Lars Christian Boerknes - piano, synth, organs, programming, vocals
Sondre Sagstad Veland - drums, percussion, typewriter, vocals
Sondre Rafoss Skollevoll - guitars, vocals, microKORG
Oeystein Bech-Eriksen - guitars
Claudia Cox - violin, vocals
With:
Linn Froekedal - vocals
Carmen Boveda - cello
Jonas Flemsaeter Hamre - saxophone
Joar Lemme - trombone
Gunleik Gisletveit - tuba
Logan Arndt - french horn
Andreas Hesselberg Hatzikiriakidis - trumpet
Nataniel Hjoennevaag - xylophone
Thomas Rolland - whistling
Megan Kovacs - backing vocals
Volve Vokal choir - vocals

Prolusion. Norwegian band MAJOR PARKINSON was formed back in 2003, and have steadily built themselves a reputation as a quality act in the experimental rock music scene, at some point crossing over to gain increased interest also from fans of progressive rock. They have four studio albums to their name so far. "Blackbox" is the most recent of these, and was released through Norwegian label Karisma Records in the late fall of 2017.

Analysis. I kind of stumbled upon this band myself a couple of years back, due to their previous album "Twilight Cinema". I cannot recall the person that recommended the band to me, but that album made quite the impression for me. Something that is rare when you have been writing about music for a decade or thereabouts. In my view they are a progressive rock band, but operating outside of the common norms and expectations within that playing field. They also do seem to have something of an attraction to the darkness of the mind and the soul, at least in terms of creating music that will resonate with the aspects of your mind. But they go about this in their own rather curious manner. Lead vocalist Kollbotn plays a big part there, with his Leonard Cohen going Tom Waits approach to the art of vocals, having the clean spoken like delivery of the former and the deep voice of the latter, which somehow adds a natural cabaret spirit to the material. Emphasized by the band's tendency to include swirling, fluctuating instrument movements in a manner that invokes thoughts of a circus. The kind of circus that would have Twisty as their lead clown and entertainer, and possibly a sedated version of Pennywise lurking in the wings. On this album, in most major songs, Kollbotn's deep voice is contrasted most beautifully by the delicate, almost naive sounding vocals of Froekedal, the male/female contrast there further enhanced by the major differences in vocal style, in itself a mesmerizing aspect of this album. As for the songs themselves, many of them tend to have a rhythm and keyboard core that is more than a passing nod towards 80's synth pop. That core is at times vastly expanded however. Besides the aforementioned cabaret and possibly circus music aspects that appear here and there, we also have post rock tendencies on occasion, some clever bits of Americana inspired details used to good effect on the dampened darkness of opening cut Lover, Lower Me Down!, delicate piano details used to good effect as a contrasting element on multiple occasions, layered keyboards and symphonic backdrops as recurring features alongside layered vocals and vocal effects...to mention but some of the details of note. All explored in a suitably dark coating, and for the longer cuts also in twisting, quirky compositions that should be of general interest to any fan of progressive rock with their multiple changes and alterations. Concluding title track Blackbox adds some cues from industrial rock to the proceedings as well, in a rather theatrical and dramatic manner. While darkness and subtly haunting moods is the red thread throughout this album, we are treated to one exception to this. Madeleine Crumbles is the name of this creation, and while it would be wrong to say that this is a jubilant, positive and vibrant uplifting affair, it does have those tendencies. As explored in a context that would have been appropriate by a person like, say, David Lynch. Personally I really like this album, and this band's approach to create music that in my views fits quite nicely into a progressive rock context is both novel and unconventional in my opinion. Perhaps not a striking creation in terms of the instantly memorable and mesmerizing songs that you'll play over and over again, their previous studio album "Twilight Cinema" has a few more of those, but as a total album experience this production is on par with that one.

Conclusion. While I am one of many swayed by the charms and music of Major Parkinson, I'm still a bit unsure about just how broad a reach a band like this have. They are creative, make challenging compositions that are still easy to enjoy and listen to, managing to be challenging without being overly demanding, but they also create material that is very much their own and a few left turns away from most other bands out there. Eclectic progressive rock with synth pop tendencies and a bit of classic Gary Numan style sounds at that, flavored with cabaret tendencies and a dark circus atmosphere. If that description sounds enticing, Major Parkinson might well be the band you never knew about that you always hoped to discover.

Progmessor: November 29th 2017
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Major Parkinson

Karisma Records


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