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(50:53, Autumnsongs Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Same Ash 3:25 2. Never Able 4:45 3. The Long Shadow 4:25 4. How Many Ants 4:28 5. Jennifer 6:07 6. Two Moods 2:28 7. Halvtom Sjel 4:44 8. Dirty Linen 3:14 9. Nightmare City Suite 8:07 10. The Death of Lennon 4:16 11. Before We Go to War 4:54 LINEUP: Anders Bjermeland – drums; keyboards; guitars, bass; winds; vocals With: Magnus Nygard Muldal – accordion Rhys Marsh – pedal steel
Prolusion. The Norwegian venture MOLLMASKIN is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Anders Bjermeland, initially started back in 2006, but as this first attempt then lead to the creation of the band Flashback Caruso, the development of Mollmaskin was put on hold until 2014. "Heartbreak in Stereo" is the debut album by this project, and was released by the Norwegian label Autumnsongs Records in 2015.
Analysis. Mollmaskin, which literally translates into Minor Scale Machine, is a project that isn't all that concerned about the general style of the music explored. The specific style of each composition is hard to define, and at times the compositions themselves come across as fairly different from one another as well. A common denominator is, perhaps, that the mix and production give all of the songs a subtle touch of unreality, I guess, where some instruments and effects are pushed upfront, and others dampened, creating a fairly distinct and hard-to-define mood and atmosphere throughout. Apart from that the piano is a central instrument throughout, providing mainly gently wandering light-toned motifs, a rather delicate detail that is just about ever-present, while the drums and bass tend to be more up front when present. Delicate vocals and mainly soft-layered keyboards of various kinds are other important details in the greater totality, the latter ranging from fragile floating presences to gentle but majestic arrangements and supplemental details from acoustic and, sometimes, electric guitar (another recurring feature). These are then assembled and used in rather different manners, from vintage late ‘60s psychedelic excursions to creations closer to being piano ballads, albeit fleshed out ones at that, playful pieces with more than half a foot inside jazz and darker toned, mournful affairs focusing on landscapes of a more melancholic nature with an additional touch of sadness adding a certain emphasis on moods of a more mournful general nature. Folk music inspired instrumental touches appear here and there too, and on some occasions the end result is songs that combine aspects of rock, jazz and psychedelia in a nifty manner, at the most playful touching base with the spirit of the Canterbury movement, at the most melancholic and dark resulting in material that wouldn't have been out of place on Bendik Hofseth's first couple of solo albums. But all the variation is explored within a finite context, where vintage proto-art rock and ‘70s progressive rock are both a common association in general, and the artists that sought to combine rock with elements from jazz in particular, but rarely, if ever, truly heading into the jazz-rock and fusion territories. An amalgam of older days indie rock perhaps, with a liberal amount of flavoring from jazz and psychedelia, with an approach and at times sound, structure or arrangement with closer ties to progressive rock.
Conclusion. Melancholic compositions with frequent inclusion of elements from jazz and psychedelia and occasional folk-inspired flavorings is what Mollmaskin provides on "Heartbreak in Stereo", a carefully crafted creation with occasional lapses into darker moods and with firm ties to progressive rock: if not always in sound or arrangements then at least in approach. Rather obviously a production that merits a check by those generally fascinated by this particular stylistic blend.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 5, 2015
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