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(67:52, Karisma Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Halfway Homes 5:38 2. Darkroom 5:21 3. Tectonic 5:06 4. Will It Last? 4:07 5. Family Tree 3:54 6. Exit Wound 3:00 7. Pale Summer Nails 2:31 8. The Red Heart 5:27 9. Goodnight, Ghosts 2:05 10. In the Stereo 2:12 11. Girl with the Glass Eye 7:56 12. Pandemonium 12:40 13. Porcelain Doll 4:39 14. Music for Wastelands 3:16 LINEUP: Sondre Veland – drums, percussion; keyboards; vocals Bastian Veland – guitars, bass; keyboards; vocals With: Erlend Furuset Jenssen – saxophone Karin Makiranta – vocals
Prolusion. The Norwegian band OSSICLES was formed in 2011 by cousins Sondre Veland and Bastian Veland. Their debut album "Mantelpiece" was met with praise from some noteworthy musicians, such as Steven Wilson and Mike Portnoy, and the latter invited them to perform at the Progressive Nation at Sea event in 2014. "Music for Wastelands" is their second studio album, released by the Norwegian label Karisma Records in the late fall of 2015.
Analysis. While this band's initial production was heralded by some of the more renowned personalities in the contemporary progressive rock and metal circles, the music explored by this creative duo doesn't have any great similarities with the type of music either Portnoy or Wilson are the exponents of themselves. The music here does reside safely inside a progressive rock context, and one can argue that the somewhat detached mood present may signify a similarity with Steven Wilson's material in particular, but this is a band that has their footing placed in different landscapes altogether. The common denominator throughout most of this album is jazz and jazz-rock. In terms of general style closer to the latter than the former, with occasional dips into vintage jazz-rock with elegant use of the electric piano leading the way, but most of all this is a band that appears to blend a modern type of accessible progressive rock with some strong and distinct jazz and jazz-rock details. The piano is already mentioned, but also tasteful drum patterns, plucked and wandering delicate guitar details and melancholic, seductive saxophone overlays are a part of the picture. Often used in compositions that have a more conventional verse and chorus structure at the core, but subtly expanded with more sophisticated structural features and arrangement choices that expand the scope beyond the soft rock range, at times swelling beyond at that. In between opening cut Halfway Homes, which is much closer in style to what Rush explored in the early ‘80s, and the dystopian Mellotron surges that is the sole, nightmarish component of concluding title track Music for Wastelands, just about all the 12 tracks in between explore music in that borderland between soft rock, jazz-rock and progressive rock, arguably with an emphasis on the latter two, and in a myriad different manners. Some rather close in overall style and approach, with soft, careful instrumentation and vocals key components, others taking a left turn into territories somewhat more unexpected. The subtle folk music tendencies on Family Tree, the dream-laden, floating textures that softly dominate Girl With the Glass Eye, and the more bombastic, dark and dramatic, classic-era progressive rock developing on Pandemonium into a slower, softer and then darker jazz- and jazz rock-oriented landscapes, shifting to a chaotic take on the latter of those prior to concluding by returning to the opening landscape again. This is a compelling and often fairly accessible take on the progressive rock meets jazz-rock approach, not without challenging material or void of demanding compositions, but, by and large, with a stronger focus on material of a more accessible nature and with occasional dips into the type of material most in progressive rock circles would describe as a more challenging experience. Well made, performed and produced throughout, to my ears, this is an album that should please just about anyone with a taste for albums with a high and secure quality in the mix and production department.
Conclusion. Elegant and often accessible progressive rock with a distinct jazz-rock undercurrent is what this Norwegian duo provides us on their second studio album "Music for Wastelands", with a few detours into landscapes more aligned with purebred progressive rock and occasional lapses into territories of a more challenging general nature. Those who tend to admire compelling and careful blends of progressive rock and jazz-rock strike me as a key audience for this album, and then especially those in that crowd who appreciate the occasional left turn into landscapes somewhat more demanding.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 3, 2016
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