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Tracklist: 1. The Woman of Our Day 3:12 (Hrafnsson) 2. The Mug 4:50 (Hermannsson) 3. Please Bend 4:47 (SVANFRIDUR) 4. What's Hidden There? 4:06 (J. Bagnarsson) 5. Did You Find It? 2:08 (Jonsson) 6. What Now You People Standing By 7:58 (Hrafnsson) 7. Give Me Some Gas 5:12 (Karlsson) 8. My Dummy 4:15 (Kristjansson) 9. Finido 3:44 (Jonsson) Arranged by SVANFRIDUR & Sigurdur Johnsson. Line-up: Birgit Hrafnsson - electric & acoustic guitars; (+ back vocals on 2 & 4) Gunnar Hermannsson - bass guitar; (+ back vocals on 2) Sigurdur Karlsson - drums & percussion Petur Kristjansson - lead vocals With: Sigurdur Johnsson - piano & Moog; violin; flute; (+ vocals on 2 & 6) Produced by SVANFRIDUR & Roger Wilkinson. Engineered by R. Wilkinson at "Majestic Recording Studios", London.
Prologue. It seems that it's time to review the only album by arguably the only Progressive Rock band that came out from Iceland. (I think that the fans of Bjork would hardly read these pages.) Svanfridur's "What's Hidden There" was recorded during seven days in July of 1972 in England and, as far as I know, only a few dozens of the original LP were then released. Only thanks to the founder, owner, and general manager of the Hi-Note Music label, Graham Brook, "What's Hidden There" saw the light of day as the CD edition.
The Album. Only two tracks on the album, The Woman of Our Day and Did You Find It (1 & 5), are of a proto-progressive character. Also, these two are the only compositions on the album that are out of its predominant stylistics. The first of them is a song in the vein of the guitar based Art-Rock, which is neither symphonic nor harsh. Unfortunately, it features only one instrumental part, even though it consists of excellent interplay between virtuosi solos of electric and bass guitars. The second one is an instrumental piece containing very nice interplay between passages of acoustic guitar and solos of bass guitar on the background of slow passages of Moog and effects. However, this is a very short piece, and the band could not develop those spacey symphonic arrangements that were laid on it. All the other compositions on the album are definitely progressive and by all means. Furthermore, beginning with The Mug (2), the level of progressiveness of the album rises continuously right up to its peak on What Now You People Standing By (6), after which it stands firm to the end of the album. (Of course, I am not taking into account a very short instrumental piece, which is described above.) The songs: The Mug (2) and What's Hidden There (4), are both about a pure Classic Symphonic Art-Rock. The music that is featured on What Now You People Standing By and Give Me Some Gas (6 & 7) represents nothing else but a blend of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal. (Here, I can't say "progressive Hard Rock" instead of Prog-Metal, as Svanfridur's heavy arrangements are both more progressive and heavy than those in any kinds of Hard Rock.) The music that is presented by this very talented and innovative band on all three of the remaining tracks, Please Bend, My Dummy, and Finido (3, 8, & 9: the last of them is the instrumental), can't be defined differently than Classic Prog-Metal with elements of Symphonic Art-Rock. The beginning of Finido consists of wonderful, really unique interplay between a few of the overdubbed passages and solos of cello. However, all the further musical events that happen on this piece are of a completely harsh, yet, very intricate character. It also must be said that while the number of the vocal and instrumental parts is approximately equal on tracks 2, 3, & 4, all three of the last songs on the album (6, 7, & 8) contain just a few of the parts of vocal. (Finido, as you already know, is the instrumental composition.) But then the instrumental arrangements on all four of these compositions are highly diverse and, often wonderfully eclectic. Various, tasteful and virtuosi, interplay between solos of electric and bass guitars and passages of piano and Mini-Moog, all of which flows to the accompaniment of a very diverse drumming, are featured on most of the best compositions on the album. (I'll remind you that their number is equal to seven.) The virtuosi passages of cello are present on three of them: Please Bend, the album's title track, and Finido (3, 4, & 9), and passages and solos of acoustic guitar on two: The Mug and What's Hidden There (2 & 4). The album's title track sounds great by all means, though it was performed without drums. The pronunciation of English by these Icelandic guys is quite good for my ears. As for the mastery of Svanfridur's musicians, it is simply fantastic. Most of all, however, I am impressed with solos of bass guitar. All of them are as virtuosi and inventive as the parts of the other soloing instruments. However, only the bass guitar solos are intensive everywhere on the album.
Summary. Svanfridur's "What's Hidden There" is, IMHO, one of the most original and innovative among those albums that were released in 1971 and 1972. No doubts, its presence in the first half of 1972's Top 20 albums of Vitaly is inevitable. Highly recommended to all the open-minded connoisseurs of both of Classic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal genres.
VM. August 27, 2002
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