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(57 min, The Laser's Edge)
TRACK LIST: 1. Serenade for 1652 0:41 2. Hinterland 22:47 3. Rubato Industry 12:44 4. Clair Obscur 15:38 LINEUP: Lars Fredrik Froislie - analog keyboards Morten Andrens Eriksen - guitars Kristian Karl Hultgren - bass; sax Martin Nordrum Kneppen - drums Tony Johannessen - lead vocals With: Ketil Vestrum Einarsen - flute; backing vocals Ulrik Gaston Larsen - Theorbe, Baroque guitar Aage Moltke Schou - percussion Paulina Fred - recorder
Prolusion. "Hinterland" is the debut official release by Norway's WOBBLER. The album was co-produced by the band and their well-known countryman Jacob-Holm Lupo (of White Willow fame). Wobbler's first international appearance took place at NEARFest this last summer.
Analysis. Not the lyrical content of the title track, but perhaps the album's title gives a hint as to how far removed this album is from the here and now. I perceive "Hinterland" as the flower of Art-Rockus classicus:-), which was planted in the distant past of the '70s, but has blossomed thirty years later. Indeed, this album sounds like it has been delivered to the present right from the heart of the genre's heyday. Keyboardist Lars Froislie has an array of vintage keyboards, all being either analog models or just acoustic instruments: Hammond organ, Mini-Moog, Mellotron, Wurlitzer and Rhodes electric pianos, Grand Piano, clavinet, harpsichord, reed organ, ARP and the like string ensembles. All of them have been widely used here, but this is not the only matter, which gives the album such a strong '70s feeling. There are no modern sound processors, not even so much as a "Distortion" pedal, in guitarist Morten Eriksen's equipment, and what is more, Morten also pays much attention to his acoustic guitar. All in all, Wobbler has managed to reproduce the distinctive spirit of vintage symphonic Art-Rock, having kept all of the genre's values, that very notorious magic included, without borrowing anything from their famous predecessors. Well, almost nothing, because a couple of the three-voice chorals on the title track evoke immediate associations with Gentle Giant. But that's all. It is possible to talk profusely about the similarities between Wobbler and some other of the genre's representatives on the structural level, but do we really need that when music is strikingly original in its overall appearance, as this is? I'd only note that although Wobbler's creation bears more resemblance to the English school of Art-Rock, there are also enough signs of the Scandinavian sound not to mention it here, particularly on the two instrumental compositions: the dramatic Mellotron intro, Serenade for 1652, and its track list counterpart, Clair Obscur, which has a distinctive Mellotron-meets-piano prelude and postlude, each lasting for 3 minutes. So, elements of Classical music (of Baroque in this very case) have found their place on the album, too, and each of the other two compositions, Hinterland and Rubato Industry, features classical-like interludes with the involvement of clavinet, harpsichord, acoustic guitar, flute and still the same Mellotron, in various combinations. The traces of European medieval folk and minstrel music can be found in some parts of acoustic guitar and flute. Surely, the three epics: Hinterland, Rubato Industry and Clair Obscur are multi-sectional in construction and are true suites. The music normally moves back and forth between soft and massive arrangements, but with no repeats of the previously performed sections. The nearly 28-minute title track is magnificent; but I wouldn't say I like it better than the other epics. Each is a full-weight masterpiece! On Rubato Industry and Clair Obscur, there are edgier arrangements in places, whose fascinatingly angular outlines have some certain common ground with RIO. Finally, it needs to be said that while Tony Johannessen's singing is highly expressive, the vocals aren't important part of this material, both of the compositions with lyrical content being largely instrumental.
Conclusion. Wobbler's "Hinterland" is just irresistible. To me, this is one of the very best Symphonic Art-Rock albums since the end of the vintage era. I declare it the album of the year on Progressor, and I doubt it will ever be dethroned from the highest position in my Top-20-2005.
VM: November 9, 2005
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