For over 35 years, Polish trio SBB has been crafting their unique blend of blues, jazz, psychedelic and prog. With around a dozen successful studio albums already under their belt, their newest LP, Blue Trance, comes with a plethora of expectation. Unfortunately, while there are some cool moments and a few sparks of innovation, the album is mostly uninspired and even awkward at times.
The Silesian Blues Band formed in 1971 and abbreviated their name in 1974. As the group discovered acts like Soft Machine, Thin Lizzy, Canned Heat, and especially Mahavishnu Orchestra, they gradually incorporated different styles into their sound, varying aspects like tone, complexity and dynamics with ease. They certainly don't stick to one sound throughout Blue Trance, which results in some brilliant moments as well as some boring and baffling ones.
SBB opens the album with a fantastically ominous and intense instrumental, "Etiuda Trance." Its apocalyptic rhythms, riffs and timbres of synthesizers, organ and drums create quite a distinctive mood, invoking the spirit of Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King." It's simple yet awesome. The jazz/pop "Los Człowieka" follows, casually flowing along with a catchy chorus until its masterful guitar solo at the end. The vocals are in polish, but it doesn't take away too much enjoyment.
"Doliny Strumieni" has a subdued holiday quality to the piano accompaniment, while, in contrast, "Karida Beach" rocks pretty hard. The title track has a classic rock nature to it as the band lets loose and has fun. Vocalist Józef Skrzek chants "Blue Trance" over and over again as it fades out. Another instrumental (and highlight) comes with "Muśnięcie Kalimby," which features some interesting percussion and affective keyboard improvisation. "Coda Trance" concludes the album by recalling the foreboding presence of overpowering organ chords and quick playing. It gives Blue Trance a nice sense of closure and cohesion.
Two cringe-worthy misses are "Red Joe" and "Święto Dioni." The former is a clunky blues track inspired by Hendrix's classic "Hey Joe." It's essentially the band jamming a bit while Skrzek spouts random phrases about Red Joe. It sounds unintentionally goofy. As for the latter, it's an utterly pointless way to spend three minutes. Skrzek continuously says "hey, hey, hey" over repetitive piano and drums that eventually evolve into some fancy synth and guitar counterpoint. It's the perfect example of what "B sides" are for.
Blue Trance is basically an album of blues/jazz/prog jams with barely any serious songwriting. The language barrier is not the problem; if there were any good songs on here, the melodies would appeal and the emotions would seep through regardless. SBB prove that they can compose and play, but even the musical aspect gets repetitive very quickly. Still, taking in small doses, it's enough to intrigue, but after producing music for forty years, their ideas have certainly begun to run out.
1. Etiuda Trance
2. Los Człowieka
3. Red Joe
4. Święto Dioni
5. Szczęście Jak Na Dłoni
6. Doliny Strumieni
7. Karida Beach
8. Blue Trance
9. Muśnięcie Kalimby
10. Pamięci Czas
11. Coda Trance