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Riis; Bjorn: Lullabies In A Car Crash

Bjorn Riis is the guitarist and main songwriter in the much admired Norwegian Prog Rock outfit Airbag and with Lullabies In A Car Crash he's decided to make a solo statement of very personal meaning. The themes of this first lone foray being centred around abandonment, alienation and loss - a laugh a minute this is not, captivating it sure is.

Riis himself acknowledges that Pink Floyd are an influence (his online "guitar page" is the wonderfully named!) and suggested reference points for Lullabies come as Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Marillion and of course Airbag. Add in Riverside and the recent solo work of Steven Wilson and you've pretty much nailed this album. That's exalted company and yet what Riis has conjured here fits right in with acts of that calibre. Aided by drummer Henrik Fossum, and Asle Tostrup who adds "loops and effects", this album really finds Riis letting loose, his guitar the main weapon, although his keyboard work can't be discounted either. However while for some that would result in a six-string wankathon, Riis delivers his fieriest offerings through washes of synths and swathes of atmosphere, the guitar singing and sobbing, rather than strutting or shouting. The result is a six track album where themes are built skilfully and explored fully, the lengthy, closing title track a perfect illustration of the beauty, atmosphere and anger Riss imparts through ever evolving and heightening waves of sound.

Vocally Riis follows the considered approach of Marius Duda (Riverside), or Tim Bowness (No Man), a low tone which never rises above sedate adding weight to the stark lyrical themes. However much of Lullabies is instrumental and excellent though the vocals are, musically this album simply stuns. "A New Day" heralds the resulting tracks, an ever growing thrum of sound making way for fragile strings and shimmers of guitar. Throughout the album a sense of dark suspense is revealed, unease tempered by soothing sounds which should make everything feel safe, but never quite do, drawing you further and further into this album's mood and message. There's no denying that the eerie, yet comforting tumbling of keys and bass that forms much of "Stay Calm" feels very Floydian and neither can it be ignored that the acoustic guitar which suddenly breaks the mould takes things in a very Porcupine Tree direction. Yet it would also be churlish to pretend that Riis doesn't do it all magnificently well, every note feeling vital, every chord furthering the story the music wants to tell. Add in a collection of superb, yet never over exuberant guitar solos and clever use of electronics, and Lullabies In A Car Crash, as it grows on you and you on it, becomes quite startling in its beauty and compelling in its poignantly delivered tragedies.

In all honesty I've never really appreciated what Airbag have to say, but what that band's main composer has created here is so impressive that I'm now going to reinvestigate in the hope of eating humble pie. For Lullabies In A Car Crash is and will remain one of the best Progressive albums I've heard all year.

Track Listing
1. A New Day
2. Stay Calm
3. Disappear
4. Out Of Reach
5. The Chase
6. Lullaby In A Car Crash

Added: December 13th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Bjorn Riis online
Hits: 3070
Language: english

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