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Airbag: A Day At The Beach

Airbag, the Norwegian prog collective fronted by Bjorn Riis have garnered a lot of respect as they’ve evolved from lovers of the Floyd to a much more rounded and complete prog entity with a broader identity. Riis himself also has a successful side-solo arm running in parallel with his band and there too he gains a lot of praise. And it’s easy to hear why when the electro-prog meets Riverside of opening cut on album number five from Airbag kicks in, “Machines And Men” a pulsating prod of prog that builds a real engine room of intensity before hurtling on down the track. It’s a truly and immediately captivating way to kick an album into gear, intrigue still abounding but little doubt laid out as to how confident this newly shrunken three-piece are in their ability to ensnare your attention.

Following that up with something similar would have been almost churlish, hence the much more pensive first part of a two piece title track offers up a much more introspective point of view. Here the keys are setting the scene, guitars merely picking out little pockets of light as the percussion sits patiently waiting for the next restrained rim-click to puncture the air(bag). Moody magnificence wouldn’t be over playing things, although this second offering is, at under 4 minutes, a little brief in its encounter. For me, it’s from here on in that things kind of stall. Yes, “Into The Unknown” holds a mysterious mind at its inner core and yet instead of nooks and crannies left to explore, within the nuances, there’s a feel of moods and movements being pieced together for the purpose. For the first few spins I found the journey to be engaging and enlightening and yet as familiarity took hold, so the attention tends to wander as long meanders are left to trail away without every really concluding. And with “Sunsets” almost hitting like a drawn out a-ha mood-maker (not that there’s anything wrong with a-ha, mind) the album’s early emotiveness continues to, not so much slip away, but stagnate.

That leaves the second part of the title track to pull things back in to the enigmatic shimmers of before but even here, with the best of intentions, the results leave me with questions regarding pacing and placement, even if it is a highlight. “Megalomanic” ends the journey, nine minutes of crescendo building almost, but not quite, heading into Marillion territory, but Airbag are far too readily melancholy for that approach, so harsher guitars instead create the atmospheres against some soaring keys.

For me A Day At The Beach as an album of contradictions. When it’s good, it’s nigh on bloody brilliant and yet when the eye is taken off the prize ever so slightly then, for me, it all just about comes tumbling in on its own earnestness. Still, the band’s acclaim and success continues to grow and more power to them for it. I remain intrigued to hear what comes next but I can’t in all honesty say that this effort truly hits home with the desired effect.

Track Listing
1. Machines And Men
2. A Day AT The Beach (Part 1)
3. Into The Unknown
4. Sunsets
5. A Day At The Beach (Part 2)
6. Megalomanic

Added: December 11th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: A Day At The Beach @ bandcamp
Hits: 681
Language: english

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