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Soft Ffog: Soft Ffog

Originating from a one-time gig at the Kongsberg Jazz festival in 2016, Soft Ffog is assembled by an extremely competent group of Norwegian jazz musicians who have just about played with all Jazz ensembles from their home country. Not gaining quite the steam they’d hoped for as a group, it took them a number of years to find the momentum and time to put out an album, which may I say was certainly worth the wait. On top of this, the record is being published by the up and coming ‘Is It Jazz? Records’ and is the first piece of music the company will be distributing; quite an honour to say the least. Combining the sounds from King Crimson with Terje Rypdal, Deep Purple with Pat Metheny, Soft Ffog have made a big impression on this record of their combined and artistically influenced talents.

The first track (and single of the album) acts as a knockout to the senses and a swift kick back to the past through its guitar tuning and fusion keyboards and for this it is aptly named after the kickboxing Street Fighter character ‘Chun Li’. Oh yes, did I forget to mention that all four tracks are named after classic Street Fighter characters? With ease this record brings you back to both the late 60’s and early 70’s soundscape of jazz fusion as well as the nostalgic 2D fighting games of the 90s. Segments of this sweeping track feel like the band celebrating the sounds of the past with their own flare, weaving between gentle interludes of synths and keyboards and then into sudden crunches of overdriven guitars that harken to the likes of Deep Purple. ‘Zangief’, much like the actual character, lets the musician grab onto their instruments and let their individual talents be heard as it is brimming with hard and tasteful riffs, swift and satisfying drum canoodling, electrifying keyboard playing and is peppered with sections of throbbing bass. ‘Ken’ on the other hand brings things down a notch, starting off with an atmospheric and spacey reverb of chords in tandem with saxophone mimicry on the synths. Personally, I feel as though a large portion of this track somewhat lacks identity, not standing out as much as its rivals: humorously representing the sometimes-lacking identity of the character it is named after, much like the track before it. It does however pick up again towards the end, but upon multiple listens sounds rather similar to some of the moments from ‘Chun Li’, I think this one could have used some more development perhaps. Then to top everything off is the energy-fuelled ‘Dhalsim’ where the riffs are at their heaviest and the chord progressions at their quirkiest, this one is very much akin to Gentle Giant’s early offerings. The gentle chimes of cymbals and rapid taps of snares make this track flow with a frantic grace, contrasted by the return of overdriven guitars to create a sinister sense at times, reminding me of Dhalsim’s unsettling appearance in the games. And on top of all this, how about that album art? It certainly takes my eyes back to Roger Dean’s intriguing worlds of mystery. I’d argue that this group is close to the edge of greatness, now to wait and see what will next sprawl from their talented minds in their future releases.

Track Listing
1) Chun Li
2) Zangief
3) Ken
4) Dhalsim

Added: January 20th 2024
Reviewer: Johnny Ponsford
Related Link: Band @ Bandcamp
Hits: 1395
Language: english

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Soft Ffog: Soft Ffog
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2024-01-21 05:24:55
My Score:

Here is another debut album for our readers to digest, although this one took a few years to evolve. The band is Soft Ffog, hailing from Norway, and formed in 2016. Originally, they were commissioned by the Kongsberg Jazz Festival that same year as a one-off project, but the band didn’t take flight for various reasons. However, the band did get together for occasional gigs which did help keep the project together. Fast forward a few years and we have their self titled debut, all compositions penned by guitarist Tom Hasslan (Krokofant). The album was recorded at Studio Paradiso (Oslo) with the help of Christian Engfelt who handled engineering and production.

Right from the first listen my mind was completely blown away. The band serves up helpings of jazz, classic rock, psychedelic, progressive, fusion and who knows what else, but the thing is just how the album hangs together in such a cohesive way. This, in and of itself, is really quite amazing considering all the paths these musicians travel.

The disc begins with the near ten-minute opus “Chun Li” beginning with an up-tempo riff and groove. Washes of keyboards caress the guitar like feathers on the wind. The band really begins to rock, heading into ‘60s psychedelic territory, I even hear some Cream at times, as the band explores some fuzzier tones. Musical change ups lead into spacey fusion sounds and the ripping guitar solo in the song’s latter half just might melt your mind.

On “Zangief”, the excellent guitar riff screams '70s era classic rock and had me hooked immediately. Soon the short solo guitar excursions develop into an album highlight solo, the burning lead work setting the fret board on fire. It’s classic hard rock and ‘70s psychedelic in a head on collision, and the results are stunning.

The album ending “Dhalsim” is one of the most satisfying tunes, at least from a prog perspective, taking the mannerisms of King Crimson and putting them through a blender, revealing an oddly distorted guitar scape that is as twisted as it is creative. The quirky guitar rhythms unfold into heavily distorted riffs and massive drums. The equally impressive keyboards growl with reverb, the band’s intensity is at an album high.

Soft Ffog creates some great melodies coexisting with mind numbing virtuosity, exquisite detail, and various shades of heavy and light. It all makes for a fabulous listening experience as you realize how just a little chaos can sound so good. Highly recommended!

Released on Is It Jazz? Records, an offshoot of the Karisma label.

Band members:
Tom Hasslan (Krokofant) - guitars
Axel Skalstad (krokofant) - drums
Trond Frønes (Red Kite, Grand General) - bass
Vegard Lien Bjerkan (WIZRD) - keyboards

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