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Moon Safari: [blomljud]

To the more critical or cynical eye, it appears that the third wave of prog spearheaded by InsideOut Records, Spock's Beard, and The Flower Kings has slowly petered out. InsideOut America has folded into SPC Records, Neal Morse has abandoned secular music, and online file sharing is making the already slim profit margins of prog labels even smaller. But while the chicken littles of progressive rock worry about the extinction of the genre, batches of new bands are springing up to replace those that have fallen by the wayside. Among these are some groups like Moon Safari, Brighteye Brison, Magic Pie, and Brother Ape, who give a bright and fun spin to Scandinavian prog, once known for the bleak, gothic textures of bands like Anekdoten and Anglagard.

The crown jewel of this new generation thus far is [blomljud], the two disc sophomore release by Sweden's Moon Safari. Released several months ago to critical accolades, the band's recent addition to the bill of ROSFest 2009 has reminded us at Sea of Tranquility to correct this oversight. The young band has successfully combined the approaches of Jon Anderson, Roine Stolt, and Brian Wilson into a 100 minute love letter to rural Sweden that seems more like a vacation than an album. This is symphonic prog with a marked emphasis on melody-and it also happens progressive rock's best release of 2008 thus far.

Things immediately begin on the right foot with "Constant Bloom", a gorgeous a cappella track that promises to live up to the potential of their debut album A Doorway to Summer. "We walk through the door a second time around", they harmonize, "to do what was said but never done." The quarter hour epic "Methuselah's Children" lives up to that potential and more with gorgeous keyboard lines, lively acoustic strumming, and a climactic reprise of the themes from "Constant Bloom". No band save perhaps Echolyn has so fully integrated such an immense vocabulary of chords into their sound. Moon Safari makes full use of this palate throughout the album giving certain lines an emotional emptiness and others celebratory fulfillment. "In the Countryside" is a folksy invitation to go where "you won't be a slave to technology", and with 12 string guitars that almost sparkle out of your speakers, you might want to join them. "The Ghost of Flowers Past" ends the first disc with some of the most beautiful melodic turns of phrase on the album.

The melodies and nimble keyboard lines continue unabated on disc two, joined by the pyrotechnic guitar leads on "Yasgur's Farm" courtesy of Black Bonzo's Anthon Johansson. "Lady of the Woodlands" sounds like a tribute to the music of Kerry Livgren with an adventurous instrumental intro that even has some violin. "The Other Half of the Sky" clocks in at over a half hour over four parts and is nothing less than the band's tour de force. When they sing the line "and hope's as high as the sun today / once around the world, now coming your way" it seems like a message of intent from a group that surely is on the rise. "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" provides the perfectly bittersweet late summer feel to such a beautiful, sunny album. This will be a tough one to top!

Track Listing
Disc One
1. Constant Bloom
2. Methuselah's Children
3. In the Countryside
4. Moonwalk
5. Bluebells
6. The Ghost of Flowers Past
Disc Two
1. Yasgur's Farm
2. Lady of the Woodlands
3. A Tale of Three and Tree
4. Other Half of the Sky
5. To Sail Beyond the Sunset

Added: August 18th 2008
Reviewer: Robert Short
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4449
Language: english

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