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Steensland, Simon: Fat again

Multi-instrumentalist, Simon Steensland, after a short hiatus, is back with a new album of avant-garde experimental music featuring a host of supporting artists including Morgan Agren of Matts Morgan fame. Simon is firmly opposed to avant-garde for avant-garde's sake seeing the listener as an important part of the musical contract therefore one would expect accessibility in this album which is basically two long complex works interspersed with a number of shorter, mostly vocal, pieces.

"Der Klang von Musik" starts with crisp drumming from Morgan driving along a firm beat and bass used as lead supported by sustained guitar chords which gradually emerge along with the keyboard parts to develop into a more symphonic feel. The impression turns more Crimsonesque as the track develops with hints of Magma or Universe Zero at various points, particularly where the tempo slows down and the mood becomes darker. At one point the darkness gets so intense it enters the realms of Napalm death-metal. Simon demonstrates great skill in building tension from the quieter interludes with bass and straining guitar climbing in volume very effectively before falling back to a subdued meandering accordion, glockenspiel and keyboards.

The vocal arrangement in "Lost in the Ark" is very much in the Zeuhl vein, reminding me of Universal Totem Orchestra as much as Magma. "Merde" is really a voice/drum duet whilst Morgan kicks into "Jan Josta" with a very poppy riff and is very much controlled from behind the skins. "Hide and Seek" at 8 minutes has more time to develop and is perhaps the strangest piece on the album with a virtual choir contributing eerie voice parts in an almost operatic performance which has very strong undertones of Univers Zero as it expands. Another notable track is "Queen of Sweden" with its superb percussive instruments set in a swirl of keyboards and riveting drum parts.

The closing number, "The lion tamer" is the longest work clocking in at 20 minutes and, like the opener, it doesn't sit on its laurels or rely on repetition or long drawn out moody passages. Morgan sets the scene off with a drum-roll leading into a rather distorted and menacing circus-like theme. Robert Elovsson's eloquent clarinet provides melodic counterpoint to the doomy bass and wildly staggering guitar at an early point in proceedings. Various motifs and riffs settle themselves momentarily during the next major build before the band moves on to a slower passage sustained by a single repeated note on glock and keyboard which gradually evolves with effects at the midpoint to a slow section. The next movement is very much in Univers Zero territory with clarinet and harmonium taking the lead. Vocal parts embellish the next sequence over a rather playful glock arrangement before the track slowly dissolves into a guitar and harmonium outro.

There is much to delight in this cocktail of instrumental and voice music with its powerful imagery and classical variations so yes, I would say Simon's work will be highly accessible to those of a more adventurous taste.

Track Listing
1. Der Klang von "musik"
2. Lost in the Ark
3. Merde!
4. Memories of Jan Josta
5. Loch Ness
6. Hide and seek
7. Frals oss ifran ondo
8. The Queen of Sweden
9. Pette merde
10. The lion tamer

Added: December 1st 2009
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Altrock Productions
Hits: 1397
Language: english

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