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Album Review: TBA

Monday, May 19, 2014

Album Review: Tusmørke – Riset Bak Speilet

Anyone up for a good old-fashioned campfire freakout? Addled minds and heightened senses, merry jigs and sudden noises and, all the while, dark shadows cavort across the trunks of gnarled, bent trees. The identical Momrak twins of Tusmørke (meaning “Twilight”) clearly have a bit of experience in this area and make music that provides the perfect backdrop to such revelry with lush, dark tones, magical instrumentation and rich layering all invoking the rituals, the emotions and hallowed reverence of the occasion. Sniff hard and you’d swear you could smell damp undergrowth and burning wood.

With a strong root system reaching back, past the Scandinavian neo-progressive rock scene of the 1990s which birthed them, to invoke the 1970s sounds of Jethro Tull and Focus, this acid rock group also manage to suck in a darker quality that encroaches upon the listener. It’s a foreboding, broader sound that can be allied to more contemporary sources such as Hexvessel and Circle. The key points to their attack are to be found in the majesty of the harmonics, the use of minor keys and the flourishes of Krizla’s flute and Årabrot’s Hammond organ.

With songs that are sung in English wedged in between two sung in their native language, this 5-track album isn’t afraid to twist tongues to match-make. Opener “Offerpresten” (in English, “Sacrificial Priest”) is a beauty. Majestical and rhythmically strong, the music could have come direct from the imaginings of Ian Anderson himself. The flute threads a riff through the piece that had me grinning from ear to ear, mocking the great man’s flamingo legs and hopping from foot to foot. Can you air flute? The softer, folk-riddled hush of “Gamle Aker Kirke” will transport you back to mediaeval times and the imposing shadow of an old church. There’s strong harmonies here and a passage of spoken word that pops up amidst all this curtseying and courtliness.

There is a subtle dip in impact tracks that takes place as you venture deeper into the album. The dream of flying with the “Black Swift” is scuppered by it being a somewhat repetitive and all too regimented journey. By the end of its 8:40 running time it is really struggling. You’d think the 14-minute “Riset Bak Speilet” (translated as “The Birch Behind The Looking Glass”) might suffer from the same problem at 13:20, but exercise a little patience and you should find plenty of excellent King Crimson-esque jazzy affectations, an engaging shape-shifting structure, an addictive re-emergent chorus lick and a sweet thread of magickal organ and flute.

So engaging are the lyrics, I have made it my prerogative to learn Norwegian before their next release. My personal favourite here lurks in “All Is Lost” – “Wasted effort, Time ill spent, Now I can’t even pay the rent, All is lost”. For those who dig a decent lyric there’s definitely also a mention of “Toilet pain” in here somewhere. Do make sure you pick up the CD version of this because then you’ll get 3 bonus tracks to wade through. It’s an excellent find this. Don’t let the connections with other bands put you off. It is a real glimmer of stylistic originality within a vast sea of over-familiar, unimaginative dross and well worth a listen.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2014/05/tusmorke-riset-bak-speilet-svart-records/
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