Review – Wobbler – From Silence To Somewhere – by Emma Roebuck

Wobbler, a Norwegian band formed in 1999 near Hønefoss; no, I had no idea until I looked either; release their fourth album.

Who are Wobbler?

Lars Fredrik Frøislie – keyboards, backing vocals, Kristian Karl Hultgren – bass, bass clarinet, bass recorder, Martin Nordrum Kneppen – drums, percussion, recorder, Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo – vocals, guitar, glockenspiel, percussion, Geir Marius Bergom Halleland – lead guitar, backing vocals.

It is a 4 track album with 3 tracks between 10 and 20 minutes and one that comes in at 3 minutes. On my first play through I am going to own up to having some immediate judgements on the band and the music they make. I am new to them and have not heard any of their music, I am though a fan of Trevor Pinnock and his work creating authentic music on the instruments in the classical field and I see something of this in the music of Wobbler and their desire to create the authentic sound of the bands of the “golden age” of progressive rock. They also have channeled the bands of the time as key influences of creative process.

From Silence to Somewhere is the opener and at 21 minutes is indicative of the desire to be the wormhole to the late 60s and early 70s. Musically it carries the spirit of the 70s but is recorded in an analogue way through digital technology. We then have a quandary because sonically this is better than their heroes, or at least those they seem to witch to emulate. Mellotrons, time changes, light and shade abound with woodwind of the medieval instruments and flute dropping in left right and centre. The harmonies are well constructed and the jigsaw puzzle of the music fits together inch perfect, well nanometre perfect. It is very slick.

Rendered In shades of Green is a simpler beast., piano and strings with light percussion that lifts from a requiem overture to something with more of a lightness of touch.

That is light relief for Fermented Hours hits like a steam hammer through a polystyrene wall. Over 10 minutes of more rapidly changing musical sound scapes than may actually be good for the health.

Finally Foxlight, pastoral in its introduction and lightness, is a relief after the previous track. Harmonies and a very acoustic drive to it give the listener a memory of laying in a hay meadow by the moon light in a balmy summers evening. Well at least for the first 3 minutes before they crash into a full-on-band-beast; Harpsichord flute bass and drums dance around each other for supremacy with Andreas’ vocals bouncing along the track to narrate the storyline.

I am going to be honest, I have no idea what the songs are about and I am not trying to get inside the heads of the writers. They are obviously passionate about what they do and are focused on creating music that is a reflection and wear the musical influences like a heart on their collective sleeves. They draw directly from the source and you can hear it. Fans of King Crimson, PFM, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Gryphon, The Tangent and Big Big Train will find something in this album worth listening to and enjoying. There is a market for their music and, after being done over by the visa department by the good old USA this summer, some recompense is due to them.

Released 20th October 2017

Buy ‘From Silence To Somewhere’ from bandcamp

 

 

Review – White Willow – Future Hopes – by Emma Roebuck

I shall be brutally honest: I had forgotten that White Willow was still running as a functioning band. Maybe The Hedvig Mollestad project has made me think that way? The lack of any profile in the last few years or output had put them well in the back of my musical memory. I was at HRH V Prog talking to old friends about the forthcoming album when it occurred to me how important profile is in the Biz we call ‘show.’ Therefore, essentially, I have come to this as if it’s a fresh band out of the box.

Sporting a cover courtesy of Roger Dean himself, this is a product that has set its sights on being a truly prog album in the classical sense but it is also a real challenge for the band themselves to achieve the aspiration worthy of such a historically artistic cover. Have they achieved it? We shall see by the end of the review.

White Willow are Venke Knutson (vocals), Jacob Holm-Lupo (guitars, synthesizers, keyboards, backing vocals), Mattias Olsson )drums, percussion, e-bow, sounds & noises), Lars Fredrik Frøislie (synthesizers, keyboards), Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (wind controller, flute) and Ellen Andrea Wang (bass guitar), Hedvig Mollestad (guitar), David Krakauer (clarinet), Ole Øvstedal (guitar) and Kjersti Løken (trumpet).

(Band photos by Dagfinn Hobæk)

By producing a seven track album (including the two bonus tracks) the band have not fallen into the trap of needing to fill a CD’s worth of material for the sake of it but, instead, have focused on the quality of the product rather than blitzing it with a ton of excessive material that could swamp the real calibre of the music.

Future Hopes, the eponymous title track, opens with booming bass pedals and a lilting melody with a melancholic vocal. The guitar and keyboards come in and the whole thing has an analog feel to it, but decidedly not old fashioned. The music has a crisp clean sound, nothing muddy or thick here. Complex harmonies and rhythms wind through the track, twisting between the possibly positive or negative world that we have to look forward to right now. It’s a fine opener and sets the bar high for the rest of the album

Silver and Gold is very folk-like in style with an acoustic introduction and almost a duet between guitar and voice that has a poetry all of its own. There’s also a very Moogy keyboard subtly coming into the background followed by a doom laden drum instrumental middle 8 then back to the guitar and voice. This has hidden depths and would make an outstanding live track for atmosphere and melancholy.

In Dim Days jumps straight up a gear and has a sonic landscape that is the total opposite of the previous track. You get distorted guitar and phasing through and through, it has a real symphonic feel to it reminiscent of Floyd in the Division Bell period. There is an open fullness to the track, if that makes sense at all? It has an epicness to it that allows a really effective exploration of the theme musically and lyrically without having to fill every second up with a million notes that swamp the listener. It’s definitely a high point of the album and this alone makes it a worthwhile purchase.

Venke Knutson is the new vocalist on this album and a stable back line from Opium Cartel . She provides a great vehicle for the lyrics and slots well into the line up. Now these guys have evolved over the last 21 years from a very folk base line to a band that has mature song writing and looks at adult themes. White Willow have placed their colours very firmly in the Traditional Prog territory but have retained a definitive identity of their own. I often do a sounds-a-like for reference in my reviews but not for the sake of “do they do a good … insert band name…” but mainly so you can have a point of reference as to whether this is going to be my cup of tea or not.

White Willow have a very firm identity of their own but sit very firmly in the atmospheric open grouping of bands that allow the music to breath and express itself. If Pink Floyd merged with Yes and Steve Wilson then recruited a female vocalist and then listened to Steeleye Span for a month before going into the studio, you may be close but it sounds nothing like any of the component parts.

There is an interesting version of Animal Magnetism By The Scorpions as one of the bonus tracks that shows a great sense of musical history and humour.  Fans of the band won’t be disappointed by this album and it will also attract new listeners. It does not bring down the walls of innovation but it does a sterling job of improving on White Willow’s reputation.

Gig with this album guys and gals. Your classmates Anekdoten and Anglagard seem to have been far more in the fore-front recently. This album has amended that and set a line your turn to deliver!

Released 31st March 2017

Buy ‘Future Hopes’ from Laser’s Edge (US)

Buy ‘Future Hopes’ from cd-services (UK)