Further proof to my contention that everyone in Scandinavia is in, or has been in a band is offered by the glorious duo Shamblemaths, who hail almost inevitably from Trondheim in Norway. Simen Å. Ellingsen on guitars, saxophones and vocals and Eirik M. Husum on bass, plus guest appearances from Eirik Øverland Dischler on keyboards and Jon Even Schärer on drums make a fine old racket, melding influences such as Magma and RIO, sundry classic prog, jazz rock, and all round general craziness.
As it says in the PR blurb “Ellingsen holds two PhDs, one in quantum physics (the Casimir effect), one in political science (on terrorism with nuclear weapons), and is Associate Professor of fluid mechanics. While a curious piece of trivia, this is naturally quite irrelevant in the present context”. Indeed, but it highlights that there is more than a quantum amount of intelligence running through this wild ride of an album.
Surprises abound, and after the first half of the sprawling 27-minute opener, a smorgasbord (if I may be allowed a little dramatic licence) of musical detours and buried refrains suitably entitled Conglomeration, the pace changes and we venture off into an altogether more melodic territory than the Magma universe of before. This split rather makes me wonder why this beast wasn’t split into two separate tracks, or at least “Part one” and “Part two” as the reappearances of earlier themes are hard to link back to the first half. This is a common trait among prog “long uns”. Very few compositions have the strength to justify a length of over ten minutes in my not-so-humble opinion, and that includes a fair few from the first flowering of prog, and the guilty parties then and now would be better off not letting their ambition get the better of them, or perhaps someone gaffa-taped the stop button?
As for Conglomeration, I’ve heard worse, far worse, and it more than kept my interest until the end. I reckon they know that their enjoyable but rambling excesses will provoke reactions like mine, for Conglomeration is subtitled the ‘Grand Pathetic Suite’ and the lyric to part a) reads:
At least they do not take themselves too seriously, unlike some of their more po-faced peers.
The brainiac Simen Å. Ellingsen is equally at home blowing mellifluous or barking sax as he is plucking classical guitar or injecting angry shards of the electric variety, and together with the keyboards, the front line instrumentation is top notch. The second track A Fading Ember, another schizoid affair this time is kept to a mere nine and half minutes, a sensible length for a song that combines VdGG angularity with Renaissance classicism, creaking Mellotronic grand guignol and eerily gurgling babies without a second thought.
Stalker ends the album and another twenty minute composition sees these happily indulgent Norwegians sail up fjords and wander through pine forests pursued by grinning evil bears carrying aloft Mick Box-like guitar breaks, portentous sax, and epic intent. I consider that Stalker works better than Conglomeration as it keeps its eye on the ball a lot more while it thunders along to its heady denouement, after a wistful call and response between guitar and sax that even Professor Ellingsen may have trouble replicating live!
A fun album from a nimble duo of some talent, Shamblemaths are a name to keep an eye on.
1. Conglomeration (26:54)
2. A Fading Ember (9:27)
3. Stalker (19:52)
Total time – 54:13
Simen Å. Ellingsen – Guitars, Saxophones, Vocals
Eirik M. Husum – Bass guitar
Eirik Øverland Dischler – Keyboards
Jon Even Schärer – Drums
Record Label: Shamblemaths – Independent
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 15th March 2016