Off The Radar is the fourteenth studio album from Isildurs Bane, and that title could reflect how they have gone about their musical vision these last forty years; quietly, evolving, changing direction, all the time maintaining their integrity. From my perspective they certainly went under the radar, despite being aware of the band I hadn’t heard them until being privileged to review their highly acclaimed collaboration with Steve Hogarth, Colours Not Found in Nature.
The bulk of the songs for this album were written between 2011 and 2017, partly held back due to the changing way in which music was being consumed, but maybe due to the success of Colours Not Found In Nature and the resurgence of CD and vinyl they felt it was time to start releasing in these formats again. On the strength of this album, I for one am glad that they have chosen to do so; it clearly seems that this band still has a lot of new music to offer. The album was mixed by Charles Storm, whose production work is known from Strasse, Blue For Two and Japan’s Steve Jansen amongst others. He has been described as “The Stanley Kubrick of music production” and the sound here is clear and precise, with clarity and room given to all the instruments. The band have continued to make their exciting and innovative music, creating a cohesive sound using elements of rock, prog, jazz, electronic, acoustic and classical music; a heady blend, but it works so well.
This is an album essentially for keyboards, the core having been written on synthesizers, but where the magic happen is when they add in the other instruments to create textures and little nuances. It is the selection of these instruments, often unusual percussive ones, that go a long way to making the band’s unique sound so special; these include the cajon, timbales, repinique and pandeiro, the last two being drums from Brazil. There is a heady line up of keyboards which are listed below, including an Oberheim Xpander among them. Add into the mix flute, violin, sax, clarinet, trumpet, marimba and vibraphone to accompany the usual guitar, bass and drums and you have a wonderful musical kaleidoscope, creating an interesting and beautifully crafted sound which draws you in to their musical world. Each further play reveals sounds, instruments and textures woven throughout the music, it is this that holds you as a listener, ever expanding the musical experience.
The album consists of six tracks, with the inclusion of a seventh bonus track, Ulvertyr/Open recorded live in 2016, a beautiful acoustic guitar piece played by Christian Saggese. The album opens with Drive! Parts 1-3 where a violin melody from their previous album is used; things quickly change and develop into a rock rhythm with trumpet offering up some wonderful sounds. When the marimba joins in it gives a jazzy Zappa vibe to the proceedings which continues in the title track through some wonderful saxophone. Things get smoothed out on the arrival of the trumpet, with keyboards providing the drive and atmosphere throughout.
The band’s variety shows on Endless Air, here we get an almost classical feel to start, before things change and a sort of crazy jazz groove appears. This variety is true throughout the album; all the songs are multilayered with each instrument playing its part, creating an album of musical craft and depth. At around ten minutes, the longest track demonstrates this very well, Xenolith contains indicators of some possible influences that have maybe helped to forge and shape Isildurs Bane’s unique sound. Starting in almost King Crimson territory, the song changes and evolves into a more jazzy feel, which has a touch of Zappa about it; all the time the keyboard sounds are evident, with the percussive taps and FX provided by Pat Mastelotto adding further interest, we end with what sounds like a musical toy box winding down. Having said all that, the band maintains their identity throughout, leaving you in no doubt that this is Isildurs Bane.
This is another top quality release from the band, the sound is excellent and with each repeated play it offers up something new, their music is complex and skilfully delivered as the instruments fold in and around each other. This skilful delivery will no doubt be demonstrated by Isildurs Bane when they play these songs live; they recently collaborated with Peter Hammill and Tim Bowness at their annual concerts this year, which shows the high regard fellow musicians hold them in. This is a band that deserves your attention; I do not believe you will be disappointed such is the quality and talent of this group of musicians who explore music free from genre.
01. Drive! Part 1-3 (7:52)
02. Off the Radar (4:38)
03. Under Your New Moon (5:21)
04. Xenolith (10:05)
05. Goodbye Berlin (4:31)
06. Endless Air (5:51)
~ Bonus track:
07. Uvertyr/Open (Live 2016) (4:36)
Total time – 42:54
Kathryn Amster – Keyboards & Electronics (tracks 1,2,4 & 5)
Xerxes Andren – Drums (tracks 1 & 4)
Klas Assarsson – Marimba, Vibraphone, Tamtam, Snare Drum, Toms, Bass Drum (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 6)
Luca Calabresse – Trumpet (tracks 1,2,4 & 6)
Axel Croné – Bass, Bass Clarinet, Synth, Electric Guitar, Grand Piano, Alto Sax (tracks 1,2,3,4,5 & 6)
Samuel Hällkvist – Electric Guitar (tracks 1,2 & 4)
Mats Johansson – Kurzweil 2600, Arp 2600, Minimoog D, Roland V Synth, Mellotron, Nord Modular, Treatments, Grand Piano, Oberheim Xpander (tracks 1,2,3,4,5 & 6)
Liesbeth Lambrecht – Violin (track 1)
Pieter Lenaerts – Double Bass (track 1)
Kjell Severinsson – Drums, Cajon (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 5)
Adam Sass – Trumpet (track 2)
Lucas Wikstrom – Electric Guitar (tracks 3 & 5)
Leif Jonsson – Congas, Timbales, Timbau, Repinique, Pandeiro, Overtone Flute (track 4)
Patt Mastelotto – Electric & Acoustic Percussion, FX (tracks 4,5 & 6)
Christian Saggose – Acoustic Guitar
Record Label: Ataraxia Production
Date of Release: 1st December 2017