Major Parkinson - Blackbox

Major Parkinson – Blackbox

The fourth album from Norwegian sonic explorers Major Parkinson arrived in November last year on Degaton Records, who seem to have connections with the always interesting Karisma Records label, and that is what attracted me to this in the first instance, that and a Facebook friend’s recommendation along the lines of “If you like (a band name I can’t recall), you’ll probably like Major Parkinson.” I am really struggling trying to think who that mystery comparison was, as this sounds like nothing else, although in spirit it bears resemblance to any band with a progressive spirit in the true sense.

Featuring orchestral arrangements, choirs, synth pop, cinematic rushes, not to mention a song with an impossible time signature, this is a richly diverse work, so much so that it has taken me nigh on two months since the first play to even get to point where I can write a single paragraph about it. Oddly, while not being the slightest avant, it is a difficult album to get into. The reason for that is its sheer denseness – there is so much going on here that it will make little sense on first or second play, or indeed if played at low volume. Therefore you have to wait until you have the house to yourself before cranking it up in order to get between the sheets with this beguilingly complex lover so that you may get properly familiar with the curves.

A mix of high camp and macabre but somehow Vaudevillian shenanigans, combined with a daunting musical ambition, the ethos and modus operandi of Major Parkinson, and as a result their no doubt polarising effect on a potential audience puts them in a similar position to the unsurpassable Cardiacs, a band I am sure the Majors would admit a liking for. Musically there are occasional similarities – listen to the intro to the title track for example – but the Majors are waaay out there on a limb of their own, have no fear of that!

If one track sums up this sprawling album it is Isabel – A Report to an Academy, where the maybe obvious but nonetheless effective contrast of the gruff male voice and his more melodic female counterparts is but one alluring device, and along with unusual keyboard melodies, alien synths, stentorian guitars, marching rhythms, and dramatic orchestral interjections combine to make an enthralling whole that will drag the initiate, in this case me, back for more. The Majors can also do pop, on a grand scale, as the single Madeleine Crumbles attests. I can see Blackbox becoming a bit of a treasure chez moi.

01. Lover, Lower Me Down! (4:47)
02. Night Hitcher (5:46)
03. Before the Helmets (1:25)
04. Isabel – A Report to an Academy (9:41)
05. Scenes from Edison’s Black Maria (1:46)
06. Madeleine Crumbles (5:06)
07. Baseball (10:20)
08. Strawberry Suicide (2:57)
09. Blackbox (5:48)

Total Time – 47:36

Jon Ivar Kollbotn – Lead Vocals, Piano (track 3)
Eivind Gammersvik – Bass, Backing Vocals
Lars Christian Bjørknes – Piano, Synth, Organs, Programming, Notation, Backing Vocals
Sondre Sagstad Veland – Drums, Percussion, Typewriter, Backing Vocals
Sondre Rafoss Skollevoll – Guitars, Backing Vocals, microKORG (track 4)
Øystein Bech-Eriksen – Guitars
Claudia Cox – Violin, Backing Vocals
~ With:
Linn Frøkedal – Lead Vocals
Carmen Boveda – Cello
Jonas Flemsæter Hamre – Saxophone
Joar Lemme – Trombone
Gunleik Gisletveit – Tuba
Logan Arndt – French Horn
Andreas Hesselberg Hatzikiriakidis – Trumpet
Nataniel Hjønnevåg – Xylophone
Thomas Rolland aka Lip Shaw – Whistling
Megan Kovacs – Backing Vocals
Female choir by Volve Vokal:
– Thea Meidell Sjule
– Idunn Strøm Myklebust
– Frida Ekerhovd
– Kaja Linder Henriksen
– Ann Christin Jenssen
– Kristine Norebø
– Signe Wiger
– Kine Granum
– Malene Moen Sætre
– Solveig Foldnes Dybsland

Record Label: Degaton Records/Karisma Records
Catalogue#: DRCD2222/KAR136CDD
Date of Release: 27th October 2017

Major Parkinson – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp