The flow of great music coming out of Norway continues with this excellent debut release from Pixie Ninja, who hail from Rognan in the north of the country. OK, let’s deal with the name first; it is a strange but interesting one, a pixie defined as a supernatural being in folklore, a ninja is a warrior or assassin trained in stealth. Not two words you would expect to find together, but who knows what lurks in those dark Norwegian forests.
Ultrasound is a result of Jostein Haugen and Marius Leirånes’ love of Scandinavian progressive music, beginning work around late May 2015, the recording process began the following year, with the duo playing most instruments themselves. They decided to contact Mattias Olsson (Necromonkey, ex Änglagård) who joined, mainly as the producer but also contributed drums and overdubs of Mellotron. Later Johan Hals Jørgensen came on board to provide keyboard support, the album also featuring Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (Weserbergland, White Willow, Wobbler) who adds flute to one track. This was originally only intended as an album project, but they have since been asked to perform live, so Jostein, Marius and Johan added drummer Geir Martin Langvad to fulfil some dates.
The album consists of six tracks ranging from two and a half minutes to over eleven, all instrumental with an electronic and sometimes ambient feel, but with a darker edge to some of the songs. Opener Auditory Hallucinations has an ambient start with the keyboards building up the theme, but in the background there is faint tinkling, chiming sounds, which don’t detract but you gradually become aware that they are there. This effect could be seen as attempting to demonstrate the unsettling condition of the title; who knows, but that’s my view. Things change half way through and the song develops more drive towards the end.
The album’s longest track, Personal Development Cult, starts with almost a King Crimson feel before things change and soften, at around four and a half minutes the bass taking on a throbbing, darker feel. This darker effect is taken up by the keyboards as the song picks up pace, developing a harder edge before building to a near symphonic finish which suddenly changes to a lone keyboard ending. The song is seamless in its movement through its various moods and parts, an excellently constructed song worthy of its eleven minutes running time.
Elusive The Wind Vane features Ketil Vestrum Einarsen’s flute contribution, at times his wonderful playing a counterpoint to the music but it works so well. Une Promenade is a beautiful piano-led piece provided by Johan, who also features on Polysomnographic; here we have a sci-fi feel to the music, provided by the keyboards pulsing with increased frequency before the drums join in. Again the music moves seamlessly through its various stages, providing an enjoyable listen.
Overall this is an excellent debut, there is directness to the music on first listen but repeated plays reveal hidden depths and textures, and it becomes clear that a lot of care and attention has gone into creating this work. It would be great to see this album played live, but alas living in the U.K. that isn’t likely to happen.
1. Auditory Hallucinations (9:13)
2. Elusive The Wind Vane (6:45)
3. Une Promenade (2:37)
4. Polysomnographic (5:30)
5. Personal Improvement Cult (11:20)
6. Ultrasound (2:56)
Total Time – 38:21
Marius Leirånes – All Instruments
Jostein Haugen – All Instruments
Johan Hals Jørgensen – Keyboards (tracks 3,4 & 5)
Mattius Olssen – Drums & Overdubs (mainly Mellotron)
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen – Flute (track 2)
Current Live Line-up:
Marius Leirånes – Bass
Jostein Haugen – Guitar
Johan Hals Jorgensen – Synth
Gair Martin Langvad – Drums
Record Label: Apollon Records
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Digital Download
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 23rd June 2017