This band from Trondheim in Norway began life in 2004 and were originally called Fallen Fowl, but changed their name to Shamblemaths – a more interesting name no doubt. They describe their music as “a blatant and unabashed throwback to the golden days of ’70s prog”, and their first self-titled album was released in 2016, reviewed Here by my TPA colleague Roger Trenwith.
This second album takes on a different tone, darker and heavier yet retaining some of the fragility and vulnerability. It has taken them five years and, as they say, “countless studio hours” but without compromise, and all those hours and ideas have been compressed into forty-five minutes of eclectic and interesting music; ’70s prog tinged with touches of avant-garde and jazz.
The album consists of nine songs, ranging from just over a minute to the longest track at a little under ten minutes. The opener, and shortest track, Måneskygge, starts with a gentle woodwind and keyboard drone before jumping into the second track, Knucklecog, the opening chords of which smack you in the chops. It settles into an almost King Crimson feel, moments of beauty intercut with harsh, jazzy tones, the song ebbing and flowing as it develops, with the drums and rolling bass holding things together.
The middle of the album has Lat Kvar Jordisk Skipning Teia, consisting of nine parts spread over four tracks. Parts one to four feature a haunting vocal with ’70s synth lines, moving to a harder edge to give a musical counterpoint to the vocal melody before jazz elements are added with saxophone taking the lead. Half-way through, there’s an almost classical interlude led by bassoon before things start to build to a robust and heavier finish.
Part 5 has a smooth jazz feel to start, gentle laid-back bass and drums with keyboard backing and saxophone lead. The keyboards then go into a repetitive hypnotic style, reminiscent of Magma, which in turn heralds an increase in pace and mood, the last half of the song becoming heavier but with some haunting vocals.
A frantic jazzy start to the next track, parts six to eight, which drifts into some beautiful acoustic guitar, accompanied by bassoon then piano before the frantic effect returns and the pace picks up with great guitar and bass work.
The last part of the cycle is wrapped up with Part 9, beginning with vocals from Eivor Å Ellingsen (aged 6), accompanied by keys and piano in a gentle, soothing end to the song cycle. These track sit well together with a loosely connected musical feel.
The lyrics are sung in Norwegian, and this work so well, the final track The River being the exception to this, as they sing it in English. After the opening vocal from Simen Ellingsen we get a wonderful harmony accompanied by piano, which gives way to the sound of running water and a gentle saxophone solo, with gentle keyboards in the background. Slowly the bass and percussion enter and the pace increases in an arc before the return of the harmony vocal and piano near the end to give a masterful example of structure and pacing.
This is an album that to some might be a challenging and demanding listen, but it comes with moments of great vocal beauty and demonstrates that all the work they have put in has paid dividends. A band who are on an upward trajectory making great strides from their debut album, at this rate the next will be something to behold.
01. Måneskygge (1:05)
02. Knucklecog (9:56)
03. D.S.C.H. (op.110 String Quartet no.8 in C minor) (6:24)
04. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia parts 1-4 (6:37)
05. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia part 5 (5:38)
06. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia part 6-8 (3:43)
07. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia part 9 Mørker vik på (2:18)
08. Been and Gone (2:13)
09. This River (9:04)
Total Time – 46:58
Simen Ellingsen – Soprano, Alto, Tenor & Baritone Saxophones, Guitar, Vocals, Recorder, Sundry Implements
Ingvald A. Vassbø – Drums, Percussion
Eskild Myrvoll – Bass
Paolo Botta – Keyboards (tracks 4 to 6)
Erik Ø. Dischler – Keyboards (tracks 2,3 & 9)
Marianne Lønstad – Vocals (tracks 2 & 9)
Anna Gaustad Nistad – Vocals (tracks 4 & 6)
Pia M. Samset – Vocals (tracks 3 & 5)
Leon Li – Bassoon (tracks 4 & 6)
Eivor Å. Ellingsen – Vocals (track 7)
Michael Francis Duch – Double Bass (tracks 7 & 8)
Morten A. Nome – Double Bass (track 1)
Ask Vatn Strøm – Guitar Cameo (track 6)
Record Label: Apollon Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 22nd October 2021