Sometimes an album simply doesn’t resonate. No matter how ardent a fan of the band you may be, irrespective of the number of listens you give it in the increasingly forlorn hope of discovering the sprinkling of magic which will make it come alive, it remains stubbornly, steadfastly, cold to you. That was my experience of Pymlico’s previous release On This Day (2020). I still persevere, attempting to satisfy my quizzical wonderings as to why it should be any different to the others. But, alas, the earth will not move.
The release of Pymlico’s seventh studio album, Supermassive, in May of this year posed something of a quandary. To listen or not to listen? To fear the frustrations of disappointment once again from a band who could do no wrong; or, possibly, to revel again in the rapture of immersive musical creations in which to bathe one’s soul. Decisions, decisions…
Given the delay between the release of the album and the appearance of this review, you will feel something of the palpable indecision which beset me. There was indeed trepidation. But within minutes of the opening chords, all doubt was banished and instantly forgotten. The magic is indeed there and in delicious, consuming abundance. The difference? Honestly, I have no idea. It ‘just’ works. Beyond that, I’m not going to over-think it too much!
Opening track Breaking Protocol is a high-spirited sprightly romp of ever-increasing layers, infectious in the way the insistent rhythms carry joyous melodies, the different instruments playfully competing and throwing the time in the spotlight between each other. Yet even with all the energy, there is discipline and restraint which serves to strengthen and enhance the vibrant momentum of the music. Three quarters of the way through, there is a delightfully unexpected moment of subdued calm and tranquillity, almost as if, exhausted from the effort of it all, a pent-up breath has been released and the music finally peters out.
Confusion carries the same sonic character, but this time the pace dictates structure and form. In particular, one of the joys of this track – and the album as a whole – is the emphasis on the fantastic bass work which supplies so much of the direction and spirit of the music. It also signals the second noticeable feature of this album; the intelligent crafting of instrumental arrangements to make surprising transitions between passages of music. Listen for what happens at around the 2:45 mark. The track ends with a decidedly different tone and feel that is markedly unexpected from where it started.
Are We There Yet? tantalises and teases with a subdued and reserved opening passage which finally gives up its secrets at the 2-minute mark. Yet even here, the dreamy, quixotic sax treads softly between echoing refrains before concluding with a sumptuous guitar solo which dances against reverberating sonic backgrounds. It’s a lovely change of pace and atmosphere and the perfect segue to the enchantingly languid but assured Time Out.
Little Nellie is a lot of fun. A full funk jazz opening breaks at the 2:50 mark into a lovely soothingly placid keyboard oasis of calm – again testament to the clever use of instrumental arrangements to segue transitions – before bursting forth again with an echoed, carnivalesque style drum beat sequence to bring us back to a steamy full funk conclusion. Doppelmayr is perhaps my favourite track despite being surprisingly simple in construction. It is perfectly executed; repeating sequences merge seamlessly into silky soundscapes that effortlessly flow.
Closing track WTG is the ideal close out and captures everything that is so compelling about this album. The keyboard work is soothing, seductive but firm, creating melodic soundscapes against which the guitar lays down resolute and bewitching riffs whilst the other instruments weave and entwine as irresistible interludes. Everything works together to form a wonderful mosaic of balance, melody, harmony and soul.
The holistic experience of all these different instruments working in balance and harmony yet possessing their own clearly defined voices and positions is what makes Supermassive such an impressive release. The music is dramatic without being wild, exciting without losing control, intense and spontaneous whilst also enjoyable and serene. It’s a fabulous album. The magic is back!
01. Breaking Protocol (6:04)
02. Confusion (5:55)
03. Clockwork (5:14)
04. Are We There Yet? (5:18)
05. Time Out (6:18)
06. Little Nellie (4:43)
07. Doppelmayr (4:46)
08. WTG (6:06)
Total Time – 45:21
Arild Brøter – Drums, Keyboards
Øyvind Brøter – Keyboards
Andreas Sjo Engen – Guitars
Stephan Hvinden – Guitars
Robin Havem Løvøy – Saxophones
Are Nerland – Bass guitar
Oda Rydning – Percussion
Ole Michael Bjørndal – Lap Steel Guitar (track 1)
Mattias Krohn Nielsen – Acoustic Guitars (tracks 7 & 8), Electric Guitars (tracks 1 & 3)
Petter Lien – Trumpet (track 5)
Erlend Lindvåg Solemdal – Rhodes Piano (track 5)
Filip Brekke Steigedal – Trombone (track 5)
~ Special Guest:
Roine Stolt – Lead Guitar (track 3)
Record Label: Apollon Records
Formats: Vinyl, CD, Digital
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 20th May 2022