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Bjørn Riis - Lullabies In A Car Crash CD (album) cover


Bjørn Riis


Crossover Prog

4.03 | 176 ratings

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4 stars Bjorn Riis is the lead guitarist for Norwegian prog group Airbag, a band that has definite Pink Floyd tendencies that have been enhanced with a few more current alternative twists. The band has released 3 glorious albums, all having met a respectful audience and some fine overall ratings, certainly spearheaded by Riis and his magical guitar, very much in the same style as legend Dave Gilmour. But being familiar with the group, I can state that Airbag does offer a more contemporary sound, mostly due to Asle Torstrup's vocal tone that finds itself more in league with current sounds than the classic Waters/Gilmour hush. This solo album is an all Riis affair as he handles the guitars, keyboards, bass and vocals, leaving the drums to his Airbag colleague Henrik Fossum. Riis has crafted an album that has similarities to the group sound but is a much mellower affair, more densely atmospheric and personal, with loads of wispy keyboards and more understated guitar soloing.

After a trendsetting and moody intro intuitively titled "A New Day", the album's first cornerstone piece and an absolute highlight is the 10 minute long "Stay Calm", which is perhaps the closest thing to the Airbag style. Entering from the mist are a strummed acoustic guitar and breezy vocals that recall the great Floyd, aided by some floating synths and that classic monotone beat we all know well and love. Lyrically the story is intense and reflective, with echoing voices and fueled by those large guitar slashes that Gilmour is famous for but still done with a great amount of class and reverence. A choir mellotron makes an entrance and decides to stay awhile as Riis unleashes a series of powerful and heartfelt solos. This track has all the makings of a classic piece that should please many a fan.

"Disappear" initiates a more introspective style that verges on the ambient style made famous by Lunatic Soul , though this is more guitar-centric, with various layers of rhythmic arpeggios crisscrossing with tactile magic, using a wide variety of effects and reverb, the sweet voice closer to a gentler version of Steve Wilson (who remains a reference throughout). The details are wondrous, never dull or repetitive and most definitely spiced with some wicked electric runs that scour the skies.

Back to another 10 minute affair with the equally furtive "Out of Reach", a leisurely building epic that has the crystalline axe playing tribute to a brittle voice that is deeply despondent and achingly melancholic. Very gentle, very sentimental as the mellotron buzzes in the background, as he pleads 'still waiting for you to call, out of reach'. Bjorn then looks down at his guitar and then at the "aaaah" mellotron and kicks into gear a mammoth solo, full of pent-up feeling and lots of wah-wah pedal, I mean WOW! The explosive climax is reached and then begins the sweet afterglow, sensations frayed and sensitive, deliberate caresses and feathery touches.

"The Chase" would perhaps indicate a more violent expression of speed and lack of control but this is a suave artist at work, incorporating instead some much needed bombast, a thrilling guitar-driven ride that buzzes and swoons. The mid-section gets very silent and tingling, as if in some hallucinatory trance, not really surprising as Riis likes to infuse some psychedelia into the mix, which means that , of course, the mood reverts to the initial intensity, howling synths blowing in the background and the guitars daring to riff and riff hard. What a surprise as the piece ends in serene tranquility. Brilliant!

So as to illustrate the constant sense of creativity, a synthesized electric piano colors the opening moments of the title track, the longest one here clocking in over 13 minutes. "Breathe slowly now and don't be afraid, lay down and rest your head, it's over now". Yup, that about sums it up, a kaleidoscope of emotions wrapped in a soporific glaze, enhanced by a moving chorus full of emotion and wanting. And then, you guessed it, the delicious guitar moves in for the kill, a bluesy scrambling of notes that intends only to instill goose bumps. Again the massive mellotron and the whooshing synths wail in the background giving Bjorn all the impetus to rage on his instrument. Halfway through, barely audible police sirens announce some unforeseen tragedy, you suddenly realize that the subject matters is pretty gruesome, that out of body experience one can experience in a car accident , when there is that brief moment when you ask yourself, Am I still alive? Am I still breathing? The lullaby carries you to the answer that fate has decided. After all, the line between life and death is a thin and precious one.

On first glance, this is perfect late night music, ideal atmosphere for just relaxing and getting ready for some eventual dreaming. But do not be alarmed, it's very intense, fiery and quite volcanic stuff. It also delves into much stronger emotions than one would expect. That is the mark of a creative mind. Bravo Bjorn!

4.5 automotive serenades

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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