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Wobbler - Hinterland CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 315 ratings

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4 stars Wobbler is the offshoot project from some members of White Willow (in the before last incarnation of this now defunct group) and has certainly received some high praise from many PA members, as well as the global prog fan base. Michael Bennett's stunning artwork is noteworthy and actually quite representative of the mystifying music found within the plastic. This debut album "Hinterland" possesses numerous classic prog characteristics as well as reinforcing that typical "icy" melancholic Scandinavian style that many of us love dearly and especially the highly original Norwegian slant that is even more coolly mystical than the Swedish variety (The afore mentioned White Willow, Shine Dion, Kerrs Pink, Fruitcake, the spacey Bjorn Lynne, Retroheads, the brilliant Kvazar and the new thrill, Gazpacho). Former WW keyboardist Lars Froislie is the main instigator here, displaying a vast array of keyboards (Hammond organ, piano, the glorious mellotron, synthesizers (Moogs and ARPs), Solina String ensemble, harpsichord, Wurlitzer, and Hohner clavinet) which are placed front and center, with inspired guitarist Morten Eriksen actively adding some oblique guitar lines that are wholly original. The rhythm section keeps the arrangements both propulsive and relaxed, constantly brewing new atmospheres. One big whopping epic followed by two shorter tracks are on the wobbling menu. The half minute "Serenade for 1652" introduces a semi-classical mellotron overture, with the massive "Hinterland" clocking in at almost 28 minutes, lustily dishing out everything from swirling Hammond organ swells, gentle vocal passages that swerve into nearly Gentle Giant territory, insistent background 'trons causing all kinds of commotion, flute flights butterflying delicately over the glacial musical fjords, subtly growing in power. This is certainly Scandinavian prog at its finest, with a huge orchestral swirl straight out of the Crimson Court, flinging the story even further into various alternating landscapes (more of those Giant counterpoint harmonies), with guitarist Eriksen stepping on a few pedals to switch from Martin Barre-like growls to more arpeggio riffs that slash the canvas with utmost effect. Some Baroque guitar (with a sound likened to a luth) add an almost Akkerman-like drama, until the arrangement explodes into grandiose bombast, the Great White keyboard churning brightly, a sudden syrupy synthesizer surges from nowhere, sawing away at the heavy theme. The imperial Hammond seizes the throne, blazing dictatorially while the bass keeps some semblance of mood and direction. The ELP, early King Crimson, Focus, Landberk and Gentle Giant lessons were obviously well digested. Long melancholic passages add to the magic, always keeping the listener unaware and on the edge until the collision occurs with wilder, almost dissonant savagery. Totally unpredictable stuff indeed, an amazing modern Norse version of Yes' "Gates of Delerium". This is not pop music by any stretch. Play this at a typical metro sexual party and the nerd and nerdettes will hightail it FAST. What I call "bouncer music". The sterling "Rubato Industry" does not stray far from the established philosophy, with more frenzied playing in an almost free improv style, room to stretch out the technical capabilities of the instrumentalists with lead singer Tony Johannessen getting to expand on the main melody, a classy flute providing brief calm and serenity. Again the mighty mellotron elevates the passion to some lofty heights (what a brilliant instrument, in the proper hands!) that can only force a willing smile. Some serious Crimsonesque percussive folly only adds to the progressive pleasure, showcasing drummer Martin Kneppen's colossal Ludwig kit. The totally instrumental and my favorite track here, "Clair Obscur" reiterates the hegemony of the 'tron , proving again that it can introduce a piece like no other instrument can and its not just a filler toy. The entrance of romantic piano adds a welcome serenity to a piece that, as its title implies, will create extreme landscapes, with furious Hammond, jangling guitar lines, booming bass and precise drumming. Imagine Lark's Tongues in Aspic- era KC with Keith Emerson on organ and you get a pretty good notion of what kind of wobbling is going on here. A charismatic finale on the mellotron takes this piece into the very upper reaches of Prog Heaven. While not quite a masterpiece, it certainly can qualify as an adventurous opening salvo from this Norwegian crew, with surely a bright (or will it be dark?) future ahead, now that White Willow is no more. 4 quivers
tszirmay | 4/5 |


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