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Atlas - Blå Vardag  CD (album) cover

BLÅ VARDAG

Atlas

 

Symphonic Prog

4.21 | 150 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars In the dog days of wavering summer, it was perhaps time to do some added exercise by going to the fabled collection case and search for that oddity , that bizarro-prog recording (probably those one-shot wonder jobs), issued from some non-Anglo-Saxon area , that would be apt fodder for my cannon. Like most bibliophiles, I started off at the letter A and after a mere few shuffles to get to Atoll albums, I noticed this album sitting pretty and perched, patiently awaiting my selection and embrace. Atlas only had this one jewel and then promptly vanished from the face of the earth, yet this 1979 album is very highly rated and for just cause, as close one can come to a seminal Swedish monument to the unknown progger, with its eternal flame still burning bright. With due apologies to Greenslade and Banco , this dual keyboard-led band could really kick some serious melodic behind, hurling waves of mellotrons, clavinets, amazing (and oh so underused) Fender Rhodes e-piano, organ, synths and piano. The crew prefers a dense, gentler approach, closer perhaps to a keyboard-heavy Camel or Sebastian Hardie, weaving intricate patterns where occasional electric guitars enliven the proceedings. Both Erik Björn Nielsen and Björn Ekbom rule the various ivories, trussing an elaborate web, spewing melodies from seemingly nowhere, sometimes jazzy, romantic or symphonic, as on the second part of "Pa Gata" where the elegant and grandiose piano dominates with utter finery. The title track (translated as Blue Tuesday) is simply restraint at its most agonizing, a misty grove of sophisticated sound, the bluesy electric piano echoing in ecstasy, escorting a sibilant synth flight, almost ambient symphonics that while placid, never evaporate into soporifics. "Ganglat" is somewhat of a continuance in a jazzier vein, almost Canterburian at times but loaded with slick e-piano droppings and a light-fuzz guitar solo a la Jan Akkerman. The next track is a slow builder, nothing too hectic or deranged, an insightful platform for another smooth guitar digression, with some organ tossed in for good measure, the classical reference recalling Dutch band Trace. The discreet exit is inspiring. "Björnstorp" has an upfront bass rumble, some flute additives and a dual key/guitar onslaught full of regal elegance, conjuring up images of Focus once again, especially when drummer Pinotti does his Pierre van der Linden-like drum solo. The fragile "Hemifran" keeps the eye on the horizon, another breezy, lofty jazz-rock affair that again features the complex interaction between keyboardists, recalling an upbeat attitude that has nothing to do with the somber Scandinavian style we all know and love (which partly explains why our sinkadotentree feels that there are few stark dynamics here, according to his review). It becomes obvious that the Swedish progressive school also has a lighter side with bands such as Alter Echo, the Foundation, Kaipa, Moon Safari, In the Labyrinth and Atlas. The guitar solo that ends this piece is revelatory of a certain complacent passion, another Viking trait that is highly typical of this northern country. "Sebastian" is a bonus track that closes out this marvelous disc, a Wakeman- esque piano-led promenade that has severe classical leanings, all within a playful framework, sprightly electric guitar leads singing in the musical meadows, the mellotron bowing with grace. . Soft or not, this is another cornerstone brick in the wall. 5 Stockholm syndromes
tszirmay | 5/5 |

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