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Second Life Syndrome
4 stars It must be the time of year for prog folk releases, as Tusmorke (meaning "twilight") and Ian Anderson have both released new albums recently. If I have to be honest, though, I much prefer this new album from Tusmorke, "Riset Bak Speilet". These Norwegians have some inspired passages to share with us, even if it's done in a not-so-perfect fashion.

A very "full" sounding prog folk music, Tusmorke combine the standard organ and flute with other prog rock instruments to make a lusher soundscape. The music is rather dark at times, though never suffocating. More than anything, the music just meanders along pleasantly while taking some downward dips here and there. I rather like the use of the flute to keep a constant flow of melody, rather than just use it to play solos, like some other artists. Tusmorke likes to build a foundation of flute from which they can add more touches of other instruments to create an overall eeriness or beauty, whatever they desire.

The first and last songs are sung in Norwegian, I believe. The rest are mostly sung in English. I appreciated that, as an English speaker. The vocals are basically constant harmonization between two singers, and they perform very well. I honestly feel that their tone is perfect and wonderfully smooth. It adds a great touch to the already full feeling of the album.

"Riset Bak Speilet" features five great tracks, though I honestly do connect more with the English-sung ones. I especially love the deliciously eerie "Black Swift", as it's chorus is fantastically harmonized and the rest of the song is so delicately black and haunting. It also includes the best instrumental passage of the album. "Gamle Aker Kirke" is a wonderful, more upbeat track that I appreciate for its vocals, especially. "All is Lost" is also a flute- laden journey into darkness and momentum. I rather like its nuances and its atmosphere, as well as some well-timed signature changes therein.

Overall, Tusmorke have composed a wonderful album that will appeal to any fan of prog folk music. The middle three tracks are specifically good and more structured, regardless of the language differences. There is a certain maturity at work in this band's music, and a hypnosis that they try to engage, and succeed many times in creating. This is certainly an album worth hearing this year.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#1177691)
Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Riset Bak Speilet is the second album by this Norwegian band. Keyboardist Deadly Nightshade had departed, in comes Marxo Solinas who is none other than Lars Fredrik Frøisle, who already appeared as a guest on their previous album, now a full-time member. In my opinion, this followup LP just doesn't reach the greatness of Underjordisk Tusmørke. "Black Swift" and "All is Lost" tend to be repetitive and I don't find them particularly engaging, this would have made a hellva better disc if those two songs were replaced by the bonus cuts. But the other three on the LP is much better. "Offerpresten" is a wonderful, a bit like how Jethro Tull might end up like had they been Nordic. There's also an amusing quote from Black Widow's "Come to the Sabbat". "Gamle Aker Kirke" is another great piece, more mellow, almost like a Nordic Moody Blues. Lars Fredrik Frøisle providing some nice Mellotron and Chamberlin. Then the lengthiest piece, which is the title track where they go full-on progressive rock, showing this band can still make great music even at this length. So this is a case of two brilliant numbers, two mediocre numbers, and another brilliant closer. As for the bonus cuts (available on the CD version, or you can download them when you buy the LP), they rival the LP itself. "Kairo" unsurprisingly has a Middle Eastern feel to it. "Mener Vi Alvor Nå?" is a very strongly medievel piece, in fact you might think this actually dates from the Middle Ages. I love this piece. Then out of nowhere Lars provides some strange synths. Then there's "En Verden Av i Går" is another great proggy piece that I wished was included on the LP proper than "Black Swift". If that was included on the LP, my rating would be higher. Worth owning for the brilliant material present, but also includes some mediocre stuff.
Report this review (#1325083)
Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Riset bak speilet (= 'The Birch Behind the Looking Glass') is the second album by the Prog Folk group Tusmorke (= Twilight) from Oslo, Norway. Apart from Bydyra (2017) which, as music from a children's musical, gives a completely false picture of the band, I'm not very familiar with the other albums. By the way, interesting that their record company at this time was Svart Records from Finland.

The CD edition contains three bonuses, two of them pretty long, stretching the CD length to 71 minutes. The album contains lyrics both in Norwegian and in English, and the Norwegian lyrics are translated in the booklet. 'Offerpresten' (= 'The Sacrificial Priest') is an uptempo song full of tradition-honouring folk prog elements reminiscent of Jethro Tull's Songs from the Wood era. Flute and vintage keyboards sound very delicious, but I'm not so fond of trumpet and sax -- luckily this is their sole appearance on the album. The instrumentation is the fullest on this hectic opening track. The slower and more calm 'Gamle aker kirke' is about an old church and is confusingly sung in English. Nice, moody melodies and a beautiful retro soundscape featuring lots of flute and some Mellotron. This is exactly what a Prog Folk enthusiast likes to hear. 'Black Swift' has a bit bigger emphasis on the chorus with vocal harmonies reminding of the late 60's stuff of e.g. The Moody Blues and Omega.

Dark-toned 'All Is Lost' has heavy guitars and is actually the dullest composition to me, despite some little signature changes and nice flute work. The 15-minute title track (the second song with Norwegian lyrics) is the longest and the most dynamically progressive. At times I wish there were less vocals, but the instrumental sections are all the more effective.

The first one of the bonuses sounds very Medieval: I can imagine hooded monks accompanied by a small group of musicians who at the end wander into slightly experimental gloominess. The two pieces of roughly 10 minutes length rival the main album's highlights. So, even if you're a vinyl enthusiast, it's definitely wiser to have the CD in this case. This is among the best Prog Folk albums of this decade, with a full blooming of both sides of the term.

Report this review (#2347021)
Posted Friday, April 3, 2020 | Review Permalink

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