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NANOOK OF THE NORTH

Crossover Prog • Sweden


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Nanook Of The North biography
While at a party in Taby, a Stockholm suburb, Mattias Olsson (ÄNGLAGÅRD, PAR LINDH PROJECT) and friend Olle Söderström (PINEFOREST CRUNCH) heard a certain "Nanook" singing songs about his long journey from the Far North all the way to Stockholm... or so the tale goes according to the band's album, "The Taby Tapes". NANOOK OF THE NORTH are actually a collective that takes the title character from Robert Flaherty's 1922 non-fiction film of the same name, and magically transports him from Canada's Hudson's Bay to Taby. On their album, multi-instrumentalists Olsson and Söderström (the band's founders), are joined by various Swedish female vocalists and create a mellow, dreamy, atmospheric art rock which serves as a backdrop for Nanook's tale.

First released on cassette (2001) and then in CD format (2004), "The Taby Tapes" are something of a mixture of David Sylvian and Brian Wilson solo: a contemplative, melancholy and hopelessly romantic album, so graceful and strangely atmospheric it almost sounds as if it were recorded underwater. However, the short, sweet and often playful melodies belie the lyrics' often depressing messages, some of which are downright terrifying. The vocalist, highly reminiscent of Anthony Phillips, has a shy, wavering voice that magically interlaces with those of the various female singers. You'll hear some crafty keyboards, floating guitars and soaring choruses throughout but the melodies are all very simple, almost soft-pop like; yet this sober album is given a beautiful and brilliant sheen through the use of various gadgets such as horns, optigan, stylophone, theremin and other curios.

A soft-spoken operetta obviously not for every proghead, but fans of DAVID SYLVIAN will lap it up.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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NANOOK OF THE NORTH discography


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3.00 | 3 ratings
The Taby Tapes
2004

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NANOOK OF THE NORTH Reviews


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 The Taby Tapes by NANOOK OF THE NORTH album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.00 | 3 ratings

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The Taby Tapes
Nanook Of The North Crossover Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars This album probably would never be considered a progressive work if it weren’t a project from Änglagård leader Mattias Olsson and Pineforest Crunch’s Olle Söderström. The music is a combination of mellow new-age, electronica and female-fronted pop.

And speaking of the frontwomen there are several of them, and most of the supporting musicians on the record are women as well. Karin Hansson, Katarina, Camela Laierth, Pelina, Gabriella Engström, Anna Öberg, Irma Schultz, Maria Kvist, Malin Olofsson, Akaba and Jennie Löbel are all listed at various places in the credits, mostly for vocals but also strings, brass, woodwinds and keyboards. The overall mood is quite restrained, very mellow and full of wispy strings, light keyboards, young and breathy female singers and almost unnoticed brass or woodwinds from time to time.

The story here is a weird, modern adapted version of the 1922 tale of Nanook of the North but in a modern setting (2002) and with Nanook holding forth from Täby, a small suburb of Stockholm in Sweden. The lyrics are rather hard to follow and quite open to interpretation, but there are clearly themes decrying modernization, anonymity and mean people. And a bit of sarcasm too it seems, as the liner notes mark Beatles lyrical snippets such as “give peace a chance” and “love me do” with trademark symbols in several places. Or maybe those phrases really are copyrighted, although I hope not because that would depress me very, very much.

Like I said pretty much ever track (except a couple of instrumentals) have female lead vocalists, but not always the same one from song to song. All of them have beautiful voices and carry themselves quite well. Olsson (aka Nanook) also sings on just about every song, and while his voice is understated and fits the mood I also got a bit bored with him displaying his ‘sensitive side’ for forty-five minutes.

The music is not remarkable, and like I said this album would probably have gotten little or no attention if Olsson’s name was not attached to it. Come to think of it, the record got little to no attention anyway, at least here in the U.S. Not sure how it fared in Europe or even Sweden. Kind of interesting too considering the attention to detail and expense that went into the layering of vellum-like pages with black-and-white glossy urban landscape photos in the enclosed booklet. The little hand sketched line drawings of Nanook in various poses amid the snow with his sled dogs are also cute and charming, and combined with the extensive lyric sheets and snow-white CD thermal label this is one impressive package. I have to wonder if the label (Parasol) at least broke even. Another odd note is that the credits state this was recorded in 2002, but it was released in 2004. Seems like an awful long time for something from an established musician like Olsson to sit on the shelf, but maybe they were looking for a distribution deal. Who knows.

All the songs here fit the musical description I gave above so there aren’t many that bear calling out. “St George and the Dragon” has a nice theremin bit in it and vocalist Irma Schultz has one of the more noteworthy of the many great voices on the record. And “Näsby Park” has some moody and mildly seductive keyboard sequences. Others like “Hey Fragile”, “The Explorer” and “Forget it Jenny, Love is just a Privilege for the Rich” are nothing more than pop tunes with some mellotron and a semblance of style courtesy of some slightly ambitious keyboard and percussion arrangements.

But for the most part this is just a very mellow record made by a couple of prog rockers who actually know how to lay down complex and highly symphonic progressive music. It’s just for some reason on this record they decided to get cozy in the studio with a bunch of good looking women and explore their more sensitive side instead. Well, more power to them I guess, and I’m sure I understand the motivation behind them. This is a decent album but not great and barely progressive. I probably should give it two stars but I love the women’s voices (all of them), so we’ll go with three and cautiously recommend this but mostly just to fans of pretty mellow music.

peace

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