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Gentle Knife - Gentle Knife CD (album) cover


Gentle Knife


Crossover Prog

3.72 | 49 ratings

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4 stars The Norwegian prog scene has always been an active supporter of the genre and the latest incarnation is a 10 member collective that truly espouses the traditional progressive values (what we call old school) and enhances the inherent creativity of modern processes to present a tactful, insightful and thrilling new chapter. Two vocalists (one of each gender), two guitarists and two woodwind/brass players combine with a rhythm section, a keyboardist and a sound sampler lyricist. The symphonic tendencies are balanced by some delightful Kate Bush-like vocalizations from Melina Oz, as well as tremendous sax, oboe and flute work that hint at Mel Collins-era King Crimson, Roxy Music or even Nucleus. With two guitarists, there is no lack of sparkle amid the glow and the traditional Nordic prog influences are given a powerful urban veneer. The music is both complex and accessible, in so far that a well-honed mood is perennially at the forefront of their artistic creativity.

Starting off the blocks with two 10 minute epics is quite an indication of how confident these players are with the progressive labelling, uninterested in being pop (poop) icons. The delicate "Eventide" is fueled by an incredible sense of space and time, twinkling piano exhorting the bass/drum combo to propel properly, as Hakon Kavli intones a fine heartfelt lament in partnership with Melina's shimmering and celestial voice, caressed along by some Ian Carr-like trumpet, all wrapped in a synthesized stew of smoke and mirrors that enchant, invigorate and swoon like some lost fjord lullaby. The buzz busy guitar solo is drenched in fizzy electricity, sounding almost like a bagpipe shoved through a Marshall amp.

At 12 minutes, "Our Quiet Footsteps" is anything but imperceptible, a brash reminder of early KC with shrieking sax blaring, turn-on-a-dime drum cannonades and a contrasting electric piano pool, on which Oz' angelic howl enchants once again, giving Hakon another chance at bellowing proudly. I love the fact that it's not a too polished sound, very dynamic and fresh like the Norwegian countryside. When they sing together, guitars and saxophones in tow, the feeling is quite like a window into early 1971, as I find a lot of Jefferson Airplane-like jam details. The presence of psychedelia, strident guitar work and those dual vocals, albeit dressed up in a way more progressive parka as well as the elongated blues-drenched lead guitar outburst only confirm my suspicions.

"Remnants of Pride" is pure melancholia, a stunning ballad that suggest an improbable sadness that affects us all, Hakon and Melina doing a hot duet that exudes another essay into the human condition, blooming into another sax and guitar showcase. The second go around gets even more intense and a highly pleasurable feeling emerges. A progressive ballad.

My favorite track must be "Beneath the Waning Moon", an archetypical bass-fueled launch pad for a mellotron carpeted guitar sortie, aided and abated by a slithering flute play. This is early KC revisited, with a slight Roxy feel (Trivia: Bryan Ferry actually auditioned for Robert Fripp back before Roxy became Roxy, which is proven later by Peter Sinfield being the producer of the debut album). Sensational 4 and a half minute track! The title/band name composition is next up with Melina Oz taking over the mike and the piece is undeniably quirky, marginally dissonant and weird, crowned by a protracted electric guitar solo, followed by flippy synthesizer one. Kate Bush with progressive backing (that mellotron!) is what comes to mind, and very enjoyable it is.

The prog quotient is raised once again with the unpredictable 8 minute flow of "Epilogue: Locus", a rather uncanny sense of doom and mystery is harped on to create quite a long and disquieting mood, a sudden acoustic guitar breaking through the mist, agile and cavernous bass clawing forward, creating a wonderful atmosphere. The honed musicianship really comes to the forefront here, displaying a thoughtful process and great technique. The sharp wind instruments breathe some very intense spirit into the arrangement, flourishing sonic images crowd the brain as one lets the music immerse the listener into lax submission. Another very strong highlight piece for sure.

"Coda: Impetus" puts this work into its final stretch, a rather rambling megalodon that has a raw tinge that is admirable, all kinds of current KC cubic guitar obliques that show a highly Cartesian tendency (math?), until the sax and trumpet kick in, giving off a smoky underground nightclub aroma, a platform for a screeching electric guitar run that shatters cliché penchants in favor of a more primitive expression. This is what makes Gentle Knife so appealing, a slick rawness that seeks and searches beyond the norm, carving, slicing and chopping its way to the great prog kitchen in heaven.

A very authoritative debut album, certainly a harbinger of things to come. A follow up album will determine their legacy within the prog community. Chop chop!

4 placid daggers

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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