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Pixie Ninja - Colours Out of Space CD (album) cover


Pixie Ninja


Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 20 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Emerging from the icy fjords of Norway's northern regions, the interesting prog act PIXIE NINJA came into existence int he year 2015 courtesy of the combo interests of Jostein Haugen (guitar, bass, keyboards) and Marius Leirånes (guitar, bass, keyboards) who fancied classic progressive rock sounds fortified with the perfection of modern day production laced with progressive electronic experimentation. The duo together with the help of several other musicians released its debut "Ultrasound" in 2017 and while not exactly conquering the world by pulling a Wobbler certainly has attracted a stealthy cult of followers of which yours truly has been a part of.

While prog and experimental bands come and go these days it's never certain if any given act will followup an album or simply find band member incapabilities too great to carry on. Well lo and behold three years later in 2020, PIXIE NINJA returns with its stealth sophomore release COLOURS OF SPACE which finds three original members: Haugen, Leirånes and Mattias Olsson (drums, mellotron) back in the NINJA's seat along with newbie Fredrik Klingwall joining in on grand piano, mellotron and keyboards. Gone is flautist Keith Einarsen leaving the core of the band a mere quartet but in his stead is a variety of guests to add the sounds of extra vocals, a cello, a French horn and extra guitars and organs.

While dark prog sounds stem from myriad sources, it seems that the themes of H.P. Lovecraft have catapulted him into some kind of patron saint status as one of instrumental prog's chief influences for creepy brooding sounds that tackle the bridge-building synthesis of the prog sounds of yore along with modern experimental touches. In the running time of just over 38 minutes, COLOURS OF SPACE casts the Lovecraftian spell through five instrumental tracks that are perfect extensions of the stylistic approach heard on "Ultra Sound" only teased out in more of a post-rock procession with more emphasis on the electronic aspects. While the "Red" era King Crimson guitar chugs still fit in at select moments, while "Ultrasound" was a more of an Earth-bound concoction, this second coming simulates the coldness and alien nature of outer space.

PIXIE NINJA employs the bounty of vintage instrumentation with tasty sounds of the Orchestron, maestrovox, fender rhodes and mellotrons making contact with the most sophisticated modernity in the form of contemporary synthesizers and production techniques. The overall effect is a timeless one as neither does the music emulate the past, nor does it exactly find refuge in the present thus making PIXIE NINJA's instrumental heft exist in its own little vacuum of reality. Unlike the debut there are vocals on this one however they are wordless and used as an extension of sonic pastiches to provide counterpoints to the already rich and diverse soundscapes at hand. Generally speaking the album kicks of with the title track that provides a motif of swirling electronica poised in post-rock procession which makes you wonder if the NINJA has left the rock aspects behind but by the time you reach the fourth track "Hutchinson Cipher" it's apparent that the rock bombast of "Ultrasound" has not been jettisoned but rather conserved.

While comparisons can be made between bands of the classic years of prog and the present, i find it difficult to compare PIXIE NINJA to any other bands contemporary or retro. Sure there are the classic KC moments, golden year symphonic touches as well as the post-rock comparisons but really this Norwegian band has comfortable found a niche all its own and although not exactly comparable reminds me most of the soundtrack creepiness of 70s Goblin. Think of a modern take on "Suspira" with different instrumentation and a completely different approach and that's the closest comparison i can muster up. For my own personal tastes i think i prefer the debut to COLOURS OF SPACE but this second offering has a more diverse roster of mood setting motifs and a more colorful palette of sonic exploration. This is without a doubt an excellent slice of the visionary possibilities of classic vs contemporary prog and one of my favorite releases of 2020 so far.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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