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When - Black, White & Grey CD (album) cover





3.95 | 3 ratings

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4 stars When is the one-man project of Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Lars Pedersen, a musician who has also spent time in some punk outfits as well as the Beatlesesque retro band The Last James. This is the only When album I've heard, but it is a hard-core Avant/RIO album collaboration with Henry Cow's Chris Cutler, released on Cutler's Recommended label. Apocalyptic soundscapes, musique concrete, and highly orchestrated craziness are on display here. All created pretty much by Pedersen alone, building these crazy beasts from the ground up. Chris Cutler provides the "texts", but really this is Pedersen's show all the way.

The first track is the 20 minute monster "Grey (Part One)". It goes through several movements, but the overriding mood is of stormy chaos and violence. Huge thunderous explosions and machine gun fire with long disquieting interludes of quasi-orchestral music, spoken word fragments, noise, and occasional moments of gentle beauty. It's very colorful stuff, not rock at all, but sure to please fans of the avant garde side of prog.

The album continues with a few shorter tracks, a bit lighter in mood and more homogenous in construction. The seven minute "Heart of Rage" begins with piano and dulcimer, introducing an almost folky melody and lead vocal. The song gets progressively darker as it goes, including a long interlude led by macabre church bells and eerie echoed singing. Dramatic strings (or string sounds, anyway. They do sound quite authentic for what is probably sampled). But then the song just kind of ends. Unless the next track offers more clues -- "From White to White" focuses on distant Gregorian chanting, with some spoken word on top and stately orchestral background, for just under three minutes. "Fellini's Hat" takes us suddenly into more carnival-like territory, a booming rhythm with cacophanous horn-like sounds trumpeting over the top. Finally, there is "Grey (Part Two)", which closes the original album with a nine-minute continuation of the doomy madness of the first part, and it's just as good.

The CD version contains yet another piece, and a 22 minute long one at that. "Death in the Blue Lake" is another multi-headed beast of a piece, similar in mood to "Grey" but a bit less interested in the sound effects and shock aspect of the latter. It reminds me quite a bit of some of the more moody moments on Henry Cow's albums at first. But it doesn't stop there -- more full-on scary orchestral moments pass, building and releasing tension for the remainder of the piece. But in general, this is a more pensive track.

Overall, an excellent work that should please the Avant/RIO contingent to no end. I shy away from five stars only because after about 5 full listens I still don't really feel a whole lot of coherence in these pieces -- there's a bunch of cool weird sections followed by another bunch of cool weird sections, but I'm not convinced it's really going anywhere, if you catch my drift. Still, this one should do just nicely if you want to scare your mom. A strong four.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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