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Swifan Eolh & The Mudra Choir - The Key CD (album) cover

THE KEY

Swifan Eolh & The Mudra Choir

 

Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 11 ratings

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TCat
4 stars "The Key" is the debut album from Swifan Eolh & the Mudra Choir released early in 2019. The Eclectic Prog band from Norway consists of Synove Jacobsen on vocals, Tune Seip Bjornflaten on guitars and vocals, Tome INge Andersen on bass and bass pedals, and Jarie Alfsen on drums. There are also guests on the album that provide keyboards (organ, piano, Mellotron and synth). The music does lean on the eclectic side, but takes a lot of its sound from folk and Canterbury styles. To record this album, the entire band began by playing live in the studio. The original drums and bass were used on the album, but the vocals, guitars and keys were later overdubbed giving the album a somewhat live sound. The main ideas were already completed and the band played around those ideas.

The album starts with the longest track at 8 and a half minutes. "Wounded Dreamers" immediately utilizes complex structures in rhythm and guitars with nods to "Yes", but the vocals and melody lines are also complex, yet organic sounding, similar to a combination "Gentle Giant"/"Comus" sound. The male and female vocals also add to the complexity working in tandem and in counter melodies. The sounds do have an eclectic feel and even the vocals give a feeling of improvisation, but the fact that there are two singers at the same time proves that the music is built upon some structured idea, and that sound expands to the instruments. The guitar has the spotlight and is very reminiscent of Steve Howe in complexity. The music is very impressive with great complexity.

"Heart of Sadness" starts with a nice acoustic guitar solo that is very folk-ish feeling with a jazz sentiment. Vocals come in for a short time later in the middle of the track. "Spiders in the Old Café" has a heavier guitar sound with mellotron. There are dual vocalists again, singing separate at times and other times harmonized. Later, the sound is a bit lighter than on the first track, but still with all the complexity and often changing meters. There is a surprising electric guitar solo towards the middle of the track that shows how even the texture of the track changes a lot, but still flows really well. The use of dissonance in the vocals also remind you that this is more than just a prog folk band.

"Earth Shakes, Rattles n Rolls" uses both wordless vocals that imitate the instruments and their progressive riffs at the beginning. Things slow a bit and smooth out for a nice guitar solo with the mellotron backing it up. Lyrics start at 2 minutes, and there is definitely a Canturbury sound to this melody that keeps changing meter, tempo and style, which is what makes this eclectic. After a complex passage, we get a synth solo when the rhythm finally manages to smooth itself out. "Cantus" is a short atmospheric, yet melodic track.

"Tides are Turning" alternates between a complex riff followed by a contrasting 4 / 4 rhythm before the dual vocals come in singing together. As the track continues, this alternating complexity and simplicity expands and continues even incorporating the vocal melody. Later, an organ anchors everything together in a nice way. "Blessed be" is another short track featuring guest Gilli Smyth reading her poetry against an atmospheric background. "The Key" starts off with drums bringing in slightly funky riff and wordless vocals in harmonic jazz style. When the lyrics start, you get that odd harmony again. A nice lilting instrumental section comes in later. The jazz vocals return later with a counter melody sung at the same time.

I really like the positive energy this music seems to evoke, and the interesting complexity and the non-standard vocals. There is really a lot on here to get excited about as far as progressive music goes, and the way they incorporate both prog-folk styles and occasional jazz harmonics is quite awesome. This is one of those albums that might take some repeating to grow on some people, but I found it appealing enough from the beginning to want to hear it several times. I find it an excellent album, but not quite essential at this point, however, that might change in the future. I will be looking forward to future recordings from this band to see where they go from here.

TCat | 4/5 |

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