Usually nowadays music is created by an entire band and no longer the sole person puts together their first albums by themselves. Even in the 70’s it was rare with the exception of Tom Scholtz who founded the group, “Boston” and while still working for Kodak Film Company he recorded the first Boston record entirely on his own in his basement, then got a band together. But now and then one comes across a group that is just two people and they sound like they’re at least a five piece filling up the wall of sound and creating a Neo-Progressive style of music that just fills the air of your room. That would be the group, “Ossicles” from Norway. This album is their second offering to the world of Prog Rock called, “Music for Wastelands“, a 14 track album of Prog, jazz, avant-garde, neo-ambient and well crafted songs for your auditory enjoyment. The songs aren’t terribly long but as I have said before you don’t have to to have epic 20 minute songs in Prog nowadays to get your point across. This album clearly defines that to a tee.
Sondre and Bastian Veland, cousins who began writing in their teens and finally decided to put their ideas to sound with their debut release, “Mantlepiece” in 2012 and in 2013 given a raised glass of support by Steven Wilson who sent their album to a record label hailing how good they are. How true he was because this is one of the new facets of Prog and they should be revered as such. Combining all the Prog elements to bring them to the forefront with the essentials as well as adding their own spin to the genre giving it their own uniqueness to their sound. Amazing grooves, ambient fills, tempo/timbre changes and the inclusion of both classical and jazz instrumentation. The cousins play all the instruments on the album and share the vocal reigns as they accommodate your speakers quite nicely throughout the album. Snippets of big name Prog bands can be heard throughout the record from King Crimson to Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree to Bauer but you wouldn’t know it unless you knew what to listen for because Sondre and Bastian do such justice to their album in making it their own and paying homage to a great number of bands but maintaining their own individual sound all the while.
“Halfway Homes” the opening track drops right in to it with a jazz inflection and a sharp vocal track as the drums pound a beat keeping you in the attentive mood. Guitar chords ring out to accentuate the anticipation build up and it sparks in to a harmony vocal track as it kicks in to high gear. These two multi-talented guys start the record off with a bang and it just flows from there. “Darkroom” is next with a swanky nonchalant groove to it that sways and enchants you to the glistening guitar chords and the shuffling drums along with a very chic vocal track. More on the jazzier side of things but nonetheless a movement in progression well taken through its steps. An interesting use of synths and percussive effects. A mid section tromp of drums underlies the static clarinet solo as it drives its way through to the guitar to solo off changing the tempo/timbre feel and falling back in to the beginning groove with a slight King Crimson “Moonchild” middle to end it off on. “Tectonic” embarks on a very Alan Parsons/ David Gilmour soft vocal introduction circa 1984 as the music slowly segues in to the background quietly. A very sombre sounding track but not dreary as it calmly walks through its paces. It maintains the mellow theme throughout and helms an ambiance of airy celestial sailing from start to finish. Some wonderful piano passages in this piece makes it one of the more gentler facets of the Prog ballad incorporating a hint of the jazz in it. “Will It Last?” comes in with a late 70’s swagger in the Prog style of the borderline jazz/funk groove but still has many great elements to offer in a PROGgy sense. The song finishes off with a saxophone solo as if they have a penchant for Pink Floyd’s love of sax in songs but this one they perform with a sultriness that adds just the right amount of flare to the songs finale. “Family Tree” cracks open with a twang acoustic guitar and a bounce drum track that keeps the beat tight and freshly open for the guitar to jangle away. The pre-chorus blends the vocals smoothly and it offers up a mix of various styles here creating a unique take on the Prog acoustic side of the genre. The synths add in at times a bit of late Ray Manzarek/Doors vibe to it marking it down to another facet influence to their music. Probably done unintentional but it’s there and helps make this song a multifaceted collaboration of; styles, tempo/timbre changes, influences and musicianship combined in to one nicely treated package at just under four minutes.
“Exit Wound“, slightly harder edged out of the gates and has the more Neo-Prog feel to it with an alternative twist added in for flavour. Choppy guitar riffs create an unease to it as it rolls on through with a fast paced marching drum beat. Great seventies inspired vocals here carry well over top through the Prog recipe’s elemental ingredients here. Finishing off with a punchy ending it makes you replay it because you want more of it and now! Good driving tune to add to your playlists for road trips definitely. “Pale Summer Nails” has a beautiful “Mazzy Star” torch singer feel to it with well executed jazz chords giving it a moonlight serenade feel to it as if you and your partner are the only left on the patio lantern lit dance floor and a cool breeze graces over your faces as you stare deeply in to each others eyes in love. A short 2.5minute song that is simply beautiful. Acoustic guitar and a celestial harmonic voice enters in the next song, “The Red Heart“. A send off to the mid-seventies acoustic Prog ballad often found in the middle of King Crimson albums that calm one’s nerves and allows the brain to relax from the musical overload that’s been going on since note one. Crackling vinyl type noises bring in a sense of remembrance and nostalgia here bringing the band’s music full circle to a Prog song well plated with dreamscape synths and effects on the vocals that give it that eeriness but not creepiness and allows you to further dream away the day in this spacial lullaby. Another beautiful composition of sound and use of vocals throughout as an instrument as well as a troubadour regaling a fable to us. “Goodnight Ghosts” starts off with a very smooth shuffling in a tight formation then drops in to a frenzy of funk and groove with the start/stop tempo/timbre changes. Very “Eillif” feel to this song with its tight JazzProg bounce to it and within literally just over two minutes your done, full and quite content with what you have just listened to. A great surprise to hear after a couple of great ballads sung truthfully and soulfully.
“In the Stereo” opens up with a very “Larks Tongues in Aspic III” inspired acoustic guitar riff that would make even Robert Fripp smile, stellar atonal notation applied here and consistent throughout the song, brilliance. Short, punchy, intense and a well coordinated vocal on top straight out of the 80’s lesser known and better contributions to the generation. “Girl with the Glass Eye” a sweet dry song that walks along a rainy road in the dusk hours of the morning and carries along with a great bass line and a jazzy drum beat with added sax for flavours that accentuate the velvety vocals that drift through the songs timbre allowing the softer and jazzier side of Prog to come through again. “Pandemonium” a triumphant Prog epic and longest song on the record and it keeps with true Prog fashion and isn’t the first or last song on the album but the third last so you are made to endure more after the assault on your auditory senses of this masterpiece. Strong and rugged instrumentation as this clearly outlines the Neo-Prog sound of the late 90’s, pushing through like a hoard of angry warriors that are coming to your gates. The drums and dirty fuzz guitar provide hard knocks at the gates as the synths create a Medieval tone of Gothic power. Darkened spoken words between verses make way for a sinister effect and a very Alice Cooper feel to the song of macabre and all of this within the first five minutes! The middle segues in to a very “Krautrock” feel of uncertainty and somewhat Middle Eastern horn passage before the drums roll and cut back in with the bass to carry forth as the guitar solos along with the sax giving us again a very tight King Crimson-esque feel to it a la 1971 Islands Lp. The Keith Emerson inspired keyboard solo albeit short but most effective here adds Prog flare and spice to the mix. The Prog-Jazz additives make this a highlight of the album and proves that these two cousins know their craft and how to liquidate their talents appropriately here. With all the perfect pitch recipe ingredients here; Time/tempo/timbre changes, start/stops and shuffles this is a masterpiece in Prog Rock music at 12:40minutes.
“Porcelain Doll” slowly glides in and soothes the savagery in Pandemonium’s wake with this calm piece that stammers through as if walking home late at night on dimly lit streets that make it difficult to see yet you know exactly where you are going safely. Finally the last track, the album titled, “Music For Wastelands” finishes off the record. Ossicles kept with a classic Prog move and used the title track as the last this time which is perfectly fitting for this record as the title represents a glimpse at today’s social standings, how things are left to be tossed in the bin, thrown away to the trash or recycled in to batteries. A poignant statement piece of music in sombre minor keys and all synth giving it a very clinical and sterile feel to it leaving you questioning; existence, life, music, emotional distress of how the world is working. A brilliant way to end an album to an equally brilliantly written written record.
Ossicles is a great band well on their way to absolute musical strength through multi instrumental-ism and expression. They aren’t afraid to explore many different facets of the Prog genres and sub-facets that aren’t as often heard through traditional Prog music. They are currently working on their live band and gathering other musicians to complete the lineup in order to play more shows. Highly recommended and well worth the price of admission! you can get their albums most likely on iTunes and better yet through their website to help support the band and their music. I am looking forward to their next release very much so and what they will do next musically as they still have lots of time to stretch their Prog legs and create and develop their craft well beyond their abilities right now which is an awesome factor to them as they are truly well educated musically and extremely talented guys who will definitely go that extra mile to create all that is Prog.