Norwegian cousins Sondre and Bastian’s first album, “Mantlepiece” is up and placed on yours and ready for your mind to be expanded yet again as we travel backwards this time since we looked at and thoroughly enjoyed their second record, “Music For Wastelands“. There is something to said about family made music, one can clearly see this in American country music but when it’s a more complex genre such as Prog ideas have to widened to include multiple forms of musical styles, influences and approaches to making the music come alive. Their band, “Ossicles” is well on its way to becomming a household name in Norway if it isn’t already and gaining attention globally next as it has already reached me over here in Canada to a great reception.
“Dewers Hollow” inaugurates the record with a soft synthscape reminiscent of a Pink Floyd/King Crimson passage from 1970 as it floats weightlessly in space and looks down from the stratosphere on the unsuspecting crowds below. Or it could be that deep distant place in the forest where no one has ever been to for centuries where the quiet and calm livings of a race of denizens dwell in their sleepy hollow as the song’s title eludes to. A choral synth piece that has you relaxed and imaginative as to where it’s from or been leaving you speechless as you ponder distant far off realms in emerald forests green. “Luna’s Light” follows up next with a docile acoustic chant that has a very distinct tone to it where you are whisked away through clouds in the night only given the grace of the moon’s illuminations to guide you along your way. The harmonies here are cordial and engaging as the vocals sway with ebb and flow of the song. The guitar work here is placid but striking as it adds in inflections at just the right spots to make the song remind you you’re still listening and haven’t dazed off elsewhere. Dreamy synth waves and a fine medium tempo drum beat builds up the song’s fortification of a mid-range Prog pleasure. It has the fantasy theme base to it giving it all the right amounts of the Prog recipe ingredients; start/stops, tempo/timbre changes etc allowing the song to be a well rounded piece with brilliant lyrical content and sung with a complacency of ease. “1400” carries a heaviness with it that stands out as a trooper here with a swing beat of a driving song that means get out of my way. It’s a great display of the Neo-Prog sound with a little bit of that added ominous factor to it. An Eastern feel to it and a very drum based song as synths bring the magick of ritualistic overtones to the table, glistening yet dark guitar passages, throw in a solid energetic bass line and some lead and harmonic vocals that send shivers down your spine and you have this song. The application of Prog is strong with this one (yes it’s ok to think of Star Wars there), a great example of what can be done in under six minutes and have you craving more of the same and wishing the song carried on for another five minutes or more.
“Moral Grey” bursts in to action with a full wall of sound onslaught to your ears and your speakers are clinging to the shelves as they are pushed to their limits with the song’s genesis, Intensity supreme. A powerful almost Deep Purple meets 90’s King Crimson melee of every instrument losing control but still in tight consistent formation giving you a command performance of musicianship. Half way through the song finds a groove and leans back on the walls of fury and sits in the rocking chair and has at it for a funktified few bars. Dark alleyways and rainy black and white photographs clog your mind as you listen to his one feeling your chest tighten as you wait at 3:55 in silence for a few seconds then you’re erupted in to that fury again sending you in to the falling abyss of opening Pandora’s Prog box and jumping in head first only to come to a screeching halt and sent in to the next song, “Watersoul II“. This song finds its niche within the synth notes and a very motorized and technical vocal track of robotics drawing you back to early Kraftwerk and Alan Parsons Project days of technological wonder through Radioaktivitat and I Robot albums. This is the next phase and Ossicles has taken it perfectly in to the 21st Century of Schizoid music bringing you the new sound and “den nye musikken”. This too adds the recipe’s finest ingredients to an impeccable science as the band doesn’t focus on any one instrument to lead the song along the way but instead uses a culmination of everything leads and everything is secondary, a radiant display of musicianship again. “Barren Earth” pulls us back to calmer times and reverence of the softer side of Prog’s many masks of theatre and theatrical music. With a piano intro this piece is truly theatrical in its arrangements and presentation with a very film noir effect to the music and that it calls upon our imaginations once again to invoke images of different times, different places and different people that we will never meet. Violins always make music sound distant and far off which is a great addition to this song, the guitar work is fluent here as another distant sound echoing throughout as it bends and twists notes around the piano’s sombre refrain. Careful consideration has been put in to the arrangement of this song as it doesn’t flow like any cookie cutter song you can find on MTV, no, this is a composition of deep Prog thought. It shuffles along with a head down feel that has you really feeling for the voice recanting this sorrowful tale to us through sound. The added effect of being ‘barren’ just past the mid section sets us free to the wastelands of the deserts before us and the long walk in to oblivion searching for our next meal, a voice other than our own and salvation.
“Slur” slowly enters with a dreamscape synth base that has you once again drifting off in to another world as it gently takes you there without a path to follow. The bass walks over and segues itself in as light percussion digests in the background. The piano notes are crisp but softened by their subtlety. The title of the song well reflects the music as it does tend to slur along but nothing offensive rather pleasant and very otherworldly with its Utopian like feel to it as the voices harmonize soothingly to a church like state of reflection. The Bill Bruford like drumming inflections are very much a King Crimson “Indiscipline” feel to it as they snap in and out of phase to the song giving you a sense of wonder what’s going to happen next but then it only subsides to a passive and docile few piano notes to finish it off in such a Prog way to throw you off your guard for something epic when the notes that close the song are calm and serene. “Torn Pages“, an atonal acoustic start with a synthscape waving to and fro as the drums tightly snap around the song’s humble beginnings. The band wastes no time in utilizing the Prog recipe intently as the tempo/timbre changes come and go with the blink of an eye and they maintain integrity throughout very well. This song regales periods of life’s ups and downs soundtracks to me and has that strife that you keep contained within yourself but try desperately to let it out in masses of shouts and roars to an unknowing world. The solo on here is superbly done with newborn tones being let loose with their leash on a long tether to give you a taste for the band. The harmonies are monastic and have the inceptions of Gregorian chants as the song snaps and leads up to another classic Prog element, the use of sound effects of ripping and torn pages as the title implies to give you the feel of the chanter sitting right in front of you as you watch them tear their world apart. It fades away as so we may come to the final song on the album and an epic masterpiece at just under 30minutes giving us a true portrait of Prog, “Silky Elm“.
The slow burn of a drone note commiserates the piece with and Indian calling that has you lost in the lands of Kerala on India’s Malabar Coast or the lush mountains of the Satpura Range in Dhupgarh or standing upon Jindhagada Peak of the Eastern Ghats. The tight guitar notes that come down from the clouds are radiant and vivid as they sing graciously over the drone note. When using this format in a song one doesn’t just do it for a minute or two but you must have it seep down far in to your soul where music begins and let carry on for several minutes, seven to precise here before the drums corral in and add a distinct pattern of walk with me to them. One has images of their first hearings of bands like Rush and Mahavishnu Orchestra when listening to this song as it has that depth and massive presence to it giving it life and substance. The duet vocals here that has been done several times on this album allows a great theme of family and collaboration of not just ideas and musicianship but emotion and feelings towards a common goal to make great music. “Silky Elm” has a stroll about it that you would find in the smoky basements of nightclubs and darkened halls that are merely lit by the stage lights as the musicians play which is endearing to the listener here. Just past the halfway point the song shifts gears and changes directions and goes in to a Prog mayhem and lets loose their firey sound on us with an atmosphere of very early 70’s Crimson jazz. The recipe applies all too well here with the start/stops having you readjust your toe tapping and sit back and let the vibe carry you down the rolling waters that the song waves, ebbs and flows upon. Shifting yet again three quarters through to a harder driving edge the band doesn’t hesitate to snap to and from the timbre changes and pulls out all the stops here like a Formula 1 driver navigating twists and turns through this musical maze that Ossicles presents to us here. This song is a scintillating review of what lengthy Prog songs are all about and they come full circle bringing us back to the beginning of that dreamscape in India then falling back in to a short refrain to the setting sun as the song winds down and brings us back to our conscious mind once again. This half hour mind excursion is well worth the album’s weight in this one song. The rest of the record is also extremely well done and the band did the classic Prog move and checkmate with having the longest song at the end of the album to finish off our journey in to mind expansion. “Mantlepiece” is equally as great as their second album “Music For Wastelands” and both should be in your Prog Collective of albums as a great introduction to Norwegian Prog and that they are as unique as the music they play.
Ossicles is a great band that has the world of Prog ahead of them and hopefully soon another album out or some live tracks from their up and coming live band they are assembling as we speak. Truly a Prog Duo that should not be overlooked and be acknowledged for their two albums out now and anticipation for their next album when they are ready because like fine wine, you don’t rush Prog music. Enjoy.