Isildurs Bane is a Swedish ensemble that plays well-planned interpretations of Mats Johansson’s compositions. The last two albums (“Mind Vol. 1” & “Mind Vol. 2”) were following the MIND concept, a way of composing improvised music, or in short; Do – Undo – Redo. The first two MIND albums where made with a large electric ensemble, and were in my point of view brilliant albums if you are talking about real progressive music. A fantastic mix of classical, electronic, jazz and symphonic prog music. But on this record the boundaries of musical styles is explored once more and even pushed to a further level. I am not sure if people who appreciated the first two Mind albums can follow this next step in Isildurs Bane’s musical career.
The Isildurs Bane ensemble is minimized to a trio and together with the musicians of the Italian Metamorfosi Trio we have six musicians. A double trio, but also the combination of an electric chamber ensemble and an acoustic ensemble. This combination did a small tour in Sweden last year. It is a meeting of what on the surface may seem like opposing forces.
Luca Calabrese – Trumpet & flugelhorn; Jonas Christophs – Electric guitar; Franco Feruglio – Double Bass; Mats Johansson – Synthesizers, samplers, theremin, musical boxes, treatments; Christian Saggese – Acoustic guitar; Kjell Severinsson – Drums & percussion.
The Metamorfosi Trio works primarily within the field of free improvisation, but parts of their music are worked out first. Isildurs Bane on the other hand are known for their well planned interpretations of Mats Johansson’s compositions, but there has always been a place for improvisation. An interesting starting point, also the combination of acoustic and electronic instruments. Both “bands” have sent audio files to each other and these have been edited and processed in order to transform the music into something new and slightly different. A way of composing improvised music. I am aware that several readers are closing the review window at this moment to read the next review. But this CD is only for the adventurous progfan who has a complete open mind. In Thomas Olsson’s words: “This is music played by musicians striving to go further, straining the sonic boundaries and using content, creativity and technology to push form beyond its common limits.”
The album is divided into two suites. The second one “L’evento” has been composed and improvised for a dance performance. The suite is recorded in one take. The first one is called “The octagon” and is divided into eight parts (“The keel”, “The sails”, The coachman”, The sculptor”, “The lyre”, “The pendulum”, “Sobieski’s shield” and “The stern”). I will not describe each part in detail but will try to describe the atmosphere of some pieces. “The Keel” (2:32) I would like to describe as Isildurs Bane meets Mark Isham. The trumpet sound of Luca Calabrese and the combination with electronics remind me of Mark. “The sails” (2:21) has also that Mark Isham trumpet but now combined with Robert Fripp’s guitar. In “The coachman” (2:12) the trumpet is combined with the acoustic guitar of Christian Saggese and the double bass of Franco Feruglio. “The lyre” (3:23) is quiet and has a breathtaking melody. On top of an electronic layer there is acoustic guitar, double bass like in After Crying, electric guitar and a sexy trumpet like Chris Botti. “The Pendulum” (2:29) sounds like an improvisation. “Sobieski’s shield” has a beautiful melody on trumpet. “The stern” (2:53) is again quiet and breathtaking. Mark Isham meets After Crying.
The more “difficult” suite is the dance piece “L’evento” which is divided into nine parts (“The universe”, “The inception”, “Rewind”, “The journey”, “The puppet dance”, “The history”, “Capital punishment”, “Exodus” and “Cosmos”). “The universe” (6:31) is very quiet and could be used for a scary science fiction movie. “The inception” (6:59) is very difficult to describe. It has a quiet beginning but develop later on into freaky jazz fusion. “Rewind” (7:06) reminds me of one of my favorite King Crimson albums “Lark’s tongues in aspic” and in particular of the piece “The talking drum”. “The journey” (11:28) starts as a happy jazzy tune (trumpet) but it is also full with electronics and the trumpet is placed next to the acoustic guitar. You could be listening to one of the ECM recordings. After six minutes follows a more experimental part of improvisation with some interesting drum work. “The puppet dance” (6:46) has some jazz influences with a big role for Christian Saggese. Also Kjell Severinsson shows in this suite that he is a very talented drummer. “The History” gets a little bit freaky like a David Torn / Mark Isham composition. “Exodus” (5:24) has dark atmosphere in the opening and develop into my favorite part of the suite.
The English would say, this is not “everybody’s cup of tea”. I advise everybody to listen to this album first, before buying it. Even if you have all the Isildurs Bane albums and like the first two MIND albums. It is more jazz influenced then the Isildurs Bane material you will know. Personally I like the trumpet in this music. But I am a lover of Mark Isham’s and Chris Botti’s work. Talking about progressive music, well this is progressive. They even have surprised me too. I love the “Mind Vol. 1” and “Mind Vol. 2” albums and was expecting something completely different to review. These Swedes and Italians are a bunch of amazing musicians.