“Welcome to MIND Vol. 4, another installment in Isildurs Bane’s
research & development-series”.
To be honest with you, in my opinion the Swedish Isildurs Bane is one of the few real progressive bands on this planet who are playing progressive contemporary music. You want me to mention one of the others? Okay, the first one that comes to my mind is the Hungarian band After Crying. As you could read in my review of “Mind Vol. 3” the band surprises me with every album they make. After making 7 “regular” albums (“Sagan om den Irländska Älgen”, “Sagan om Ringen”, “Sea Reflection”, “Eight moments of Eternity”, “Cheval”, “The Voyage – A trip to elsewhere” and “Lost eggs”) this is already their fourth album in the MIND series. The big surprise of this album is that there are lyrics and vocals on this one. This is not new but you have to go back to the years before 1987. The original idea of this project incorporating music, lyrics and art had the name “Screenplay”. The band played already some of that material live. But we are talking about Isildurs Bane here, so for this record the music was recomposed and rearranged and got new lyrics. In this fourth MIND release are sixteen compositions which are each divided into four blocks with separate themes, each of these blocks containing four songs. “Apart from telling stories within a story, the blocks can be regarded as four ways of reacting against the rigidity and squareness of different situations in everyday life”. Are you still with me? Well let’s talk about the musicians and the music.
Christof Jeppsson, Mariette Hansson, Anna Lönnberg, Linnea Olsson, Lars-Erik Björklund and Povel Ohlsson.
Mats Johansson – Atmosphere software synth, K2600, Mutator piano, Theremin, Loops & Treatments, Oberheim Xpander, Samplers, Software synths, K2000 Ensemble strings, Minimoog, Nord Lead 2, Nord Knee synth, Authentic Mellotron & Chamberlain tapes played on a K2600 in conjunction with processed historic voices, Luciferian brass on MP’s Triton, piano, K2600 processed by a Mutator, Nord modular loops, Emu 3XP, Akai S1000, Processed piano, Waldorf XT, Vocoder, D50, Yamaha CS80, Nord Lead 2 distorted by an Ensoniq DP4, Line 6 delay, Clavinet D6;
Fredrik Johansson – Fretted & Fretless basses, Double bass;
Klas Assarsson – Gong bass drum, Ice bell, octobans, piccolo snare, scrap metal, Tam-tam, wind chimes, crotales, marimba, shaker, tambourine, bell tree, bells, triangle, vibes, water gong, glockenspiel, wood blocks, Roto-toms, hi-hat, timpani, bowed and struck vibes;
Kjell Severinsson – processed drumloops, acoustic drums, djembe;
Jonas Christophs – Electric guitar, 12-strings acoustic guitar;
Joachim Gustafsson – violin;
Björn J:son Lindh – flute, recorder; Fredrik Davidsson – trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet; Martin Söderlund – trombone, bass trombone, tuba; Linnea Olsson – cello; Luca Calabrese – trumpet.
We must not forget Mats “MP” Persson who is the producer, engineer and editor of “Mind Vol. 4” and therefore had a big influence in shaping the sound of this album.
If you have a look at the list of musicians and the endless list of instruments than you will understand that this is not just another prog-album but something special. If you take the time to listen carefully to this album a complete new world will open for you. Isildurs Bane calls themselves an electronic chamber orchestra. Their music is influenced by fusion, jazz, classical and theater music.
The first block of music is called “Here” and it consists out of the songs “Halo” (1:24), “Heal” (5:03), “Fury” (0:46) and “Cage” (5:31). In the atmospherically opening we hear for the first time the beautiful voice of Mariette Hansson who is singing a delicate and melodic vocal line. “Heal” is opening with fantastic drums and percussion which is placed next to the soaring violin work of Joachim Gustafsson. The lead vocals of Christof Jeppsson in this song will remind you of Colin Blunstone. The tension in the music is created by the contrast of beautiful melodic vocal lines and classical themes (innocence) against dark and complex music (guilt). “Fury” (0:46) is a short mysterious intermezzo created by Mats Johansson’s samplers and software synths. “Cage” (5:31) somehow reminds me of the latest works of Peter Gabriel. The vocals have a central role in this composition. The hoarse voice of Christof Jeppsson sounds now more like a young Richie Havens or that of Ray Wilson. But there is also room for an electric guitar solo.
The second block “Hope” consists out of the songs “Arch” (1:00), “Good” (3:15), “Open” (2:17)
and “Eyes” (6:38). After the classical opening of “Arch” in
the next vocal track “Good” the voice of Christof
Jeppsson gets company of those of Anna
Lönnberg and Linnea Olsson. You now
get a kind of mix which sounds like; Peter Gabriel meets Tori
Amos and Kate Bush. This has to do with the way in which the lyrics are presented. “Open” is
one of my favorite instrumental pieces of this album. Atmospheric keyboards
with a breathtaking guitar solo of Jonas Christophs. I get the urge to
listen again to the “Cheval” and “The Voyage – A trip to elsewhere” albums. Too short, but in “Eyes” you find also those passionate
instrumental Isildurs Bane moments. I would also like to mention the
beautiful flute and recorder work of Björn J:son Lindh which sometimes
reminds me of John Hackett.
The third block “Fear” consists out of the songs “Self” (2:44), “Idea” (8:32). “Talk” (1:40) and “Rage” (5:33). In “Self” guitar and keyboard soundscapes are combined with a beautiful but sad melody played on the violin. “Idea” is with a timing of 8:32 the longest track of the album. The fantastic opening gives me flashes of previous Isildurs Bane albums but the music changes into a more songmatic style when “Mr. Blunstone” (Christof Jeppsson) re-appears. In the end Adolf Wölfli walks through my mind again. “Talk” is a beautiful duet sung by Anna Lönnberg and Christof Jeppsson. As you can imagine “Rage” has more powerful music. But this is combined with the melodic vocal lines. In the last part Anna Lönnberg sounds very sensual, in an almost erotic way.
The fourth block “Pass” consists out of the songs “Part” (2:11), “Dark” (1:39), “Loss” (4:00)
and “Ends” (4:14). “Part” is slow and delicate
song where the voice of Anna Lönnberg reminds me again of the almost
childlike voice of Tori Amos. In the short theme “Dark” Mats
Johansson uses a lot of electronics and the guitar of Jonas
Christophs is distorted. “Loss” has beautiful melodies and Christof
Jeppsson sings with a lot of passion. But he is doing this throughout
the whole album. He is for me the revelation of this album. A very good
singer. “Ends” is the last track of this album. Next to the
beautiful and romantic flute work this piece is full with treatments
and programming stuff.
This is an amazing album with the focus on the vocals. But like an orchestra
the “band” is using a countless amount of instruments. Useless
to say that this provides a broad sound spectrum. If you are open-minded
and have the patience to discover the wonderful world of music, you must
listen to this brilliant album. It includes some breathtaking moments.
This is one of the best progressive albums of this year!
Need I more to say?