In part three of my Heroes of Kscope Music series of artist profiles we explore the beauty and wonder of the Norwegian progressive rock band, Gazpacho, in celebration of their new studio release, Molok.
Gazpacho to me is a band who writes serious music with hauntingly beautiful cryptic lyrics – just the way I was raised in life since high school in order to enhance my appreciation for all things progressive rock. I’ve been hooked onto this band since 2009 or so ever since I came across their Tick Tock album released on a different label and from that initial first listen I was instantly floored by their soft melodic approach to minimalism blended with flourishes of ethnic music, dark percussive instrumentation, and atmospheric and keyboards interspersed with velvety Leonard Cohen inspired vocalizations that defies concentration to fully understand what they are trying to convey to their mostly European audiences. Some of their music is deeply rooted in psychological concepts storywise and is quite engaging lyrically.
I’ve been sticking with them through thick and thin since their 2009 release, Tick Tock. Their next studio release the following year in 2010, Missa Atropos was captured contractually to the Kscope label and each release since then has revolved on difficult to explain subject matter. For space limitations, I will only be covering their history of releases from 2009 through the present (although 2007’s Night has been remastered and re-released on Kscope a couple of years back).
(portions of the following are taken from Wikipedia)
The original core band of Jan-Henrik Ohme (vocals), Jon-Arne Vilbo (guitars) and Thomas Andersen (keyboards, programming, producer) started making music together in 1996 and the band has since expanded with Mikael Krømer (violin, co-producer), Lars Erik Asp (drums) and Kristian Torp (bass).
Gazpacho’s music has been described by one critic as being “classical post ambient nocturnal atmospheric neo-progressive folk world rock”. The music has been compared to A-ha, Radiohead, Marillion and Porcupine Tree.
Childhood friends Jon-Arne Vilbo and Thomas Andersen had played together in a band called Delerium before, which in their own words “whittled away.”[ After several years of separation, the two friends met again and started making music together again. Andersen had met Jan-Henrik Ohme through his work as radio commercial producer and brought him into the jam sessions, which laid the foundation for Gazpacho as it exists today.
The band name comes from an attempt to describe their music.
Andersen: “We are a very unlikely mixture of people really, not the average types you’d expect to see in the same band… so we thought Gazpacho, which really is the bastard of soups (meshed up vegetables served cold), was the perfect name for our group(…)With Gazpacho you get a surprise, something unexpected, something out of the norm, a ‘positive’ contradiction. We feel this describes our band very well.back
Which begs the question: was Minestrone or Cream of Mushroom were already taken as band names?
Roy Funner played bass on the finished recordings of the band, though he wasn’t part of the writing process. For the drum tracks a computer was used.
For two years the band worked on a concept album Random Access Memory; a piece of work which they discarded altogether when they felt they had not yet reached the level of musical maturity for such an ambitious project.
On 15 March 2009 the 5th studio album “Tick Tock” was released on HTW Records a division of Sony BMG. The album is based on the story of French writer and naviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery who took off in an attempt at a long distance flight from Paris to Saigon (1935). He crashed in the Desert many hours later stranded with his co pilot Prevot. Later he recounted his experience in a book called Wind, Sand and Stars and this story forms the basis of the “Tick Tock” album.
The metaphor of a desert walk represented by a ticking clock may not be sublime but by golly the music is in moments. The apathetic underscore of a sweltering almost synthy loop which really is a b4 organ played through a guitar amp and a sequencer brings at first hesitation then desperation then more hesitation and then something happens and you get sucked into a glassy mood.
Almost as if you were walking a long and lonely walk in the desert where there is only you, the stars, wind and sand, the sound of your footsteps softened by the burning sand and heard only through the bones of the body.
“If you are a fan of music that transports you to another place, you will find nothing better!”
The following video demonstrates the melodic mastery of Gazpacho excellence in this fantastic ode to a utopian childhood fondily remembered in the concluding track to Tick Tock entitled “Winter is Never”
Missa Atropos (2011)
During the Tick Tock Tour on September gigs, pre printed copies of the new album Missa Atropos were available to the audience. Missa Atropos was intended to be another album in the series of films without pictures that they started back in 2007 with “Night”. In other words, a concept album intended to give the listener a chance to take some time off from the world. “Missa Atropos” is a concept taking the idea of Atropos, a Greek Goddess, updating it to the modern world where a man isolated himself from the world in a lighthouse to write a mass for Atropos, tasting true solitude as he does so. The story tells of what happens inside his head, his three attempts to write a mass, with the culmination of Missa Atropos being the final outcome.
December 2010 brought the news that they have licensed “Missa Atropos” to K-Scope in the UK The album was accompanied by a 12 gig tour in 5 different countries in January / February 2011. One of those countries was the UK where the London gig at Dingwalls 30 January was recorded and released on 24 October as the double live CD called London. (another one I have to put on my list.)
March of Ghosts (2012–2013)
The end of 2011 brought news that “March Of Ghosts” would be the band’s 7th studio album and the follow-up to “Missa Atropos”. While as mentioned “Missa Atropos” was a long story about one person leaving everything behind, “March of Ghosts” is a collection of short stories. The idea behind the album was to have the lead character spend a night where all these ghosts (dead and alive) would march past him to tell their stories. Characters include Haitian war criminals, the crew of the Marie Celeste, a returning American WWI soldier who finds himself in 2012 and the ghost of an English comedy writer who was wrongly accused of treason. They are short stories. They are a march of ghosts. They are tales that need to be told. The new album ‘March Of Ghosts’ was released on Kscope 12 March 2012 and was accompanied by a tour March / April 2012 tour As a support to the album and the upcoming tour, on 10 March the band’s first official video/clip is released. The song “Black Lilly” features footage from an idea by Antonio Seijas, who’s also the artist responsible for all the album artwork from 2005’s “Firebird” and onward. Two months later the 2nd official video is a fact, a clip directed and edited by James Jones Morris supporting the song ‘What Did I Do?’. A song that’s based around the story of the English writer P. G. Wodehouse, who was accused of treason after a series of broadcasts he did on German radio during WWII. He was interned as a foreign national by the Germans and spent some time in prison camp before finally being released at 60. After he was released he stayed for some time at a country estate where he was informed of what crimes the Nazis were guilty of and how impossibly stupid it was to agree to broadcast on their radio. It is his ghost we hear sitting on the porch listening to the gramophone recordings of the broadcasts trying to understand why these simple funny narratives had caused such an uproar.
Since the release of this album, I’ve become good facebook friends with artist Antonio Seijas. Whereas Roger Dean covers for Yes are like the prog rock equivalent of a Michelangelo or a Rembrandt, Seijas’s cover are like a prog version of an abstract Vincent Van Gogh. His enigmatic style and shadowy themes are so addictive, that I’m almost attempted to ask him to design my Deposit Man hardcover limited edition collection of the entire ten issues. IF I ever get around to doing that project in my lifetime. I’m also a big fan of the artwork he provided for Marillion two-volume CD set of “Happiness is The Road” back in 2008
I wasn’t really that thrilled with this recorded effort. A lot of the songs composed were too soft and dreary which didn’t have that much punch to them other than the four song bookend series entitled “Hell Freezes Over I-IV.” (which could be considered as a prologue to the next album’s theme) It’s not one that I go back to listen as much as I do the others in my collection.
In late 2013, the band announced via their Facebook page that they had finished recording their 8th studio album, Demon, due to be released in 2014. Demon was released in March 2014 and the band toured the UK and Europe in support of it in April 2014.
Very difficult, but yet brilliantly crafted album to sit through although the instrumentation takes you through many twists and turns. It’s subject is the most disturbing of all their previous conceptual themes. Vocalist Ohme claims it’s based on some of his father’s of someone relying of a story about an ancient parchment found in a loose brick of a supposedly rumored haunted house that is the map to hell and a journal that accompanies it, You could almost make comparisons between the protagonist of this tale with Rael’ s labyrinth journey to seek his brother John in Genesis Lamb Lies Down on Broadway except with more horrific results. No matter regardless, I considered Demon as my favorite album of last year it’s a difficult experience for me since this was the very last album I got to listen on my friend, Harry Perzigian’s surround sound stereo just after he shifted off the mortal plane. Just as the sound explodes in a miasma of ghostly fury, my personal demons are rewarded by a sweet and short cacophony of lyrical conclusion of “The Cage” in similar format explored on “Tick Tock”
The single from the album (and there had to be one, considering the other three main track are over ten minutes in length,), “Wizard of Altai Mountain”sort of has a covert secret childhood decoder ring mode to it, it’s been edited down from its original four and a half-minute length to not include the bombastic polka dance, originally played on accordion that concludes the number, but is replicated live by keyboardist Thomas Anderson when performed on tour.
This album also highlights additional member Mikeal Kromer’s (on violin and mandolin) finest moments.
Gazpacho released a live CD/DVD album titled Night of the Demon in April 2015 (and I still haven’t got to watching the DVD performance in its’ entirety yet). Gazpacho will also be touring in October/November 2015 in support of the album Molok (Kscope; 23 October 2015). The band will be joined on the tour by chamber progressive band Iamthemorning.
And they’ve launched a stream of lead track Know Your Time from the follow-up to 2014 studio album Demon and later live package Night Of The Demon.
The following is reprinted from their Kscope artist profile page describing the new album:
“Keyboardist Thomas Andersen says: “Molok is about a man who, sometime around 1920, decides that wherever anyone worships a God, they always seem to be worshipping stone in some form. Whether it’s a grand cathedral, the stone in Mecca or Stonehenge, God seems to have been chased by his worshipers into stone, never to return.
“This harkens back to Norwegian folk myths, where, if a troll was exposed to sunlight, it would turn to stone. But it also reflects the way God has been incommunicado for a very long time.”
The record features a guest appearance by Norwegian music archaeologist Gjermund Kolltveit, who plays recreations of stone age instruments on the closing track Molok Rising.
So far, tracks “The Master’s Voice” and “The Choir of Ancestors” are my favorites at the moment.
I hope the above will entice to check this incredible talented sextet. And remember, if it hadn’t been for that one Marillion weekend….