[Apollon Records, 2017]
Intro: Panagiotis Stathopoulos
Translation: V. Christodoulou, D. Kaltsas
24 / 12 / 2017
From the earliest hearings of Pixie Ninja’s full-length debut, you realize that it is not about another artistic vision that simply confirms the sufficiently digested references and influences of its inspirations. On the contrary, the band from Rognan, Norway, seems to have settled in a style that redevelops the sound stimuli of its members, resulting in a particularly effective set of compositions.
Exciting sonic dystopia
In Ultrasound, Pixie Ninja gather and eventually spread a series of ideas in a fascinating way through a truly modern rather than anachronistic way. Ideas, all of which assemble a dystopian, almost sketchy soundtrack, which is not found in any sound frame e.g. a horror film, but arrives so as to stand as a musical background to what’s happening in our reality, in our lives. In order to accomplish their “ominous” endeavor, with progressive rock (in the the broad sense) logic, Pixie Ninja employ guitars, bass, mellotron, organ, electronic overdubs, drums, metallofon, flute, and etc.
It is such a stylistic wealth of their debut record, with which you are directly and intensely fascinated. Thus, you are fascinated by the sensual electronica of the opening Auditory Hallucinations, which begins with impressed ’70s memories and an electronic view of ambient music as was defined by Jean Michelle Jarre’s first two LPs, the synth adventures of Vangelis, the German kosmische musik, with a more rhythmic and sharp melodic and dreamlike character, that could be found in the best moments of Boards Of Canada. Their rautrock influences are ideally bended with doses of RIO and Zeuhl in the Elusive Wind Wave with the touching presence of the flute.
Progressive rock – with krautrock being part of its overall context – from the 1960s to today is the place to meet what Pixie Ninja has in mind. The band is structured on its freedom and its extensions: based on aesthetics and imagination, and on strict musicological criteria. You hear it in the highlight of Ultrasound, the futuristic Polysomnographic, where Goblin and Future Sound Of London coexist. It’s obvious when listening to the awkward circularity of Personal Improvement Cult, which represents them moving out the greyish urban landscape of the big cities and with guitar and keyboards taking a walk in nature and then to a dark industrial vortex a lá Heldon. If the interlude Une Promenade was missing, which interrupts the flow of the album, we would be talking about a flawless masterpiece…
The main trio by Jostein Haugen, Marius Leirånes (guitar / bass / keyboards) and Johan Hals Jørgensen (organ), assisted by Mattias Olsson (drums, keys, production), and Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (flute) created a remarkably dark sound that is worth mentioning not only among the most important albums of 2017 but also the of the whole decade.
8.5 / 10
2017 has seen Apollon Records release a flotilla of very good albums, all by norwegian bands but of diverse musical backgrounds. I particularly paid attention to and liked the new Suburban Savages, Weserbergland and Arabs in Aspic releases and I’m happy to include Pixie Ninja to this tentative list. Ultrasound is one of those albums that become more attractive with each consecutive listen. Mixing progressive rock, kraut (with a rather mid-70s Kraftwerk touch), some big rockers and lushy ambient, loosely symphonic parts, Pixie Ninja manage to balance their sensibilities and hone them into an interesting piece of work. There is apparently some retro desire but it is coupled with good compositional skills while the overall sound is fantastic. The fact that it is absolutely instrumental is not dissuading at all but it dramatically adds to the album’s atmosphere, that of a perhaps unreleased late 80s RPG video game soundtrack. Even so, it manages to sound fresh, brisk and promising.
7.5 / 10