[Apollon Records, 2021]
Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
The story of Shamblemaths starts in 2004 when Fallen Fowl, a duo of Simen ødnøy Ellingsen (guitars, saxophones, keyboards, vocals and more) and Eirik Mathias Husum, was formed which actually was a side project of TiaC. After an EP, the project went into hiatus for several years, as Ellingsen moved to London to complete his studies (he’s a physicist specializing in fluid mechanics and quantum mechanics, holds a PhD in Physics and another in Political Science, and is currently a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim).
Several years later, the two musicians reunited under the name Shamblemaths and in 2016 their exceptional self-titled debut was released. Today, the release of Shamblemaths 2 is a fact, with Husum being replaced by drummer Ingvald A. Vassbø at the core of the band, which is accompanied by several guest musicians, most notably Paolo Botta (Ske – keys and co-production), Morten Andreas Nome (Major Parkinson – double bass), Eskild Myrvoll (Kanaan – bass), Eirik Øverland Dischler (keyboards – ex member of Fallen Fowl), Leon Li (bassoon), Marianne Lønstad and Pia Margaret Samset (vocals).
Progressive rock repository
The duo from Trondheim is a particularly interesting case. In 2016, prog fans duly appreciated the hard work of Ellingsen and Husum to complete their debut effort, which was rightly described as an exceptional record. The band continues to extend in Shamblemaths 2 in similar aristic fields, only this time hovering at darker and more cerebral levels. The Norwegians have a very appreciation for Univers Zero, with all that entails: chamber aesthetics, symphonic unconventional edges, RIO, and avant-prog. These dominant elements are intertwined with jazz rock, 90s Scandinavian prog, chamber music and gothic darkness, always under the fruitful interference of chaos and paranoia. Female reciting and operatic vocals further contribute to the chaotic escalation by stimulating the brain and spirit. These elements balance each other, offering the prog genre that you have already embraced and assimilated, and want to hear again and again. It is beyond any trivial anachronism, but at the same time it is glowing with the flame of the past. It is prog music that synchronizes with the frequencies of the progressive audience, but at the same time, it addresses its most loyal and ardent supporters.
That said, compositions such as Knucklecog define the coordinates of prog clichés in such a way as to summarize the essence of prog itself. The album is full of extremely well-played saxophones and fuzzy basses and keyboards, creating a cohesive record in its entirety, which is impossible to access through separate songs. There are masterpieces full of Univers Zero influences such as D.S.C.H. (Op. 110 String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Mvts. 1 and 2), but also others such as the final epic, This River, a composition that differentiates the band’s sonic sign, a real ornament of chamber music and jazz under the shackles of male and highly sensual female vocals, a song that balances between despair and awe. The voice of underage Anna Gaustad Nistad in Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia pts 1-4 deserves special mention. The central pillar here is dark Scandinavian prog in relation to jazz and classical music, with the characteristic sound of the xylophone played by Ingvald A. Vassbø standing out. The same goes for Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia pt. 9, in which six-year-old Eivor Å. Ellingsen sings; a short composition that promotes her charming voice. Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia pt. 5 richly rewards those who focus. The different kinds of saxophones used are the band’s trademark, and constitute their distinguishing feature.
The music offered to us here has several levels and requires time to be appreciated. It is explosive and dark prog, which clearly proves the value of the deep underground, without amateurism and pointless extra minutes of music, with exemplar production and professional objective. Prog not only boils over, but boasts about these worthy representatives.
8.5 / 10
I admit that I was anticipating the release of this album, mainly because Simen Ådnøy Ellingsen’s musical vision is not only interesting but also different from almost anything else today. What encouraged progressive rock fans in the band’s debut, sounds even more exciting here upon first listen. In Shamblemaths 2 the main style is much closer to avant-prog. The flow of the album is excellent, the orchestration is simply exemplary and the meticulous details act as a catalyst for the effectiveness of a very ambitious and peculiar artistic endeavor that is crowned with absolute success. In an mostly dark environment, the high level of technique works narratively, the children’s vocals are an ideal contrast and the general lyricism effortlessly leads to the final uplift. As pointless as it is to single out highlights in such a uniform work, the tribute to Shostakovich in D.S.C.H. (Op. 110 String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Mvts. 1 and 2) and the stunning prog epic The River that closes the album are two of the greatest prog achievements of the last (many) years.
9 / 10