[Little Birdie / Musikkoperatørene, 2016]
Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
Translation: Alexandros Mantas
Tenderton from Norway are Arild Hammerø’s new project, along with his bandmate in Atlanter, Morten Kvam (bass), keyboardist Haakon-Marius Pettersen, who has been member of various bands (Anti-Depressive Delivery among them) and Marius Simonsen on the drums, member of Montée just like Pettersen. The debut of Tenderton falls into the beloved category of contemporary Scandinavian underground and they describe their own music as “chivalric prog from Norway”. How much more interesting can it get?
An Atlanter’s mere spin-off? I don’t think so
Before I hit the play button for the first time, I was aware that my deep love for Atlanter could affect negatively my judgment about Tenderton’s debut. Even though the similarities with the top band are inevitable, since two out of four members are common in the two bands, it doesn’t take much of a strain to value Tenderton and their wonderful record.
The structure of the indeed “chivalric prog” of Tenderton’s debut album is clear: three 13-minute epics, an experimental interlude before the end and everything is instrumental, of course. No matter how the ethereal guitar melodies bring inescapably Atlanter to mind, the nature of the songs is clearly more jamming, more relaxed and more direct progressive rock with warm vintage sound, standing with one foot in the 70’s and one foot in the present.
The starter Bolero sets the ball rolling with a pompous and sluggish pace, with Hammerø’s unmistakable and unparalleled slide guitar (familiar to the already initiated) in the lead for five minutes and past this mark, after a brief deconstruction, the second part of the song kicks in, developing and enhancing the basic melody which results in a prog rock explosion where symphonic (synths are in the picture here), folk, and avant-jazz elements parade, till the guitar solo over this magnificent melody into the final climax.
Skokk starts similarly with the inexhaustible Hammerø once again in the lead, with beautiful mellotron shades from Pettersen whose astonishing melodies signal the beginning (on the fifth minute once again) of perhaps the record’s best song (even though it’s difficult to be dead certain), with a post-rock development, sound, and pompous style which clearly nods to Mike Oldfield. The quartet here is very tight, with melodic bass lines from Kvam, technical drum fills, amazing prog keyboards, and a guitar that pulls off to bridge the seemingly cultural chaos between North Europe and the Far East.
The just four-minute Humle is a jazzy experimental intermission which seems to come off too easily for the four musicians with its improvisational disposition, while it is a first class opportunity to take delight in Simonsen’s drumming.
Journey One bookends the album in the most unexpected way, starting off with a lively latin / fusion groove. After the energy-consuming intro, it progresses in a more ambient and post-rock abstract style which shapes up in an ingenious pop melody that is transmogrified into a spaced-out heavy prog one (!) that fades into infinity, completing an overly adventurous listen and a succession of surprises.
The debut of Tenderton is far more than an Atlanter’s spin-off. It is relaxed, natural, inspired music meant for all and sundry, especially for the fans of Norwegian prog that’s flourishing. It is recommended for listens in the house, when taking a walk, in the car, in the bus, in the train, in the morning, at noon, in the evening, and at night.
8 / 10
The self-titled debut of Tenderton is the outcome of the urge of four musicians to coexist by way of jamming. Nevertheless, the final result exceeds by far the mindset of a mere jamming session. Spontaneity cries out throughout the entire duration, but the Norwegians made sure to graft it onto more relaxed compositional structures. The sweet and adventurous playing is the basic component of their sound, whereas their style could be put down as improvisational progressive rock, casting occasionally furtive looks to jazz and fusion. Those who worshipped the first two albums of Atlanter should check this out, because they will experience a somewhat more laid back side of theirs. The same goes for the fans of the made-in-Norway progressive scene as a whole.
8 / 10