The Progression Rock: Small as a Ball – Review (CA)
Canada – Small as a Ball
This is the third instrumental progressive rock album for Boutrup and by my estimation is a much rockier-prog affair that his previous release which emphasized his symphonic side.
These eight compositions, roughly forty-nine minutes of music, feature mostly Hammond organ or other keyboard driven tunes that put the “rock” in Progressive Rock. The music hearkens back to artists like Emerson Lake and Palmer or even other trios like Trace where the organ tends to take centre stage.
It’s quite amazing what musical gymnastics the threesome of bass, drums and keyboards can get up to. Most of these selections are in the six or seven minute range offering plenty of time for musical change-ups in time, tempo and dynamics. From growling Hammond organ to sinewy synthesizer lead-lines, the music is brash, dramatic and fun to listen too.
It’s interesting to note that Boutrup has composed music for more than 200 silent movies in Denmark and Sweden. This has certainly given him a cinematic sense in his musical composition. The songs tend to provide a wonderful musical backdrop to the visual images the listener creates, knowing when to create tension and knowing when to release it.
While this release may be somewhat rockier, it doesn’t avoid the symphonic side completely.
Something made quite clear on a track like “Metro Scheme 69”
[6:51]. I have to admit I like this punchier side of Lars Boutrup. While I enjoyed his previous The Symphonic Dream it seemed almost a little too slick to my ears, especially when compared to this release.
Small as a Ball is a little rougher and displays a more intense contrast in the musical composition.
I like this one a lot. Recommended to fans of keyboard driven progressive rock.
The Progression Rock: The Symphonic Dream – Review (CA)
Canada – The Symphonic Dream
Danish keyboardist Lars Boutup is kind of a ‘have keyboard will travel’ kind of guy. Looking over his resume one is struck with the fact, he’s always working with somebody. The Symphonic Dream is his second solo release and you have to wonder where he finds the time? Boutrup has worked in a succession of bands that include; Simcess, Big Bang, Evil Masquerade and Supernova. In addition he’s recorded with many others. Then he’s become known for providing the music for over 200 silent films in Denmark and Sweden. For this second release Boutrup (keyboards, organ, synthesizers) has once again enlisted Fredrik Sunesen (drums, percussion) and for the first time brought in bass players Niels W. Knudsen and Andreas S. Jensen.
The Symphonic Dream is everything you might expect from a keyboard album of that name and more. There are eight instrumental tracks half of which are around the eight-minute mark. As with any instrumental album it’s sometimes difficult to hear the intended musical references to the actual composition’s title. None-the-less each of these pieces tends to offer up a cinematic, grand-scale sound. A number of them start out like the theme song of a dramatic movie, not surprising given Boutup’s penchant for working with film, but then the sound changes to more of a classic symphonic prog as the bass and drums kick in providing the essential rhythm while Boutrup provides layers of atmosphere and various solos. One of the things I liked was that he avoids the typical solo-keyboard pitfall of trying to impress the listener with too many musical performance styles. He stays clear away from any keyboard display of ragtime, jazz, honky-tonk, rock-n-roll and sticks to a symphonic theme. That said he also avoids a samey-ness as each of these compositions conveys its own feel. The music is dramatic at times, melancholy at others. It can be upbeat and then slow and moody. Much of the music features layers of lush, complex keyboard arrangements but then again these are balanced with moments of quiet solo piano.
It’s clear from the first listen that Lars Boutrup is an accomplished keyboardist with lots of great musical ideas inside him. The Symphonic Dream is the type of disc that will have instant appeal to fans of keyboard oriented symphonic progressive rock. It touches on lots of hot-buttons and is a very satisfying listen. The songs contain depth and variety and hold up really well over repeated spins. I really liked his musical approach and I look forward to hearing more. You should check it out.