Reviews The NetherlandsMFK2020-09-19T15:21:57+02:00
Reviews The Netherlands
ProgWereld: The Symphonic Dream – Review (NL)
The Netherlands – The Symphonic Dream
2011 zal een gedenkwaardig jaar zijn voor de uit Denemarken afkomstige toetsenist Lars Boutrup. Niet alleen vanwege zijn ontmoeting met Abraham dat jaar, zeker ook omdat zijn tweede solo-album “The Symphonic Dream” dan wereldwijd wordt uitgegeven. Het album, waar de toetsen regeren, is in z’n geheel instrumentaal en omdat ik nogal graag vocalen hoor is het eigenlijk verwonderlijk dat ik mijn duimen zo hoog in de lucht steek. Ik kan er niet omheen; ik vermaak me kostelijk tijdens de vele luisterbeurten die dit album van me krijgt.
“The Symphonic Dream” is een blijvertje. Ik hoor een hoop hartstocht en in gedachten zie ik Boutrup al helemaal uit z’n dak gaan achter zijn arsenaal. De meeste nummers zitten stampvol stuwend orgel en synthesizer. Het is elektro in het kwadraat. Direct al is te horen dat Boutrup een zeer ervaren muzikant is. Zo speelde hij in talloze bands en maakt hij momenteel furore met de band Juruda Music. Daarnaast heeft hij voor meer dan 200 ‘stomme’ films de muziek geschreven en uitgevoerd.
Voor de drums heeft Boutrup net als op zijn debuutalbum een beroep gedaan op een echte drummer. Fredrik Sunesen heet de man en hij ziet zich ditmaal ondersteund door Niels Knudsen en Andreas Jensen op basgitaar. Dat scheelt natuurlijk meer dan een slok op de spreekwoordelijke borrel, want de muziek is ondanks de stoïcijnse, haast machinale ritmes vaak een stuwende en energieke boel. Je zou het bijna spacerock noemen. Je kunt de muziek nog het makkelijkst aanduiden met het woord ‘going’. Er zijn maar weinig overgangen en breaks te horen. De muziek gaat zogezegd z’n gangetje zonder noemenswaardige sfeerwisselingen. Ondertussen riedelt de Deen er lustig op los. Het fijne is dat hij z’n kundigheid niet gebruikt om zichzelf in de etalage te zetten, maar om de muziek lekkerder te maken. Dat hij z’n loopjes en solo’s niet wat harder ingemixt heeft is dan ook best wel jammer. Niet dat hij een Rick Wakeman is of een Jean Michel Jarre, maar in die richting moet je het toch zoeken.
De onderlinge nummers zijn goed gevarieerd waardoor het album een strak geheel is. Er zijn zweverige en gedragen songs, je hebt up-tempo tracks of nummers met een mid-tempo beat. Tot twee keer toe komt Boutrup met een pianonummer en dat is buitengewoon slim. Space Peace en A Song For John zijn dan ook welkome rustpuntjes. Het titelnummer The Symphonic Dream is het meest symfonische van het stel, maar dat is ook niet zo verwonderlijk gezien de titel. Dat brengt me bij de enige twee euveltjes van de plaat. Zo zou een meer progressieve structuur binnen de nummers het album mogelijk interessanter hebben gemaakt. Een tweede puntje is dat door het vele gebruik van strings de productie niet zo transparant is. Alles wordt nogal dichtgesmeerd.
Wat blijft is een album met acht nummers die gehoord mogen worden. Een droom is maar een droom. De werkelijkheid is een leuk toetsenalbum.
Tracklist: June (8:08), Secrets Behind The Curtain (7:50), The Symphonic Dream (8:56), Space Peace (4:06), Thanks For Everything (5:19), A Song For John (3:55), Eddy Will Not Be Ready (6:55), The Black Event (8:02)
A project with a name like Lars Boutrup’s Music For Keyboards has a name that is self-explanatory with respect to the predominant musical instrument. But the music of the Danish keyboard whiz’s outfit incorporates much more, namely bass and drums. Good things come in threes, and this trio (bass duties are handled on various tracks by two different bassists) serves up a sugary, symphonic concoction of instrumental prog across the CD’s eight tracks on the group’s sophomore effort, appropriately entitled The Symphonic Dream.
Boutrup, on keyboards, organ and synthesizers, is joined by returning drummer and percussionist Fredrik Sunesen and newcomers on bass Niels W. Knudsen (Xcentrik) and Andreas S. Jensen (Funktuary). Boutrup himself has recorded and toured with no less than a dozen bands since his time as a teenager in the late seventies, and has interestingly also done music composition and performance to over 200 silent films screened in Sweden and Denmark. His experience shines on The Symphonic Dream, and it’s not just symphonic we’re dealing with as an influence here. Whether by accident or design, Eddie Jobson’s “industrial prog” template laid out in the UKZ track Radiation makes appearances on a few tracks of The Symphonic Dream with respect to the dark orchestral style keyboards and the often machine-like drumming elements.
This is evident to a point on the unique title track, which showcases recurring tsunamis of drumming from Sunesen, choral synthesizer elements from Boutrup evoking Tangerine Dream, and stabs of bass from Knudsen.
A few other tracks on the CD evoke German prog project Mind Movie, such as Thanks For Everything which spotlights pendulum swings of bass from Jensen, some synthesizer runs from Boutrup evoking The Alan Parsons Project and freewheeling drumming from Sunesen.
Eddy Will Not Be Ready is another Mind Movie-like tune starting with a Prokofiev-esque feel and digital string keyboards from Boutrup, all giving way to a techno-rock dance beat flavoured by shimmering ribbons of synthesizer and fortified by the drumming of Sunesen, the whole shebang pointing to the Vozero trilogy era of Phil Manzanera as a commonality.
Overall the CD is not unlike the solo work of Erik Norlander, but without Norlander’s often used minor key arrangements.
You can check out samples of music from the CD, as well as some samples of Boutrup’s other work, by hitting up the link above.
The four-way foldout CD booklet is colourful and professionally done, featuring a panoramic ocean photograph in the foldout as well as track listing on the back face and credits.
This CD will appeal mostly to fans of keyboard driven instrumental prog. Those lyrically oriented purveyors will have to choose something else for their next karaoke night.
I would say that the main area of improvement or opportunity for Boutrup with his next release is to compose his tracks with stronger endings, as many of the tunes on The Symphonic Dream end in drumless almost ambient sections and come across as weaker than their respective intros. So my rating comes in half a point under recommended.
Axiom of Choice: Music for Keyboards – Review (NL)
The Netherlands – Music For Keyboards
Lars Boutrup hails from Denmark, and this album is filled to the brim with keyboards and supporting percussion.
Well, the title of this album leaves little room for guessing. The opener is typically an opener, preparing us for things to come. Boutrup spends some time building tension here, and it is not plain bombast.
Agent Orange is quite a bit more up-beat, almost danceable, especially with the beat present in this tune. For the rest, the keyboards simple solo over the drum beat, giving me a bit of a Harold Faltermeyer/Jan Hammer feel. The interlude has some strong Jarre like church organish play, but on the whole, the music is a bit too commercial for my tastes.
The Day After is quite a difference with its slow majestic beginning. The second half had slow drumming, some of them backwards, and the sound stays majestic with long sustained notes.
Alla Gypsy is quite frolic and fast, with the keys having a bit of a marimba feel, light to the touch. Towards the end more elements come in, and the sound becomes fuller. Flying In The Sky is more in the vein of The Day After with long sustains and full chords. There are elements of drama and maybe a bit of film music here.
Now who might have inspired Emersong? The song is bombastic, but surprisingly not flashy at all. More like ponderous and brassy. Still, of the songs thus far it sounds the most ‘proggy’. Only at the very end do the typical ELP trademarks come in.
Northern Lights is a slow opener again, but this time we quickly move into an up-beat section, with orchestral elements. The music has strongly filmic aspects as well, and strangely enough this gives no problems with the monotonous beat.
While The City Sleeps opens with piano, and this is pretty much what you get. I mean there are some keyboard elements as well. but the semi-clasicalness of the piano is all-pervading. In the second half, we move more into the direction of people like Fonya, do it yourself progrock artists with a focus on keyboards. The longest tune is Rockall and is reserved for last. The track opens darkly, but soon mellow synths set in. The percussion is quite pronounced throughout, and overall the bombast is pervasive. The keyboard lines are not particularly likable though. I guess, the reference point here is Vangelis, although the melodies are less interesting.
Music For Keyboards is meant for those into electronic music. Most of the percussion is ‘live’ and not programmed. Boutrup tries to make everybody a bit happy, alternating between semi-classical, soundtracks, up-beat danceable electronics, but always quite melodious and accessible. The music does not really spark anywhere, and Boutrup did include some passages with tensions and drama, and fortunately it is never trite or overly easy, even though the iTunes classification categorizes it as Easy Listening.
There seemed to be a period early last year (2005) when almost every release I reviewed fell under the broad umbrella of Ambient or Electronica based music. Since then these particular releases have been absent form my CD player, until now that is, and with the arrival of Lars Boutrup’s Music For Keyboards. The album title tells us much about the music with Lars Boutrop undertaking all manner of keyboard duties. His only allie is Fredrik Sunesen who supplies drums and assorted percussion.
Prior to this release the name of Lars Boutrup had totally eluded me, but reading through his biography it would appear that he has been writing and performing since the latter part of the 70s, and recording and releasing music from the late 80s onward – initially with Simcess, then a solitary album with Rasmus Lyberth in 1992, later followed by a string of releases during the 90s with Sing Sing. EPs and albums with Big Bang and Masquerade take us from the 90s into the 00s and finally to this release from 2005. His site also reveals a vast array of compositions written presumably as “screen music” and are listed in his Movie house tour section.
What is evident from an early stage is that Lars Boutrup is a keyboard player in his own right and that Music For Keyboards is not just the product of a imaginative mind, a PC and some clever music software. The compositions show not only a clear musical ability, but also an number of influences garnered from the classical, progressive, new age, and electronic spheres. It is also evident that Lars has listened to many keyboard players in his time. So along with those perhaps more obvious pointers of Vangelis and J M Jarre certainly Emerson and Moraz are noticeable. Add Tangerine Dream to the melting pot and perhaps a clearer picture might start to emerge.
The album had an immediate “ear prick” with the slowly rising chords of The Perfect Stranger – is this some sort of electronic version of Tarkus? These thoughts were soon dismissed. Agent Orange is a bouncy early Jarre-like track, the constant bass drum beat is accented by various percussion parts, adding movement to Boutrup’s string washes and multitude of synthy bass and lead lines. Infectious! Same applies to Northern Lights and to a certain degree to the closing piece, although maybe not quite as successfully.
What was perhaps not immediately apparent with Music For Keyboards was the strength of the writing, and that may have been more attributed to a certain degree of dismissiveness on my behalf, which I apologise for. The minimalist approach of While The City Sleeps was initially a “skip bye” track, however a more in depth analysis of the piece revealed some clever and interesting arranging going on underneath the piano.
The Day After, Flying In The Sky and Emersong (might be a little clue in there) are sprawling efforts, drifting effortlessly across the speakers, whereas Alla Gypsy is a jaunty tune with a very gypsy-like Eastern European melody.
Music For Keyboards was a grower for me. I can’t say that at first I was greatly enamoured by the music, but as I have returned to it over the last few weeks, for the purposes of reviewing it for DPRP, I have certainly warmed to much of the material.