(All Album Reviews by Duncan Glenday)
Style : Symphonic Progressive Rock
Rating : 3-1/2 out of 5
Summary : A sophisticated, modern incarnation of classic symphonic progressive rock. A little spacey.
Since Anekdoten started off as a King Crimson tribute band, comparisons with Crimson are inevitable. But their work has progressed through their 4 studio albums in 12 years, and the Swedish foursome has established a sound and a style of their own. And Gravity is a big step in their new direction.
If there was ever a failure to understand the value of recurring themes and selective repetition, this album should be prescribed as a case study: A cynical reviewer might remark that all of the songs on this album sound the same, and that after listening to the title track you have heard everything Gravity has to offer. But that cynic would be rewarded by closer inspection, by the subtleties and the class of music that shine through.
Despite the deliberate similarity of the sounds on most tracks, they escape monotony not with melody but with texture and mood. And after listening to Gravity, you probably won't remember any of the melodies - but you won't forget sound. It sticks in the mind and haunts for hours after the CD has stopped playing.
And if our cynic still doesn't get it, he should go back to reviewing pop.
After listening to Gravity several times, the lasting impression is the rhythm! It changes, it is gentle, but it is persistent and relentless - carried now by bass, now by percussion, now by lead guitar, now by acoustic guitar, and at times, even by a simple piano melody. With few exceptions, the rhythm does not let up - even in times when there is no percussion, it is always there, always driving the music along quietly but insistently.
Nicklas Berg's somewhat unusual, often Fripp-like guitar sound ties the album together nicely with its consistency and distinct tones - usually played clean, often with heavy reverb. Listen for the passages with electric guitar played in the acoustic style - finger picked and very clean.
Some of the lyrics are good but others fall into the common trap of pseudo poetry so esoteric that it challenges analysis.
On this album, Anna Sofi Dahlberg is a full-time keyboard player and some-time contributor of high range female vocal effects. Gravity is a Mellotron-fest, with lush tones on almost every track, punctuated by simple piano passages. In addition a Farfisa - the poor-man's Hammond - is used sparingly in the final track.
Peter Nordins' percussion is particularly good. Never in the way, but deeply integrated into the music.
Voice is the weak link here, effective in some places, but generally fragile and uncertain. So it is fortunate that most of the lullaby-soft vocals are withdrawn into the texture of the sound, like another instrument. Remember - this is music, not songs. This is symphonic prog with vocals, not neo.
No track really stands out from the others, but pay attention to "Monolith", which reminds you that this is Anekdoten and sets the tone, and "Gravity", the title track, whose themes define the album.
Track 3, "The War Is Over", combines mellotron, acoustic guitar and occasional bongos - in a combination that works remarkably well
The 3 minute "The Games We Play", is a sentimental ballad with those whispy vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar and gentle piano in the beginning, gradually introducing keys and electric guitar, and fading into ambient, spacey echoes. Delicate and elegant.
The closing track "Seljak" has unusual instruments (vibraphone and a rather brash Farfisa tracking a heavily reverberated guitar), and a bass foundation that rollicks along in the higher registers with an insistent fusion-like timbre that gives this piece a breathless pace, even when it slows down. But for the occasional female voice, it is an instrumental piece that works well, closing out the album after a short 45 minutes.
There are no soaring guitar solos on Gravity, no keyboards to set the world alight, and no powerful vocals. This is a composition, and although it is not a concept album, those themes that recur again and again can make it a demanding listen. This is music for the intelligencia, although it could also be played as an ambient, slightly spacey background sound.
Gravity won't set the prog world on fire, but it is a solid piece which will be played again and again - and every prog collection should include a copy.