GÖSTA BERLINGS SAGA
Sweden's Gösta Berlings Saga, named after an 1891 novel by Selma Lagerlöf, are an instrumental quartet. And their tracks are comprised of drums and percussion; Mellotron; bass; guitars; a Moog Taurus; Fender Rhodes; and plenty of synths. 'ET EX' is their new album and this one's had me torn, I must say.
As standalone tunes, they sound as if they were composed for a movie, perhaps, where a visual context would provide the music with a purpose and make it easier to emotionally absorb. I believe this is music that requires visual stimuli. Ironically, although I think it would work better within a cinematic context, it lacks cinematic essence when listened to in isolation. I've always had a vivid imagination, so I don't believe it's an innate lack within myself that fails to stimulate my mind's eye into conjuring some kind of visual accompaniment. And I've found no immediate emotional "in" to this. Rather, an inherent lack of compositional imagination within the music itself is its shortfall. I think... kind of...
Some of the tunes do seem to be a little directionless. And ideas, which could have otherwise been progressed into more engaging sonic territory, often fail to develop into anything more interesting. The exception here is the ten minute closer, 'Fundament', which does diverge from its initial motifs and diversify more than other tracks on the album. 'Artefacts', as well, to a degree. And 'The Shortcomings of Efficiency' has its moments.
I do really enjoy instrumental music when it fully engages me. Inside Out, themselves, have released some gems - notably, in recent times, Long Distance Calling's 'Boundless', from earlier this year, and Riverside's equally magnificent 'Eye of the Soundscape' in 2016. I mean, take the very first track from the latter, 'Where the River Flows', and that exemplifies profound emotional depths through its own, unique progressive journey. Tracks on 'ET EX' don't feel like journeys, and neither does the album in its entirety, despite press blurb labelling this as a "Nordic instrumental adventure". The likes of Goblin were making far more adventurous music than this back in the 70s, with a greater depth, diversity and scope within their instrumentations. There are very few transitional passages on 'ET EX' to link shifting moods; rather, the tracks are kind of monolithic in their emotional conception and delivery. It does not really make me feel anything... and emotional connection to art is of the utmost importance to me.
YET... and here's the crux of it... there's something fascinating about their sounds that keep on drawing me back for more. While there is no immediate sense of satisfaction to be had from listening to 'ET EX', it's an alluringly slow-burn listen. Maybe it's the prog scene's equivalent of muzak; inoffensive background tunes that aren't so noticeable when played, but missed when they cease. I don't mean to use the dreaded "muzak" term as an insult here; merely that 'ET EX' has an apposite listening context for me as background music that maybe speaks to my subconscious or unconscious more so than any immediate sensibilities.
Review by Mark Holmes
12th October 2018
1) Veras Tema
2) The Shortcomings of Efficiency
3) Square 5
4) Over and Out
6) Capercaille Lammergeyer Cassowary & Repeat
7) Brus Från Stan
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"While there is no immediate sense of satisfaction to be had from listening to 'ET EX', it's an alluringly slow-burn listen. Maybe it's the prog scene's equivalent of muzak..."