Style: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 1 Feb 2019
Apparently there's been something of a renaissance of prog rock in Norway and one of the bands taking advantage of that is Mythopoeic Mind, the brainchild of a Tolkien-loving saxophonist called Steinar Børve, who's best known for his work with an avant-rock band called Panzerpappa, every one of whose members is here too in some form. The point of the different name is that Mythopoeic Mind play very different prog rock to Panzerpappa and that there are others playing here too.
I haven't heard either band before and I'm hardly an expert in Norwegian prog rock, but this is the album that I've ended up listening to of late at four o'clock in the morning on headphones. Why it leapt out at me from a stack of potentials, I have no idea. Why I didn't skip past it, like I do so many others, I really don't know. There's just something here I connected to and I'm still trying to figure out what. My initial response was just that I liked it.
Disclaimer: my older tastes in prog rock are more on the lines of early King Crimson, Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator, with Pink Floyd a gimme, rather than the bands of the Canterbury scene, which have so influenced Børve. Think names like Gong, Caravan and Soft Machine. I took a run at Gong's Camembert Electrique again recently and I still don't get it.
To me, this plays somewhat like Jethro Tull on a laid back acid trip but with those Canterbury transitions and timings. The result is an immersive thing for me. It's soft and easy to listen to, but the eccentric progressions and vocal line of Kjetil Laumann prevent it from ever descending into the background. It isn't music to listen to as much as it is music to dive into. Two speakers do not seem enough to do this band justice; speakers should surround the listener in a circle so that the music washes over them from all angles.
Another aspect I couldn't get out of my mind is that the music seems to have grown rather than been composed. Maybe it's the psychedelic approach, shown by the short bookends, in which the vocals seem to blur and flow over odd chirps and warbles that make us think the album was recorded in a park. I visualise recording sessions less like a delivery and more like a reaction, as if the band set up their instruments outside during the night and started to play as the sun came up, improvising to a shared experience.
In between those two bookends, appropriately named Prologue Song and Epilogue Song, there are only four tracks, two running just shy of seven minutes and a couple over ten. None of them feel long. Oddly, given that one of them carries the name of Mount Doom, none of them feel aggressive either. Mount Doom flows in such a way that it feels more like a musical interpretation of the journey to Mount Doom on the back of the eagles, dancing in the air currents, with a brief ominous section as they arrive at the end.
I get so caught up in Mount Doom that I can't remember if it even has vocals at any point. It certainly doesn't for most of it, unlike Sailors Disgrace, a story song in which the vocals dance around so much that we quickly forget to listen to what they're saying and enjoy them instead as another instrument.
This is the first album for Mythopoeic Mind, so there's nowhere direct to go from here, but Panzerpappa have at least half a dozen albums out. The other prog rock (as against prog metal) band that I know is from Norway is White Willow, who have an even longer discography. Their founder mastered this, so "scene" seems appropriate. Apparently it's time I should explore these bands. Maybe you should too.