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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gazpacho

When Earth Lets Go

Review by Josh Turner

The definition of elegance is something that's simple, but effective. Gazpacho meets this definition to a tee. The music is not complex to the ears, but it is both intriguing and intricate. The brilliance of the music is very subtle. The music is ultra-sophisticated in how each instrument ponders every note before making a single sound. The placement of everything is carefully thought out. The sequence and production will remind someone of a Steven Wilson project. Atmospheric sounds and sound bytes are used sparingly, but applied wisely. The album is progressive rock, but yet it still has the accessibility of Tears for Fears, U2, and INXS.

Nobody in the band handles more than their assigned share. Each responsibility is adequately fulfilled, but never overdone. This is where the band excels. The melodies and rhythms are rationed out with economic portions. There aren't unnecessary layers or gratuitous extras. Jan H. Ohme sings with heart-wrenching lyrics. Joining Jan is Thomas Andersen on Keyboards, Jon-Arne Vilbo on guitars, and Roy Funner on bass. These musicians expertly handle their instruments. Rather than bombard the listener with a flurry of sound, their instruments are carefully plucked and patted with pinpoint precision. As for the percussion elements, that's a whole different story than the rest. The music marches to the beat of a different drummer, literally. Robert R. Johansen technique is a hybrid between rock and jazz. There are even parts that readily invoke images of a drum line in a marching band. His contributions, especially matched with Roy's timing on the bass, make this album special.

Think of Tears for Fears performing Pink Floyd's The Wall and you probably have a partial idea of When Earth Lets Go. To get a complete picture, you'll have to hear the album yourself. There are aspects to the music that are truly original. It isn't so much what they add to the music, but what they achieve with such a frugal formula. If you like Blackfield or any of Stephen Wilson's tamer works, you may like Gazpacho. There is virtually no effort needed to grasp the music. When Earth Lets Go is a gulp of liquid vitamins. The fluids are readily absorbed into the system. The benefits are felt instantly. The music is sure to lift your spirits. The album is relaxing and dreamy. The intelligence comes from its delicate ways. Gazpacho uses minimalist methods that result in a truly extravagant experience.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro
The album starts with the sound of something being wound up. This is no analogy. The device turns out to be a gramophone. A scratchy old marching song is played on this antique contraption. Then it's replaced by undulating and mysterious noises. This all occurs in less than a minute. This isn't really a song, but mostly sound effects used to rope the listener in.
Snowman
This is the true beginning, and it is probably the best song on the album. It is a great build-up that opens with a piano. A voice veers in with the rest of the traffic. The song is very emotional, both in the instrumentals and singing. The music is lead to a weird sequence that combines the spooky and operatic songs from Phantom of the Opera with the quirky and patriotic theme from the A-Team series.
Put It On the Air
The pace dramatically changes. Pink Floyd's Money followed by a marching beat starts this track. This song will grow on you. It has a weird texture, yet uses a straightforward approach. The bridge is completely different from the chorus. However, the on and off ramps are smoothly paved. The composition takes alternate routes while maintaining a consistent direction. It never takes pause to get its bearings nor does it get stuck puttering out of gear.
Souvenir
The beat would be a welcome companion to Opeth's Damnation. The guitars and drums make it dark. The singing and keys illuminate the surrounding space.
Steal Yourself
Similar to the earlier track Put On The Air, the drummer leads the rest of the group with a marching beat once again. Jan H. Ohme sings like Michael Hutchence from INXS.
117
The rhythm really gets rolling in this one. It moves with the ease and grace of a jogger running downhill. Offsetting the bouncy beat from the guitars, bass, and drums is an animated keyboard. The background vocals from Jan are overdubbed at a much higher octave. While it doesn't quite sound like him, and the harmony is somewhat out of key, it is awfully effective.
Substitute For Murder
Waves crash upon the shore. A piano is tapped like driftwood colliding with rocks. Jan's voice floats to the water's surface. The INXS vibe is alive and kicking.
Dinglers Horse
Bono takes center stage. While the whole album has the feel of U2 in places, it is probably most relevant in this song. The keyboards produce a foggy atmosphere. The guitar strums the opening theme found in all the James Bond flicks. The drums are tribal in nature.
When Earth Lets Go
Since this is a reprise of the first track, it is guilty by association. Using the clever compositions that opened the album, the song can't help being a strong piece. Mikael Kromer makes a guest contribution on the violins in this song. We return to the scratchy old marching tune that was played in the beginning. Then we are taken to the end of the line. Once the music comes to a complete halt, it is time to get off at the final destination. It won't be long before riders take the whole trip all over again.
 
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