Here's an album released last year which might have slipped under the collective prog radar. Momentum by Elephant Plaza. This Norwegian band was founded originally in 2006 as a two piece project featuring Espen Mikarlsen and Gilbert Marshall (ex Magic Pie). The project was seriously hampered in 2010 when a fire destroyed the pair's studio along with all their equipment and early recordings, and they had to start all over again. Marshall left Magic Pie in 2012 and in 2013, Mikarlsen pulled out of the project. Late in 2014, Elephant Plaza began as a live band, the line-up augmented by drummer Olav Rygg, bassist John Kamphaug, keyboards player John Petter Sæterdal, guitarist Kim Christiansen and finally keyboard player, Jan-Fredrik Heier. Marshall himself takes care of guitars, keyboards and lead vocals.
Choppy keyboards and guitars kick off opener Naked, which then explodes into life anchored by a lilting rhythm and powerful vocals. Southwest is a little more low key and atmospheric in its content and delivery, some great spoken vocal effects and searing synths coming in half-way through. Paralyzed arrives with the voice and thoughts of Prof Stephen Hawking in the mix. Anett Lund joins Marshall on vocal duties and their duet intensifies along with the song, which takes on a much heavier groove before it ebbs away again to a gentle conclusion.
Birdsong starts All The Way, a slower acoustically driven song that has strong Pink Floyd kind of overtones, then The Quested Page 1 Start It All Over Again picks up the pace again, galloping along at a fair rate and then flying off with an inspired guitar solo before coming to an abrupt end. However, The Quested Page 2 Rock 'n Roll Fantasy is an entirely different proposition. Here's Lund channelling Ann Wilson of Heart and Jenny Haan from Babe Ruth and does a fine job of it, crashing guitars and a heavy beat making it one of the best tracks on the album.
The band changes direction yet again, the Prologue of The Human Race comprising the sounds of traffic, footsteps and breathing that ends in a churchy little passage of keyboard and guitar. The Human Race itself is a gentle, airy song on which Marshall and Lund duet, the voices gathering momentum as more guitars come in to underpin the vocals. Wishful Thinking is another pretty song on which a lyrical acoustic guitar is used along with piano to create the mood. The title track comes in five parts, the instrumental Momentum, introducing a stately beat before creamy guitars and lush keyboards take over. The lilting Emotion has a sweet acoustic guitar and synths, plus an oboe effect coming in before the main vocal section comes in. An interesting change in rhythm and lovely guitars help make this track another of the album's stronger songs. The Dream does exactly what it says, whispered voices and ethereal synths giving it a real feeling of other worldliness. Short and slightly jagged Redemption brings the album to a close.
The band said the music was made simply through wanting to spontaneously pour out their hearts musically and lyrically. This they have certainly achieved on Momentum that makes for pleasant listening throughout.
*** Alison Reijman
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