When I read the name Professor Tip Top on the cover, the first thing that crossed my mind was: this band can only be Japanese. The album cover, both outside and inside, shows happy laughing Asian people: men, women, children, some in uniform, others in working clothes like a Chinese propaganda picture. The second thing I had to think of was: this can only be a Japanese avant-garde noise jazz band that managed to record an album with a mathematical precision to avoid repeating the same sequence of notes.
However, it appeared that I was prejudiced and terribly wrong! The band hails from the city of Bergen in Norway and the album has been produced by Sam Fossbakk and Hans Petter Gundersen. Fossbakk was involved with a band named Elektrisk Regn and Gundersen was a member of Animal Farm, Indigo Planet and MAO. Both musicians are unknown outside their homeland, but yet they have a long history in music. Professor Tip Top consists of Svein Magnar Hanssen (lead vocals), Jon Irabagon (saxophone), Pitlaren (bass), Mette Soele Zachau Mathiesen (drums) and the already mentioned Sam Fossbakk (guitars, MiniMoog, Jupiter III, Hammond organ, Mellotron). The band members have been influenced by the music of the late sixties and the early seventies: a bit of progressive rock, a touch of psychedelic rock and a tinge of jazz. However, also The Beatles, Gong, Soft Machine and even The Shadows crossed my mind!
The album title Are You Empirical? refers to Jimi Hendrix' s first album Are You Experienced (1967). This record was mastered at the famous Abbey Road Studios. One of the tracks is called Brian Jones named after the guitarist of The Rolling Stones, who mysteriously died in a swimming pool in 1967. So, is this meant to be a parody or do we have to take this band seriously? I guess a bit of both. With a band name Professor Tip Top you can't blame them for being pretentious. On the other hand the music is well-produced and clearly played with joy, but also a bit over the top every now and then. It's apparently a tribute to the bands and music whereby Fossbakk and Gundersen grew up.
***+ Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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