Written By: Nameless_N00b_09
You know how almost every crappy family TV sitcom has an inevitable flashback episode? The family kids have discovered some contemporary genre of music that Dad doesn’t understand, and it’s causing him to wax nostalgic about his younger days. He regales his children with tales of the halcyon days of the wild 60’s and 70’s, of weed and hippies and free love, and about the time he and his high-school buddies had a prog band; probably called something like “Wizard’s Sleeve” or “Maxwell von Phlogiston and his Marvellous Dragonling Starship.” And how in a magical time before he was burdened with children and responsibility they were going to tour with Marillion and be a worldwide progressive phenomenon. The Key sounds exactly like what I imagine sitcom Dad’s throwback prog band sounds like. Swifan Eolh & The Mudra Choir are a newly founded four piece band from Norway for fans of progressive and psychedelic rock and jazz who cite influence from genre stalwarts such as Yes, King Crimson and Jefferson Airplane.
On this their debut album SE&TMC have taken an unorthodox approach to recording and had the whole band play the album live in the studio and then kept the bass and drum tracks and later overdubbed vocals, guitars and keys. It’s an interesting approach and it certainly plays well with SE&TMC’s eclectic sound, giving the album a free-flowing live performance quality. Conversely however, this also means that on some tracks a sense of wandering from the musical path sets in, and some sections begin to feel a bit overlong and overdone. Imagine turning (the wrong?) corner at a Renaissance Festival and finding yourself in a smoke-filled pavilion surrounded by dancing hippies all chanting “blessed be” while a crew of musicians strum and pluck at a bevvy of instruments between puffs of the devil’s lettuce. Managing to sound at once like an authentic retro prog outfit but also a parody of the genre itself, it’s an album with many and varied instruments and musical treatments, and in classic progressive style they fold in jazzy elements, synths, rock sections and spoken word affirmations.
Despite the unusual recording technique, the album is bright and airy with plenty of room for all the instruments to breathe and doesn’t result in an overcrowded or discordant sound even when multiple instruments and voices are in play at once. There’s an overall sense of positivity to the music–buoyed along by generous use of major chord structures–and even if this is a genre of music you don’t particularly like, this upbeat jangly vibe makes The Key a hard album to outright hate. The combination of all these elements results in an overall sound that’s fun and progressive, retro and kitschy, but with a pomp and circumstance that occasionally borders on the comedic. The sheer quirky bombast of the record at times had me chuckling at just how stereotypical and derivative it sounds, but strangely that also somehow makes it feel all the more authentic.
The Key feels both like a genuine homage to the genre as well as feeling oddly satirical, and Swifan Eolh & The Mudra Choir seem to have the mix between retro worship and fresh creativity just about right. As you might have guessed by now though this isn’t a particularly heavy album–there’s barely a distorted guitar to be heard–and as such there’s probably little here to interest a typical reader of Angry Metal Guy. There are some cool widdly solos and other slightly heavier elements interspersed throughout, but overall this is a folky-prog-rock album that no doubt will have it’s fans somewhere, but for most of us here at AMG, there’s very little about The Key that is either angry or metal.