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Simon Steensland is best known for his album The Zombie Hunter, which he recorded in 1996 and got his nickname from. He has been absent from the musical scene for quite some time, but for the last five years, he has been working diligently on composing and recording his new album, which saw the light of day in 2009. The album is called Fat Again.

First of all, I have to say that I haven't heard a single note of his music until this product, but I was swept off my feet by the sheer impact of this great music. I think Steensland is a wonderful composer with a great sense of drama, complexity and melody, especially if you consider that his music is often labeled as avant-garde.

The first and last compositions of the album are, admittedly, very similar to Universe Zero, circa the time of Heatwave. Some of the harmonium passages even remind me of Ceux du Dehors. It seems that every instrument mimics Univers Zero – the bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, and clarinet. This was obviously Steensland's main influence. I for one don't really consider this to be a problem because there has really only been one Heatwave made, nothing else sounds quite the same, and if Steensland wants to pay tribute to that wonderful album, I salute him, even more so because he does it extremely well. The pieces in between are a bit more original. I especially like the vocal pieces, with the ghostly voices. On here we can notice a lot of Scandinavian folklore influences, which occasionally even remind me of Sigur Ros. One could also say that some of the vocal parts are similar to Magma in some way as well. There are also some very nice instrumental segments in this middle part of the album. The only time Steensland returns to his Univers Zero influences in this part of the album is during “Hide & Seek”, but it's not as blatantly obvious as before.

This is some of the best new avant-garde music I've heard lately. Sure, it's not the most original, but the lack of inventiveness is more than made up for with the intricate compositions.

The album is extremely well done, there's no doubt about that. I find it to also be a very challenging listen, with complex structures and rhythms. I'm not troubled by the obvious nods to Univers Zero, I just take this album as it is. The music is beautiful, complex and aggressive. Much of this was also true of Univers Zero during the period of Heatwave. Even though Steensland's music bears a certain resemblance, I still feel there's plenty of originality left and it's not as if Steensland used a direct Univers Zero quote. All the compositions are his own and he does a fine job too.

The album also features several prominent guests, including Morgan Agren (Kaipa, Mats & Morgan, among others) and this definitely contributes to the better sound of the album. Agren's drumming is particularly good, as are the beautifully arranged vocals.

For me, Fat Again is one of the best albums to be released in the last few years. It might be a bit derivative, but I've heard much more derivative things. I feel as if Steensland is still trying to do something new, to add to his Univers Zero love. I think he succeeded in creating a fine work of art here and one of the best albums of 2009. www.progressiveears.com by maribor

 

I never heard anyone hit music this hard before! www.unknown.com

 

 

Having received this album from AltrOck, I realized I have been ignoring Simon Steensland albums long enough and I should get some of his former albums to better understand what all the fuss is about and what his music is like, having read interesting things about it. So I set out and got The Simon Lonesome Combat Ensemble (1993), The Zombie Hunter (1995) and Led Circus (1999). All of these were fine releases and in my opinion got better as they progressed chronologically. But they are not the subject of this review here.

Simon Steensland who plays here multiple instruments (bass, keyboards, guitar, glockenspiel, harmonium, cello, banjo) has been working on this release for 3 years, from 2005 to 2008 and has several musicians playing with him here:

Robert Elovsson (keyboards, clarinet) and Morgan Agren (drums) both from Mats/Morgan; Einar Baldursson (guitars) from Gosta Berlings Saga; Arvid Pettersson (Fender rhodes, accordion); And a whole group of female vocalists: Aurelia Le Huche, Eva Rexed, Helena Ahlback, Ingrid Gustafsson, Sara Nygren, Anna Nygren, Elvira Van Halen, Moa Zerpe, Lotta Ostlin Stenshall, Ellekari Larsson, Birgitta Steensland.

Fat Again, out in 2009 on the fine and growing Italian label AltrOck (where luminaries like Yugen, Rational Diet and miRthkon released albums through), is a delight to listen to. With chamber prog (Thiking Plague and Univers Zero, albeit more upbeat and rough) and zeuhl influences, as can be clearly heard in the opening and closing pieces (“Der Klang Von Musik" and “The Lion Tamer”), superb musicianship (fantastic bass playing and drumming), this album presents variety in moods, from uplifting and upbeat moments to highly dynamic and darker sides; from frantic pace and style to calmer and peaceful elements prevailing through.

Just by the first composition alone which I mentioned above, I can tell Simon is a very well accomplished composer that knows very well how to set a musical scene, how to plan it and execute it to the very fine details; how to make it flow seamlessly from one section to another, where each is dominated by differing elements. These two lengthy opening and closing tracks engulf seven short pieces and one medium length composition. And these are not too different from the lengthy tracks. In fact they continue their style and mood and develop them. For instance, “Lost In The Ark”, has female voices chanting together, with a guitar in the background and some eerie sounds as well, creating a somewhat spooky and weird mood. This escalates in “Merde!”, where a Thinking Plague-like sound comes in as the whole female choir sings together with the bass playing a long tone and the drums insanely going about. And all this takes only 25 seconds! Then Memories of Jan Josta come in with again the bass giving the dominant tone here, and Univers Zero and Thinking Plague influences coming through. The keyboards here add a nice touch, though they are a bit low in the mix. And while it is a short track, it is nicely developed and satisfying. The Queen Of Sweden is another frenzied track, with a groovy melody line, followed by another very short piece (Petite Merde) that in a way serves as an intro to the final 20 minutes piece. This again, has a very dominant bass line and drumming and a structured melody line with a very rich arrangement done by Simon. The piece progresses and develops nicely from one section to the next.

I must really mention the great drumming work done here and the splendid bass work along with the efficient keyboards playing that gives the music the much-needed peculiar and special atmosphere. This was a very nice and pleasant surprise for me to listen to this wonderful album, a great find and a highly recommended listening experience for those who like chamber prog, zeuhl and bands like Univers Zero, Thinking Plague, Magma and 5UU's. www.progressiveears.com by avestin

 

 

 

Simon Steensland ist wieder zurück! Oder, eigentlich war er nie weg. Er hatte nur keine Zeit. Offenbar verdient der multiinstrumentale Schwede sein Geld mit dem Komponieren von Begleitmusik für Theaterproduktionen (siehe "The Phantom of the Theatre"). Das nimmt ihn so sehr in Anspruch, dass er kaum noch dazu kommt an einem Album zu arbeiten oder gar Konzerte zu geben. Es dauerte daher auch fast 5 Jahre (von 2004 bis Ende 2008), bis sein zur Zeit neuestes Werk vollendet war, das erste "richtige" Studioalbum seit "Led Circus" und das vierte insgesamt (wenn man "The Phantom of the Theatre" nicht mitzählt).

Man kann nun nicht behaupten, dass "Fat Again" in stilistischer Hinsicht sehr viel andere Musik bieten würde als Steenslands bisherigen Werke. Auch sonst ähnelt das Album seinen Vorgängern "The Zombie Hunter" und "Led Circus", stehen doch auch hier zwei ausladende Kompositionen am Anfang und Ende des Albums und rahmen einige kürzere, etwas anders gestrickte Stücke ein. Einen düsteren, angezeuhlten Kammerprog erzeugen Steensland und seine Mitmusiker in "Der Klang von 'Musik'" und "The lion tamer", der doch recht deutlich an die Klangwelt von Univers Zero angelehnt ist. Durch die andere und sparsamere Instrumentierung und die basslastige Kernigkeit bekommt das Ganze aber doch einen durchaus eigenen Charakter. Ein moderner, druckvoller Avantprog ist das Ergebnis, der sicher zum Besten gehört, was in diesem Bereich in letzter Zeit produziert wurde (vor allem das abschließende "The lion tamer"). Einar Baldursson (von Gösta Berlings Saga) ist für einige wenige expressive Einlagen an der E-Gitarre verantwortlich, während Robert Elovsson und Arvid Pettersson, vor allem dann wenn sie zu Klarinette bzw. Akkordeon greifen, für weitere klangliche Abwechslung sorgen. Für die versierte Rhythmusarbeit wurde einmal mehr Morgan Agren von Steensland hinter das Schlagzeug gebeten.

Für einige der kürzeren Stücke zwischen den beiden Langnummern hat Steensland eine ganze Reihe von Sängerinnen engagiert. Auch auf seinen älteren Alben gab es ab und an kürzere Choreinlagen, doch in diesem Ausmaß ist das durchaus etwas Neues in der Musik des Schweden. Zwischen bedrohlich-hysterischen, zeuhlartigen Gesangsschüben, leicht atonalen, an zeitgenössische Klassikproduktionen gemahnenden Stimmeskapaden und fast traditionell wirkenden Volksweisen wechseln die Dame, begleitet meist von Steensland und Agren und unterbrochen von den reinen Instrumentalnummern "Memories of Jan Joesta", "Loch Ness" und "The Queen of Sweden". Das monumentale "The lion tamer" bringt das Album dann mit hochklassigem und virtuos gespieltem, getragen aber mächtig dahin rockenden RIO-Zeuhl-Kammerprog zu Ende. Auch hier gibt es gegen Ende einige Einlagen der nun zum Duo geschrumpften weiblichen Gesangsabteilung.

"Fat Again" bietet sicher nichts wirklich Neues für den im oben skizzierten Stilbereich erfahrenen Avant-Progger. Aber, wer sucht auch ständig nach etwas Neuem? Das Album ist auf jeden Fall beeindruckend, abwechslungsreich und spannend genug, um eine sehr willkommene Bereicherung des Düster-Kammerprog-Katalogs darzustellen, in die Liebhaber des Genres ohne Zögern investieren können (sollten)! Wer die Musik Steensland gar noch nicht kennt, der kann hier ohne zögern ein-zwei punkte dazu addieren und sollte an diesem Mangel schnell etwas ändern ... mit dem Erwerb dieses albums! achim breiling, proggreviews, germany

 

 

Overview

Fat Again by Simon Steensland was one of my first RIO/Avant prog albums, and to date, I still haven't heard anything else that sounds quite like it. The players on this album play their instruments in a way that is truly fascinating to me, and it is worth many spins just to hear the unique playing of all the musicians who have gathered around Simon Steensland for this recording (including Einar Baldursson, who, as John mentioned in his review already, is also a member of Gosta Berlings Saga, another excellent band from the modern era).

The album is comprised, with two types of songs. There are the "epic" lengthier tracks, including the opener (Der Klang Von "Musik", clocking in at 16 minutes) the closer (The Lion Tamer, clocking in at 20), and Hide and Seek (8 minutes). Then their are the pieces that sound, to my ear, like little pieces of candy - short but sweet - only in this case, the candy also has a bit if sour added to it for additional flavour.

The Music

Der Klang Von "Musik" (which translates to The Sound of "Music") is, at this point, my favorite track off of the album and an excellent way to open up the album. Throughout it's 16 minutes, it shifts mood and texture multiple times, starting with an off-kilter beat, switching to a more spaced out section, using light electric guitars, thick bass, and woodwinds. From here, it builds into something a bit more electric, eventually adding very, very heavy guitars. This is not even seven minutes in, and over the nine minutes of the song that remain, it continues to twist and turn, inundating your ears with excellent music the entire time.

Next, the album gives us four "treat" tracks, the short Lost In The Ark, Merde!, Memories of Jan Josta, and Loch Ness (ranging from 0:25-2:27). The sound of these tracks ranges, from sung vocals (Lost in the Ark) to simply layered, odd-sounding wordless vocals (Merde!), to instrumental tracks (Memories of Jan Josta and Loch Ness). Loch Ness in particular, which features xylophone, lots of space, and airy backing instrumentation, is a fascinating track.

Just past the halfway point, we are introduced to "Hide and Seek", a song that is built up on top of a pattern, with various instruments playing with or against the main beat of the song, which is started once again by those haunting female vocals. The song tends to be quite hypnotic throughout it's run and is yet another of my favorite tracks off this album.

The next three tracks are the last of the short tracks, including my favorite short track and the one that got me interested in this album, "The Queen of Sweden". Xylophone (I think) plays odd tone runs while the rest of the song builds up underneath, becoming quite an appealing track, and unlike anything else I have heard in my experience to this point.

The Lion Tamer starts with a fun little drum beat before building up. In the end, it does sort of settle on a basic beat, relying more on slow build-up and subtle changes than the opener. In this sense, the Lion Tamer is a more chilled out song, and an apt way to close the album.

Visual

Visually, the album is quite interesting. There is, of course, the amusing cover art, but more amusing to me is the image imprinted on the CD, of Spiderman in the mountains wearing a baret and carrying a case of beer and a guitar. Perhaps this is Simon's creative process - dress a Spiderman, hide in nature, drink beer and jam?

theGazzardian

 

 

Simon Steensland hails from Sweden and obviously has a sense of humour as witnessed by the album cover here. So funny. Oh and the album's title is humerous as well. Interesting because the music has nothing to do with humour, in fact it's quite dark, intense and eerie at times. I have to tell you that this album is an absolute gem, sort of a Zeuhl / Avant / Rio mix that is so well done. Simon has some incredible guests here helping him out including a host of female vocalists with there wordless melodies. Simon is a MAGMA fan having contributed a track to one of those tribute albums, and it shows here. The guitarist is the present one for GOSTA BERLINGS SAGA, I gave the album he played on 5 stars. The guy can play. And so can Simon, a multi-instrumentalist who plays a variety of instruments including cello, harmonium, guitar, keyboards, bass and more. The two guys from MATS / MORGAN help out along with other guests.

"Der Klang Von "Musik"" is a monster (maybe that's where the idea for the cover art came from). It kicks in quickly with an intense rhythm section. Organ follows and it comes and goes. I like the guitar before 2 1/2 minutes. It becomes more prominant a minute later. The heavy beat slows down until it stops 4 1/2 minutes in. It kicks back in at 6 minutes. This is heavy duty. The heaviness lets up but it's still intense. It settles after 11 1/2 minutes and it's dark. Accordion joins in. Heavy again 14 minutes in, in fact it's ANEKDOTEN-like here. The tempo picks up. Insane ! "Lost In The Ark" opens in a mellow way as female vocal melodies come in. "Merde!" is a short tune with outbursts of drums and vocal melodies. Cool sound.

"Memories Of Jan Josta" is almost catchy and it's quite dark. A haunting finish to this song as well. "Loch Ness" sounds like outbursts of vibes that come and go in a dark atmosphere. "Hide & Seek" opens with a beat as these eerie sounding multi vocals join in. Incredible sound ! The drums are excellent. This is such a trip. Very Zeuhl-like. "Frals Oss Ifran Ondo" is laid back with female vocal melodies. "The Queen Of Sweden" features some cool sounds and it turns intense later. "Petite Merde" is 26 seconds of female vocal melodies. Five ladies singing on this one. "The Lion Tamer" has so much going on once it gets going. It settles after 2 minutes with guitar, bass and drums. Very intense 6 minutes in. Clarinet before 11 1/2 minutes and it gets kind of crazy. Heavy duty 14 minutes in then it settles with female vocals. Vibe-like sounds after 15 1/2 minutes. It's spooky 17 1/2 minutes in to the end. Music for the adventerous. Easily 4 stars. mellotron storm

 

 

I have not heard Simon Steensland since 1995, on “The Zombie Hunter” which had some elements of the R.I.O. orientation, without taking it too far. A comparable fundament I recognise here as well, with some developments. The music is assembled from 3 years of recording and producing. The style definitely has something of the Univers Zero area, while the driving bass and some of the rhythmic tenses have inspirations from the Zeuhl area. The music most often is clearly composed, with some of its linear character still visible, especially in following certain counts on triple beats of the rhythms. This is however well compensated by the great Univers Zero/Zeuhl influenced “sound” of the participating band and also, by a few second layers which appear from the electric bass lines and sometimes drums areas (just like in Magma). What is new and an original addition are some female vocal arrangements (two voices or choral-like), which are an original, to a degree a more Swedish flavoured addition, an extra touch which also makes the music better. From Simon Steensland I think this sounds more interesting than his ten year earlier album. The form of the music still very much hangs on a certain tradition, while what surely is completely his is only sparsely added. For R.I.O. fans this must sound easy and pleasant to the ears. progressive homestead

 

 

Prolusion. Swedish composer and multi-instrumentalist Simon STEENSLAND, nicknamed “The Zombie Hunter” (from the title of his second album, released in 1995) has been active since 1993. “Fat Again” is his fifth studio album, featuring (like the previous ones) drummer and Zappa alumnus Morgan Agren of Mats/Morgan Band. Steensland has also released a live album, “Live Gang-Gang” (2004), and contributed one track, Malaria, to the Magma tribute album “Hommage a la Musique de Christian Vander” (2009).

Analysis. With over 15 years of activity under his belt, Simon Steensland is certainly no newcomer to the RIO/Avant rock scene. However, it is with this album, and the support of the young but already influential Italian label AltrOck Records, that Steensland seems to have finally got under the radar of more people than just a restricted group of fans of the genre. “Fat Again”, with a cover depicting a grotesque, ape-like creature, is indeed an excellent way for listeners to get acquainted with Steensland’s intriguing musical world. A multi-instrumentalist of remarkable skill, unlike many of his colleagues who choose to go totally solo, he capitalizes on the presence of a group of reliable, equally skilled collaborators – notably drummer extraordinaire Morgan Agren, possibly the real star of the album. Another element of interest is the presence of vocals, which often RIO/Avant bands skip altogether: here they are entrusted to a veritable choir of female voices, reinforcing the academic chamber music parallels so often drawn when discussing this particular genre. Steensland himself acts as a mini-orchestra, handling some of the instruments that form the foundation of his sound – namely bass, cello and keyboards. The result is music that is richly textured, at times dissonant, (though never in such a way as to render it unpalatable), often grandiose and majestic with surprise pauses of haunting eeriness, dark and light in equal parts. The heaviness of the guitar riffs is tempered by the ethereal quality of the vocals, and the occasional darkness of the mood gets a boost from the Magma-like bombast of those parts in which the instruments work together towards a crescendo. “Fat Again” is bookended by two ‘epic’ tracks over 15 minutes in length, while the central section of the album is made up of very short pieces, with the sole exception of the 8-minute-plus Hide & Seek. Because of this distinctive structure, the running time of the disc, in itself not excessive (under one hour), is nicely balanced, avoiding the onset of that weariness that is almost inevitable with albums of this kind when things get overdone. While Univers Zero is the most obvious reference, it would be extremely unfair to suggest that Steensland’s music is in any way derivative. Opener Der Klang Von Musik sets immediately the tone for the rest of the album, with its deceptively melodic, acoustic beginning which soon develops into a wild ride of head-spinning complexity and intensity. The fluid, jazz-rock-meets-Zeuhl of the first half, bolstered by some spectacular drum work and rumbling organ, gradually goes into haunting, slow-mo mode, then picks up again in a crescendo of mounting tension held together by stellar bass and drum work. This is one textbook example of when the ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ approach actually works, instead of resulting in a half-baked mess – though the track is by no mean an easy listen. Album closer The Lion Tamer, on the other hand, is a decidedly more organic effort, generally somber in mood though occasionally bordering on the bombastic (much in the vein of Univers Zero), built around Steensland’s splendid, meaty bass work and Agren’s solemn, march-like drumming. The eerie, mournful mood of some sections, underpinned by droning cello and echoing guitar, made me think of Anekdoten, another Swedish outfit with frequent avant-garde leanings. The album’s other longer composition, the already mention Hide and Seek, would be an ideal candidate for a horror movie soundtrack – the combination of multi-layered, oddball female chanting, solemn drum rolls and sudden spurts of accordion, piano and cello makes for a somewhat disquieting listening experience. The two tracks that precede it, Memories of Jan Josta and Loch Ness, share the same haunting, ominous quality. On the other hand, the vocals on some of the shorter tracks often come across as soothing, almost ethereal, occasionally reminiscent of The Northettes of Canterbury fame. Interestingly, the ‘lyrics’ beautifully sung by this impressive array of female voices on Lost in the Ark are none other than a list of scientific names of animals – hence the title. On the whole, “Fat Again” is a more than worthwhile effort, and another prestigious addition to AltrOck Records’ ever-growing reputation as a purveyor of challenging contemporary progressive music.

Conclusion. Highly recommended to fans of intense chamber-prog outfits such as Univers Zero and Thinking Plague, “Fat Again” will also turn out to be a very enjoyable listen for all lovers of genuinely progressive rock - though those looking for gently flowing melodies and catchy hooks should definitely look elsewhere. This is an album that, while not as harsh or overly taxing as other RIO/Avant efforts, demands the listener’s full attention in order to be appreciated in the way it deserves.

RB=Raffaella Berry: October 13, 2009 
The Rating Room

 

 

Simon Steensland est loin d’être un inconnu dans le monde de la musique alternative, il est même considéré comme un pionnier. Ses références se concentrent surtout sur le non-conventionnel, des groupes tels que Magma ou Univers Zero. Ce multi-instrumentiste suédois (comme son nom ne l’indique pas), confie qu’il n’aime pas trop être qualifié de musicien expérimental, il craint d’être considéré comme ces gens qui tapent sur des ustensiles de cuisine ou chantent dans des boîtes de biscuits, performances qui sont rarement plaisantes pour d’autres personnes que leurs auteurs. Vous conviendrez que voici un artiste qui a le souci de faire plaisir à ses auditeurs, préoccupation plus que louable !
La firme Altrock vient de sortir sa dernière œuvre intitulée "Fat Again". Inutile de vous dire que ce disque était très attendu dans les milieux autorisés. Simon Steensland y joue de la basse, des claviers, de la guitare, du glockenspiel, de l’harmonium, du violoncelle et du banjo, rien que cela ! Il est accompagné de choristes féminines (très belles voix), et d’une série de musiciens, variant selon les morceaux. Un musicien omniprésent, outre Simon, le très talentueux batteur Morgan Ågren de Matts/Morgan, qui joue dans des tribute-bands de Frank Zappa, a également joué avec Dweezil Zappa et figure sur "Blue" de Finnegans Wake, autre production d’Altrock.
Ayant eu le privilège de chroniquer l’autre production altrockéenne du mois, à savoir "Vehicle" de miRthkon, je vais me livrer à un petit jeu de comparaison. En effet, "Fat Again" à l’instar de "Vehicle", est totalement anti-conformiste. J’ai trouvé une petite remarque d’un collègue sur le web qui dit : "si vous êtes à la recherche d’un nouveau Marillion, Steensland n’est certainement pas pour vous. Pourquoi ? Est-il interdit d’aimer les deux ? Si je persiste à écrire que ce qui manque sur l’album de miRtkhon, ce sont les montées en intensité et les thèmes mélodiques, la ligne rythmique étant exceptionnelle, ici, on trouve ces montées en puissance sur deux longs titres (j’y reviendrai) mais ni mélodie ni ligne rythmique ne servent de fil conducteur. En effet, ne parlons pas de mélodie, il n’y en a quasiment pas. Quant à la rythmique, si le travail de Morgan Ågren est excellent, il n’est pas soutenu, faute de véritable bassiste.
Trois longues plages forment cet opus, entrecoupées de titres courts ressemblants à autant de bouts d’essai. Car comment qualifier des morceaux tels que "Loch Ness", sur lequel le clavier style Bontempi joue lentement une suite de notes, reprises simultanément par le glockenspiel ? Que dire de "Fräls Oss Ifran Ondo", où, sur air de comptine (ah, une mélodie !), les choristes entonnent la fin du notre père en suédois (le titre !) ? Que penser de "Lost in the ark", sur lequel les mêmes choristes vocalisent sur un air de messe une suite de noms scientifiques de dinosaures ? Ne parlons pas de "Merde !", 25 secondes d’accords de clavier sur lesquels vient se greffer le chant : "Aaaaah, aaaah, ooooh", et de son pendant "acoustique" intitulé… "petite merde", ben m...ince alors !
Les longs morceaux ? "Hide and seek" : là on a droit à un "thème" rythmique, joué aux instruments et repris par pas moins de huit chanteuses : "nanana-nanananana-na-nana-na !", des vocalises ajoutées donnant au tout un air de messe. Ambiance noire, volontairement créée par l’auteur. Les choristes, selon les experts assènent une véritable leçon d’arrangement vocal. Elles chantent vraiment très bien, mais elles donnent plutôt l’impression de répéter la leçon que de la donner. Les deux plages qui encadrent l’album sont plus intéressantes (à mes oreilles, bien sûr !). Je parlerai surtout de la dernière : "The lion tramer", longue pièce sur laquelle on a le plaisir d’entendre des variations d’intensité (pas vraiment d’émotion, mais bon !). On peut penser à la partie intermédiaire du fabuleux "Starless", même si cela n’atteint pas le fantastique niveau rythmique de ce chef-d’œuvre de King Crimson. Seulement voilà, cette partie intermédiaire était entourée d’un thème mélodique, un des plus beaux de Crimson, magnifiquement chanté par John Wetton et repris de façon métallique en clôture par tous les musiciens. Ici, rien de tout cela, je vous le dis, la mélodie… nada !
Sur la majorité de ces titres, on a à tout moment l’impression que quelque chose va démarrer. Si Simon Steensland a voulu illustrer par ce disque l’attente éternelle, il a parfaitement réussi son coup. Sur ce point, je peux alors considérer l’album comme un chef-d’œuvre. Vous trouverez sur internet des chroniques bien plus élogieuses que la mienne. Ma bafouille ne représente que mon avis personnel (comme toute chronique). Quoi qu'il en soit, en profane fini que je suis, je me permets de considérer, Maître Steensland me pardonne, "Fat Again" comme une œuvre définitivement expérimentale. pascal laurent, music in belgium, belgium

 

 

Extremamente bom, um clássico ro rock progressivo

O que aconteceria em uma colisão frontal entre Famijsprickor e Ceux Du Dehors? Fat Again de Simon Steensland. Esse é seu quinto CD de Simon Steensland, sendo que ele ataca o baixo (ele não toca, ele ataca) teclados, percussão, além de outros instrumentos. Os elementos folk dos discos do Zamla estão presentes, mas por cima de tudo o baixo de Simon é bem pesado e nos lembra um Guy Segers turbinado. Einar Baldursson, o guitarrista é fantástico, com solos e evoluções bem complexas, lembrando mistura de Zappa com Holdsworth. O mestre Morgan Ågren na bateria, vocais femininos, fender Rhodes para dar um clima de anos 1970..... esse CD é muito bom. Como nos outros CDs de Simon Steensland, existem duas ou três faixas longas com outras curtas e experimentais. A faixa de abertura tem 16 minutos, Der Klang Von “Music”, e a quantidade de adrenalina gasta é excepcional; a interação entre baixo e bateria é estupenda e o peso é incrível, soa como uma versão heavy metal de Dense (do Univers Zéro). Nas próximas quatro faixas, Steensland brinca com vocais femininos, a capela, com diversas combinações de instrumentos que dão suporte aos vocais; esses passam do angelical ao diabólico. Em Hide and Seek é hora de coisa séria de novo, 8 minutos de vocais femininos, com baixo pesado e bateria em ritmo de guerra; os vocais me lembram o primeiro trabalho da banda japonesa Bondage Fruit, algo Zeuhl, algo pop, mas a coisa aqui fica realmente nervosa com o andar da música! Mais três faixas experimentais curtas e o CD fecha com os 20 minutos de The Lion Tamer, um épico Zeuhl-RIO. Simplesmente estupendo. Para amantes de Zappa, Zeuhl e RIO. Não perca. Renato moraes, prog brasil, brasil

 

 

Wie is Simon Steensland? Eerlijk gezegd moet ikzelf het antwoord op deze vraag schuldig blijven. Ik heb echt nog nooit van de beste man gehoord. Zelfs het zo alom geprezen MySpace kan me hier niet bij helpen. De beste man heeft in dit moderne internettijdperk zelfs geen eigen website! Ook de info op de website van het label (of op de promosheet for that matter) is zeer summier. Om maar even aan te geven dat ik aan deze luisterbeurt en bijgaande recensie ben moeten beginnen zonder enige vorm van voorkennis over deze beste man.

Wat is het eerste dat opvalt wanneer we de tracklist van dit album van naderbij bekijken? De hoofdbrok (meer dan de helft) van dit album wordt gevormd door twee nummers die allebei boven het kwartier afklokken. Het lijkt me dan ook het meest voor de hand liggend dat we deze twee nummers eerst even van naderbij zullen bekijken. Meteen zal ons dan ook duidelijk worden waar onze Zweedse multi-instrumentalist zijn invloeden vandaan haalt.

De eerste naam die in me opkomt na de eerste luisterbeurt moet Magma zijn. Jawel, de onverstaanbare, voor veel mensen ontoegankelijke Fransen. Toevallig is dit ook één van de invloeden die wel op het promosheet vermeld staan. Vooral het laatste nummer, The Lion Tamer, staat bol van de Magma-invloeden. Zo is er bijvoorbeeld de zang, wat overigens voor heel de plaat wel geldt, die ook van Stella Vander had kunnen komen. Zo zingt zij maar al te vaak op een Magma-album. Maar ook de ritmes die ons aangeboden worden zouden zo uit Christian Vanders pen kunnen komen.

Natuurlijk kopieert Steensland niet doodgewoon Magma (mocht dit het geval zijn, was deze cd al erg snel in de vuilnisbak beland, vrees ik). Hij voegt er ondermeer invloeden van bands als Univers Zero aan toe. Ook Mats/Morgan Band horen we hierin terug. En eigenlijk is dat natuurlijk niet meer dan normaal, als je drummer de heer Morgan Ågren is. Hoewel Ågren nergens vermeld staat als (mede-)componist, krijg ik toch wel het gevoel dat hij meer heeft gedaan dan alleen maar drumpartijen inspelen. Wat me vooral verbaast, is dat ik Ågren hier eigenlijk beter vind drummen dan op zijn eigen platen.

Simon Steensland zelf zal het niet graag lezen, maar toch ben ik ten zeerste geneigd hem in te delen bij de experimentele progmuzikanten. Zelf is hij vooral bang dat deze benaming hem al snel zal catalogeren als een muzikant die alleen bij eenzame geitenwollensokken-progidolaten geliefd zal zijn en dus eigenlijk alleen voor zichzelf muziek speelt. Of “Fat Again” hem van dat zo gevreesde label afhelpt, is nog maar de vraag. Want zoals ik eerder al aangaf is het voor mij eerder een aanleiding om hem hier zeker bij in te delen (en nee, ik draag géén geitenwollensokken). Dit is een erg leuke progplaat geworden waarin Steensland experimenteert met folkinvloeden uit het barre Scandinavië, de typische Magma-rituelen en de avant-garde beweging rond Univers Zero.

Jammer genoeg is de laatste zin meteen ook een teken voor een hele hoop mensen om met een grote boog om deze plaat heen te lopen. Maar net dat zou ik deze keer eens niet doen. Steenslands “Fat Again” is dan wel een erg leuke experimentele progplaat, maar het is ook niet zo verregaand als Magma of Present wel gaan. Dus deze plaat kan een aanleiding zijn om verder te kijken en derhalve misschien toch wel aanlokkelijk voor mensen wiens straatje dit normaliter niet is. En zouden we zo niet kunnen zeggen dat Simon Steensland toch een beetje slaagt in zijn missie om niet té experimenteel over te komen? peter van haerenborgh, progwereld, holland

 

 

Simon Steensland is a seasoned practitioner (I make this his seventh CD release) of a dark and difficult music more readily associated with France (the Zeuhl of Magma), or Belgium (the R.I.O. of Univers Zero). On Fat Again, there are also distinct passages in a King Crimson vein. This latter influence notwithstanding, I know quite a few readers will have lost interest at the mention of Magma and Univers Zero. It’s fair enough really as Fat Again fits squarely into the R.I.O. genre and is unlikely to appeal to any other than the staunchest of avant music fans.

If you’re still reading, you may care to know that the music on the CD falls into two distinct types. The first being two long tracks (1 & 10) which feature a full band line-up of Robert Elovsson (keyboards, clarinet), Arvid Pettersson (Fender Rhodes, accordion), Einar Baldurrson (guitars), Morgan Agren (drums) and Steensland himself on a whole slew of instruments. These tracks are easily the standouts for me, and whilst R.I.O and Zeuhl are styles I have only a limited interest in, I did find these two epic length tracks to be worth the price of admission. Typified by repetitive, grinding bass and pounding drums, both tracks alternate intense, heavy passages with quieter interludes. On Der Klang Von "Musik", accordion adds an unusual texture to the closing stages and on The Lion Tamer, some decidedly delicious guitar and piano lends a fusion edge to proceedings.

Unfortunately, the rest of the disc consists of shorter tracks where Steensland handles all the instruments, except for occasional assistance from Morgan Agren on drums, and featuring various vocalists.

Aside from the eight minute Hide & Seek, which is pretty good, I found the other tracks to be too bitty and experimental for my tastes, and rather too vocal heavy (in an operatic style) as well. I much prefer the hypnotic intensity of the longer tracks to the chop and change styles of the shorter numbers.

All in all, though, I would think that this is a safe purchase for Steensland’s existing fans and Zeuhl/R.I.O. followers – probably not breaking any new ground in those fields, but a solid enough album of its type to warrant investigation for avant rock fans. conclusion 6/10 david scission

 

 

With a solo career streching back to the early 90's, Swedish composer and multi-instrumentalist Simon Steensland is without a doubt a gentleman that deserves to be tagged a veteran in the music business.

His latest venture Fat Again is the result of three years of labour, and the end result is an effort that should please most fans looking for truly challenging music.

While there are a few vocal passages to be found, this excursion is a mostly instrumental affair. The bass seems to be the driving instrument, closely competing with the drums for that role, and the musical foundation is probably best described as fusion. Jazz fans will find many familiar elements on Fat Again, especially from the aforementioned rhythm section.

Steensland does add quite a lot to this foundation though. Dissonances, disharmonies and cacaphonic passages unfolds on a regular basis, and lots of more or less twisted improvised-sounding sequences is a key feature, especially in the three longer tracks dominating this disc. All of this is run through an avant-garde filter, with folk-tinged and symphonic inspired themes added on occasion as a nice topping. On opening epic Der Klang von "Musik" we're even served a passage rather close to brutal metal in expression.

As far as references go, Magma is probably a band worth mentioning. But unlike the diciplinerian French outfit, Steensland allows himself and his musicians to be both innovative and creative. Not always for the better, some themes would probably have ended up better with a bit more dicipline, but the end result is most certainly a better one as far as I'm concerned - at least if comparing this year's productions by these two artists. windhawk, rate your music

 

 

Der schwedische Avantrocker (der so nicht gern bezeichnet werden möchte) Simon Steensland, auch Zombie Hunter genannt, legt alle paar Jahre ein neues Album auf, das die Qualitäten der Vorgänger weiterführt und dazu neue Wege beschreitet. Die Zeuhl-Basis ist in den drei langen Tracks deutlich erhalten geblieben. Schon der Auftakt des die CD eröffnenden, 16 Minuten langen "Der Klang von "Musik"" zeigt sofort, aus wessen Universum die Komposition kommt. Diese ganz bestimmten Disharmonien auf fett wirbelnder Bass/Schlagzeugbasis, die für ungeübte Hörer dieser Spielart heftigen Kopfschmerz und Schwindel auslösen würden, sind wieder einmal der besondere Genuss für - geübte und geneigte Hörer.

Multiinstrumentalist Steensland ist für das Gros der Instrumente verantwortlich, hat sich zudem einige ausgezeichnete Gäste ins Studio geholt, wie etwa Extremtrommler Morgan Ågren, der sich wieder von der besten, will meinen virtuosesten Seite zeigt, sowie Robert Elovsson (key, cl), der zuletzt in der Mats Morgan Band engagiert war. Einar Baldursson (Gösta Berlings Saga) spielt die passend schrägen Gitarrensoli, Arvid Pettersson bringt mit dem Akkordeon folkig schräge und mit dem Fender Rhodes jazztrunkene Harmonien ein.

Vier der sieben kurzen Tracks, zumeist um 2 Minuten lang, aber auch deutlich kürzer, sind Vokaltracks, von einem Frauenchor und Simon Steensland "gesungen". Die feine Mischung aus Folklore und Avantgarde in der dunklen Verbindung ist eine echte Überraschung - und zeigt zudem, dass der eigenwillige Rocker Steensland ein Gespür für die historische Folklore seines Landes zeigt. "Hide & Seek" ist der Höhepunkt der Chorgesänge. Die schwedische Kobaia-Crew Steensland und Ågren hat hier die größte Verstärkung gefunden. Acht Frauenstimmen drücken der düsteren, disharmonischen Komposition mit minimalistischem, lautmalerischem Gesang den Stempel auf, in der instrumentalen Phase dröhnen die Bässe, Keyboards, Harmonium und Gitarre in den tiefsten Tönen, bis die weiblichen Chorstimmen dem abgründigen Geschehen wieder etwas Licht und Leben verleihen. Das Gegenspiel ist beherzt und ausgezeichnet gelungen, dabei erheblich schräg und kraftvoll.

Manches der anderen Chorstücke wirkt dagegen, als sänge eine Gemeinde nur vom Harmonium begleitet in einer weltfernen Kirche historische Lieder. Das Gruseln ist dann ganz anderer Art, so, als wohnte man einer untoten Versammlung bei.

"The Lion Tamer" zum Schluss, über 20 Minuten lang, vereinigt Zeuhl, Jazz, abgründig dunklen Rock und Avantgarde auf extreme Weise. Im weiten instrumentalen Mittelpunkt der Komposition klingt das Ensemblespiel sehr verinnerlicht und konzentriert, erhabene und grandios komponierte und gespielte Soundgeflechte schier endlos generierend. Und das Monster ist keine Sekunde zu lang!

Für Steensland-Fans ist "Fat Again" ein weiteres Meisterwerk, das lange hat auf sich warten lassen. Wer den ausgefallenen und scheuen Musiker nicht kennt, und den vorhergehenden Text als Einladung liest, sollte sich die CD unbedingt besorgen.

Für Eingeweihte gilt das sowieso. raggazzi, germany

 

 

Considering Fat Again’s front cover artwork, one might suggest that Swedish multi-instrumentalist Simon Steensland “apes” Univers Zero on this 2009 AltrOck label release. But for the moment let’s just say that UZ discs like 1981’s classic Ceux du Dehors and particularly 1987’s near classic Heatwave are a big influence. Steensland took his time on this, his fifth studio album, which was composed, arranged, mixed, and produced between 2005-2008, and the time and effort expended are clearly evident. In Ruggero Formenti’s liner notes, Steensland is quoted expressing discomfort about being labeled as an “experimental” musician, comparable "to people who bang kitchen utensils or sing in cookie jars, an approach that is seldom gratifying for anyone else but the performers.” In fact, Steensland doesn’t bang, hit, or pound much of anything here -- perhaps having gotten the drums out of his system on 1999’s Led Circus -- and on Fat Again he turns the drum stool completely over to Morgan Ågren, an ongoing Steensland collaborator, Zappa alumnus, and co-leader of the Mats/Morgan Band. However, Steensland does prove adept at a variety of string and keyboard instruments, put to good use on the 16-plus-minute “Der Klang von ‘Musik’" and 20-plus-minute “The Lion Tamer,” epic tracks that bookend the album. These multi-sectioned opuses -- also featuring several other musicians on keyboards, clarinet, accordion, and guitar -- balance driving rock and even doomy/sludgy metal-infused passages with quieter but no less dark interludes in which clarinet, accordion, harmonium, glockenspiel, and wordless female vocals rise to prominence. Ågren is often in Daniel Denis mode here and on the eight-and-a-half-minute “Hide & Seek,” whose martial rhythm is a tad too close to Heatwave’s title track to be deemed original in conception.

But despite the relentless drive and escalating tension of Fat Again’s lengthiest tracks, the dark dissonances and the unsettling atmospheres, it would be a mistake to hear everything here as a rip -- or, ahem, ape -- of UZ. The clarinet interlude by Mats/Morgan’s Robert Elovsson in “Der Klang von ‘Musik’" may suggest Heatwave’s Dirk Descheemaeker, but rougher sonic territory is staked out by Steensland’s impossibly heavy and fuzzed-up bass, together with Nice/ELP-flavored organ voicings from either Steensland or Elovsson. A Magma influence might also be heard in the wordless vocals of eight female singers on the aforementioned “Hide & Seek,” which otherwise includes only Ågren on drums and Steensland channeling UZ keyboardists Andy Kirk and Jean-Luc Plouvier. But those less than enamored by the operatic qualities of Magma’s Kobaïan chants need not fear anything quite as severe on Fat Again -- the singers on “Hide & Seek” are far lighter and nicely counterbalance the track’s otherwise disturbing mood. Of course, the juxtaposition of angelic and demonic can be particularly chilling, as the singsongy, childlike vocals by Aurelia Le Huche and Eva Rexed on “Fräls Oss Ifrån Ondo” aptly demonstrate (the title of this two-minute track, one of several shorter numbers filling out the disc’s midsection, translates from Swedish as, naturally enough, “Deliver Us from Evil”). As for other spices scattered into the stew, one might note Elovsson’s Middle Eastern-tinged clarinet or the Dave Stewart/Hatfields-style burning keyboard tone and Allan Holdsworth-like legato guitar phrasing that crop up during “The Lion Tamer” -- jazzy Canterbury bleeding into dark RIO -- for evidence that, if Simon Steensland hasn’t come up with something entirely new here, at least he has combined some worthy influences in new ways. And he took the time needed to get it right.

dave lynch all music