Mit "Led Circus" legt der schwedische Multiinstrumentalist Simon Steensland sein viertes Album vor, sein zweites beim schwedischen UAE Label.

Die Bezeichnung 'Multiinstrumentalist' kann hier wirklich zurecht gegeben werden: Steensland spielt auf "Led Circus" unter anderem folgende Instrumente: Drums & Percussion, Bass, Harmonium, Akkordion, Mundharmonika, Marimba, elektrische und akustische Gitarren, Banjo, Flöte, Cello, Violine, Synthesizer, Glockenspiel, Zither. Aber obwohl er zumindest die Hauptinstrumente (Bass, Schlagzeug, Gitarren) alle ziemlich gut zu beherrschen scheint, ist er sich nicht zu schade, je nach Anspruch des Stückes, andere Musiker hinzu zu ziehen. So treten Gäste als SängerInnen, Schlagzeuger, Keyboarder, Gitarristen, Blockflötistinnen, Cellisten etc. auf.

Musikalisch steckt Steensland mitten zwischen "Magma" und "Univers Zero": furioses, kraftvolles Bassgeriffe trifft auf düstere Kammermusik und schwellendes Harmonium. Die Musik ist generell sehr dunkel, neurotisch, wüst, aber immer kraftvoll und heftig. In schrägen komplexen Linien saust Steensland über die Marimbas, der Bass grollt, das Schlagzeug rumpelt, das Harmonium sorgt für Fülle. Der Sound, den Steensland mit seinem ganzen Instrumentarium erreicht, ist sehr voll und kraftvoll. Aber dennoch gelingt es ihm immer wieder, mit verschiedenen Kniffen Farbtupfer ins Arrangement zu setzen, die seine Musik dann auch bei aller Ähnlichkeit der schrägen Akkorde, kantigen Rhythmik und dissonanten Linien von den oben genannten Vergleichsbands deutlich abheben.

Schon gleich der Opener "Instant Jesus" macht dies deutlich: nach magmaeskem Intro tauchen über dem fetten Bassriff und ständig drängendem Rhythmus ein unverständlich maulender Sänger auf, ein jaulendes Synthie-Solo zieht vorbei, ein Cello kratzt, eine Blockflöte springt durch seltsamste Intervalle, ein absoluter Saxophon-Freakout findet statt, eine kreischend-heulende Frauenstimme (a la Steve Vais "The Road To Mt. Calvary"... Passenderweise zeigt sich im Booklet Steensland auch in "Gekreuzigter"-Pose...) macht Angst und schliesslich wird uns noch mirnichtsdirnichts ein grandioses Gitarrensolo (kudos to Mikke Rönkvist!), Marke Holdsworthscher Speed-Freakout, serviert. Nichts für schwache Nerven, aber grossartig!

Auch die anderen Stücke haben's in sich. "Pinving" mit seinen düsteren, schleppenden Harmonium-Texturen könnte von "Univers Zeros" "Heresie" stammen. "Psychlone" wartet mit elender Rückkopplungsorgie auf und "The Song Of The Fourth Monkey" hat das abgefahrenste Mundharmonika-Solo, das ich kenne (es hat ne Weile gedauert, bis ich gemerkt habe, dass da gar keine Gitarre am Gange ist... "slightly distorted harmonica solo" steht im Booklet... Soso.)

Also, dass hier ist ziemlich schräger und komplexer, aber kraftvoller und mitreissender Stoff. Ich finde es klasse, und ich denke, alle Freunde von "Univers Zero", "Present" und Co. werden das ähnlich sehen. Ich bin auf jeden Fall gespannt auf die anderen Platten von Simon Steensland.   11/15 udo gerhards, germany

I'm really surprised no one has reviewed this yet.This is one of Simon Steensland's best albums. As usual we get that dark intense music that is inspired by UNIVERS ZERO, MAGMA, PRESENT and ART ZOYD. A lot of instruments are used here, too many to list but of note is the harmonium, cello, sax, accordion and marimba but there is much much more. By the way Simon can and does play pretty much every instument there is but he does get lots of help here most notably from the MATS / MORGAN duo who are two of the most incredible musicians i've ever heard on keyboards and drums respectively. Some will know Mats Gustafsson on sax too.

"Instant Jesus" is the over 16 minute opener and the most difficult for me to get into. It opens with lots of marimba, drums and other sounds before these drugged out sounding vocals join in. A calm 2 minutes in with quiet vocals and darkness. Cello and other sounds arrive as it all gets louder including the vocals which get a little crazy. It all kicks in at 3 1/2 minutes. Check out the dissonant sax 5 1/2 minutes in followed by a keyboard solo then some yelling and carrying on a minute later. Intense and dark. It settles before 7 1/2 minutes with accordion and it's still hauntingly dark. It kicks in again then it settles before 9 1/2 minutes. It kicks in hard at 14 minutes. Check out the drumming ! Guitar late. Amazing track. "Pinving" is melancholic and dark with harmonium, cello and accordion standing out. It picks up 4 minutes in with some killer guitar and pounding drums. Insane. "The Song Of The 4th Monkey" opens with marimba, accordion and other sounds. It picks up quickly with chunky bass. It settles back 1 1/2 minutes in. Check out the dissonant harmonica solo after 2 1/2 minutes. I don't think i've ever said that before. This is great !

"The Dance Itself" hits the ground running with a heavy rhythm and lots of guitar. A creepy calm follows. "Psychlone" is UNIVERS ZERO-like with the intricate sounds and dark mood. Distorted guitar comes ripping in and check out the drum work. It starts to settle down 2 minutes in then kicks back in after 4 minutes. What an intense track. "Angels Without Eyes" is kind of haunting as eerie female vocal melodies join in.The electric guitar before 3 minutes is cool then the vocal melodies continue. "Dwarf Suite" is the 18 minute closer. What an intro ! It settles in and it's dark.The drums and marimba become prominant. It eases up before 3 minutes but not for long. A calm before 5 minutes with accordion. A change after 6 minutes and the intensity is building before 8 minutes. It settles 9 1/2 minutes in to a haunting soundscape. Accordion and marimba before 12 minutes. Drums a minute later. Cello before 14 minutes then it picks up a minute later. It eases up with deep bass sounds before 17 minutes.

Well if you like PRESENT or UNIVERS ZERO you probably will love this album. Easily 4.5 stars.

mellotron storm

Much experimental music today is electronically based, with often total reliance on synthesiser, guitar effects and drumming of some kind. This avant-garde/prog rockrelease makes use of these, but finds room for a host of other instruments including harmonium, accordion, marimba, cello, banjo, quadraphant, glockenspiel, zither, saxophone, flute,and lyric less vocals amongst others. Multi-instrumentalist steensland is joined by numerous guests including mats öberg, morgan ågren, amit zen, joakim marsh reuben sallmander and many more. The music rhythmically owes much to king crimson, and occasionally a more urgent gentle giant, although there is a marked influence of modern classical music, notably charles ives and alfred schnittke. This is similar in a way to how henry cow blended bartok, stravinsky and schoenberg with avant-garde prog rock in the seventies. The result is very percussive on tracks such as the opener "instant jesus", or melancholic, even bleak, as on "pinging". There are several melodic moments, but this is a very busy album where intertwining rhytms, one often leading straight into the next, predominate. There are seven tracks of varied length, from a minute and a half of "the dance itself", to the 18 minute "dwarf suite". The standard of musicianship is high throughout, complex and intricate with ever changing patterns. The overall effect is unusual, and interestingly strange. It´s like being in someone else´s dream! I don´t know whether steensland plays live, but sections of this music would tax even the most talented musicians in the rock world. This may appeal to adventurous progress or those with a vendetta against neighbours with thin walls.  bernard law, wondrous stories, uk

Building strength upon strength, steensland is back with another outing of potent, robust zeuhl music. The snarling, buzzing bass invokes magma, the mallet instruments bring zappa to mind, the accordion style is close to that of lars hollmer of samla mammas manna and von zamla. The closest musical cousin is universe zero, not only in the harmonium and woodwind instruments, but also in the basic harmonic language, the jagged rhythms and dark, murky gothic character. Other points of comparison include u totem, thinking plague and even king crimson. There´s also a bit of steve reich-styled minimalism in the repeated modules offered up by mallet percussion. Steensland has synthesised and internalized his influences, which all come together in a way that sets him apart from the pack. If you like any of the aforementioned groups, led circus is worth investigating.  dean suzuki, progression, usa

I received the new album by simon steensland the past saturday. Oh, my god! It´s a masterpiece!!! Even better than the zombie hunter. I´m impressed with the swedish progressive & new new music scene: mats & morgan, fredrik thordendahl of meshuggah, anekdoten, sinkadus… But simon steensland is the most impressive!  rafa dorado, margen magazine, spain

Two years after his project with sten sandell, steensland is back with a new album led circus, his fourth release. As always, the music is difficult to describe. If you´re familiar with his previous albums, you know what i mean. Multi-instrumentalist steensland makes avant-garde, progressive rock. Despite the up-tempo and almost jazzy approach, especially shown in the haunting rhythms, the general feeling stays very dark and heavy. Led circus is a very impressive and rather difficult album. It invites you to multiple listenings. I like it a lot! black page magazine, holland

From the ground-breaking first steps, you almost get the feeling that the likes of universe zero, art zoyd, henry cow and members thereof, al prefer to plough safe musical furrows these days. Those out there who long for the time when rio music was challenging, new, fresh and vita, yet still organic and structured, will all go wild over this new one from scandinavian rio should-have-been, simon steensland. Using elements from all the aforementioned acts, plus touches of magma, fusion style gong and samla, this is quite a powerful album with geeat musical range using percussion rhythms, angular rhythms, stuttering beefheartian electric guitar lines, deep electric bass and some bizarre synth fills, while guitars and synth solos/duos ignite and spark all over the place. There is so much happening in the mix, that many tracks pass by with you only having been aware of small portions of the sounds´constituent elements without actually losing sight of the whole effect of the music, which ranges from mighty to ethereal. Even with zeuhl-influenced vocal in parts, it remains a quite unique hybrid of much that has gone before yet has a vitality and sense of adventure rarely heard in this style of music today.  cd services, uk

In the music you can track conflicts, friction, collision and combat. All who love dark heavy progressive will get all you need and a little more from this body of work. It´s time to take the hard way up the mountain!  gerome francis, cranium music new zeeland 

Serene and light are two adjectives we would NOT use to describe this work, whose co-ordinates are perhaps to be found in that particular branch of rio music that sees groups such as universe zero and present as significant antecedents: very knotty rhythms, the use of complex harmony, timbrally dark, where accordion and harmonium an air of sadness and guitars are angry and paranoid more often than not. But this work - and so diffently from the most recent works of us and european groups who lead similar paths - definitely succeds, so it´s an easy on to recommend to both fans of this genre and to those who have never listened to it. Steensland, as a composer and multi-instrumentalist, directs the music with intelligence and feel, well aided by the very capable musicians who contribute, such as mats&morgan, the former excellent in his synth solos. Even the vocals, often the weak point of similar efforts, are very good, especially the female "duo angelica" and "trio vulgarica". beppe colli, italy

I like this musician. He seems got wider performance ability on this album. More bright sound.  hiroshi masuda, poseidon, japan

I got "led" and i like it. Better than "zombie". I hear a family resemblance too. Which is good. Of course we will like to carry it. And my personal congratulations to simon. This is serious work and that´s not so common these days.  chris cutler, rer megacorp, uk 

In den nördlichen weiten Schwedens muss es Geister, fern und andere skurrile Wesen geben. Anders kann ich mir nicht erklären, woher der sympathische simon steensland seine Inspiration bezieht und wie er auf diese abartigen, dissonanten und atonalen Kompositionen kommt. Sein neuestes werk "led circus" hat zwar wieder deutlich rockbetontere Strukturen als der völlig in den avant-garde- Bereich getretene Vorgänger. Doch auch diese 7 songs wissen nicht von Popmusik, airplay & charts. Angelehnt an die Erfahrungen zeitgenössischer Musik geben sich diese mit rhythmischen Elementen des jazzrock und hochkomplexen, verschachtelten Melodien ausgestatteten stücke tiefsinnig, melancholisch, kraftvoll und unprätentiös. Simon´s lieblinginstrument ist das accordion, das mit seinem Briten klang die stetig wechselnden Stimmungen beruhigt. Doch auch viele andere instrumente gibt es zu hören. Neben dem üblichen rockinstrumentaium gibt es so obskure. Musikwerkzeuge wie qudraphant, Zither, jolly roger aloha guitar, waterphone. Unter den Gästen befinden sich mats öberg und morgan ågren, die mit ihren werken in ähnlichen Pfründen wildern. Einflussreichster Mitspieler ist aber zweifelsohne der Gitarrist mikke rönnkvist, der mit seinen jazzigen rockinovationen leben in die stücke bringt. Viele zappaeske momente sind eine kleine Reminiszenz an den Herrn, der von uns ging. Die intension, die zappa antrieb, "ernsthafte" Musik zu kreieren, ist die gleiche bei simon steensland. Dieses album ist ein Superlativ! Es weist der heutigen rock, jazz und zeitgenössischen Musik den weg in die Zukunft und lässt viel freiraum, den Hörer selbständig erkennen können.  Dringende Empfehlung! volkmar, ragazzi, germany   

And now it´s high time to wish simon steensland welcome back! If someone should be unfamiliar with his music, it can best be described as lugubrious and close to fatally energic avant-garde prog. The material on his latest album is based on the same principles and theories as "zombie", but surpasses all of his previous work by far. He seems to have matured as a composer, and the instrumentation sounds more articulated and adapted to the very strenuous music. And yet again, simon shows his ostentatious skills as multi-instrumentalist, playing a load of instruments such as drums&percussion, bass, guitars, violin, banjo, synthesisers, cello, accordion, harmonium amongst others. But what´s really impressing is the musical context he does this inside. Neither art zoyd, nor universe zero ever sounded as uncompromising as the art of steensland! And of course here enters an army of guest-musicians, for example mats & morgan, but even their contributions can´t really wrestle the heavy and dark atmosphere surrounding the music. I disagree with he who in an interview with steensland points out that "music at such a high theoretical level automatically disqualifies itself for being regarded as rock". In contrast to that, i would say that this is one of the logical consequences of the most authoritative rock from "old times" (zappa, magma, henry cow); merciless, eclectic and more or less elitist. Should be checked out by everybody with a healthy interest for "new" music!  r. toftesund, tarkus, norway 

A musician whose mind is the most polluted with Univers Zero sound and appearance, what me doesn't perceive as negative at all. While Simon usually intermingled sound of UZ with the least humourous Zamla M. M., Led Circus is a bit more his own, though it does not screaming that. This "ownness" starts to envelop after "certain" number of listens, but what is "certain", me cannot tell exactly. Recommended anyway. -- Nenad Kobal