Simon Steensland - The Simon Lonesome Combat Ensemble (Musea MP3013.AR, 1994)
Cutting edge, unpretentious and imaginative are three words that describe this offering by Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Simon Steensland. Mixing elements of rock, neo-classical, jazz, some folk and sensible sonic experimentation, Steensland has created a purely instrumental album of great depth and emotion, yet it maintains a sensibility of variety throughout - an album that would seem more at home on the Cuneiform label. Any general comparisons are not easy, as the music keeps taking different turns in many directions: On most tracks, Steensland plays percussion, keyboards, and mallets (or samples thereof), plus occasional cello, fuzzbass, accordion, berimbau and other exotics. He is joined by a rotating guest list providing additional keyboards, guitar, bass, violin, cello and accordion.
The album opens with "Mandrill", a high-tension track dominated by drums, synth and mallets, one that may recall the recent work of Daniel Denis. Then on to "Antischnurvewicklungsperre" - imagine Art Zoyd with a drummer, then throw a searing guitar solo on top of it all. Other standout tracks include "Nightingirl", where hard hitting fuzzbass and synth-bells paint a menacing zeuhl styled backdrop for a powerful and intense melodic buildup, leading to Morgan Agren's 'electric chainsaw' solo, and "Doctor Locton", a mechanized orgy for offbeat percussion, electric bass, and synths. "Only in France" features a lonely frippian guitar lead over dissonant accordion chords; "Alexandra", a solo piece for keyboards and marimba may remind of Kit Watkins' "Spring 1980". Some of the tracks here have a more programmed feel, akin to Thierry Zaboitzeff's Dr.Zab - two tracks in this category, "The Shadow of a Dog" and "The Hunchback's Dance" stand out with a dark, foreboding starkness that makes for some fairly challenging listening. Wisely, the more abstract material has been pushed out towards the last half of the disc. In all, this is excellent music that will appeal to the discriminating listener. If you are looking for the next Marillion, then Steensland's ensemble may not be for you.
(Originally published in Exposé #3, p.22, Edited for Gnosis 3/25/01)
The Simon Lonesome Combat Ensemble is made by ex-Landberk drummer Simon Steensland and released by Musea. Steensland plays most of the instruments (drums, percussion, keyboards, programming; but also accordion, berimbau, cello, cittra, flute, fretless fuzzbass, machines, marimba, and tapes). He also get some help from, among others, the keyboardist Mats Öberg and the drummer Morgan Ågren (both have played with Zappa). It is an instrumental album, some kind of progressive fusion with occasional elements of electronic or industrial music. -- Gunnar Creutz
Schon mit seinem ersten Album hat der schwedische Multiinstrumentalist Simon Steensland seinen Stil gefunden: "The Simon Lonesome Combat Ensemble" klingt ähnlich Zombie Hunter" oder "Led Circus". Allerdings sind die Orchestrierungen etwas weniger üppig bzw. überzogen wie bei diesen, was Steenslands Debut eigentlich zu einem guten Einstiegsalbum machen würde; nur scheint es momentan leider vergriffen zu sein.
Wie auf seinen späteren Alben herrscht eine düstere, surreal-gequälte Atmosphäre, die durch die komplexen, nahezu immer dissonant-chromatischen Linien und dunkle Klangfarben hervorgerufen wird. In den rhythmisch ruhigeren Nummern ohne Schlagzeug und Bass (etwa "The Hunchback") klingt das Ganze nach moderner Klassik, ein Eindruck, der durch das mit einem echten kleinen Streichensemble eingespielte "Could You...if I...?" verstärkt wird.
Die bewegteren Passagen klingen eher nach Univers Zero oder - dank fettem Bass - Magma, wobei Steensland durchaus eigenständig ist: der ausgiebige Einsatz von Percussioninstrumenten wie der Marimba fehlt bei den genannten Bands. Dadurch ergibt sich eher ein anderer Anknüpfungspunkt, vor allem im etwas jazzigeren "Quasithing", das fast nach den Moerlen-geführten Gong klingt. 10/15 udo gerhards, germany
Here´s a bolt out of the blue! If you liked zap, strave , noco music and the other french r. i. o. chamber/rock fusion bands… "combat ensemble" is for you.
A development of the magma school definitely, ss sounds different somehow and this album fuses many elements into one of the best examples of
french instrumental music i´ve heard in some time! Eurock, usa
This new release is essentially a solo effort by simon steensland "with a little help from his friends". ss plays drums&percussion, keyboards, bass, accordion, flute etc.
to forge an intelligent blend of king crimson, heldon and magma, with a dash of frohmader. This is rich music full of complex chord and rhythm changes,
dissonance and virtuoso playing from the opening percussive fusion of "mandrill", to the closing chamber music of "could you… if i…?
Steensland´s compositional skills are exemplary achieving a highly listenable yet intellectual suite of music. With a release of this calibre, i find it
difficult to name favourite passages, all are deserving of praise.This album is a new high water mark in post-classical music, enriching a genre not
explored enough today. If you have even a passing interest in the above mentioned musicians, i strongly recommend you buy this cd. henry schneider, audion magazine, usa
Simon e´ um tecladista/percussionista que procura aliar a musica contemporanca ao free-jazz e alguns elementos de musica eletroacustica.
Usando combinacoes insolitas com cittra, acordeon, wah-wah, marimba e berimbau a instrumentos corriqueiros, algumas faixas mostram um resultado feliz.
Outras apesar de bons temas, pecam pela falta de riqueza limbristica. sergio lima nascimento, brazil