If I were to tell you that Norwegian unusualists Tusmørke spun out from a psychedelic space-rock outfit called Captain Cumulonumbus And His Wondrous Cloudship and claim to be mainly influenced by the Bronze Age, that ought to give you an approximate idea of what one should expect from Riset Bak Speilet, and I don’t think I really need to tell you, based upon this information and the fact that the members of Tusmørke are often pictured wearing cloaks, that we’re dealing with Progressive Rock here do I?
Yes, Prog of a decidedly Canterburyesque stripe is very much the thing for this Oslo-based quartet. To my ears, the ghosts of The Soft Machine and Caravan flit through Tusmørke‘s sound, with Ratledgey organ action from organ/Mellotronist Deadly Nightshade, warm, supple bass from Benediktator and nimble drummage from HlewagastiR, joined by the expressive flute of Krizla, adding that ‘Tull feel to proceedings too. Occasional stabs of brass join the fray too, most notably on flighty, fruity opener Offerpresten.
The pastoral edge of their sound is very much in fitting with that whimsical Canterbury thang, but there is a baroque, medieval side to Tusmørke too that brings The Incredible String Band, and occasionally Gentle Giant, to mind – which, as far as I’m concerned – is sure as hell no bad thing. Admirers of Svart stablemates Hexvessel and where-are-they-now British oddballs Circulus will find much to dig into herein for sure.
You’ll find no Crimson calisthenics or bruising instrumental workouts on Riset Bak Speilet – which translates into ‘The Birch Behind The Looking Glass’, referring to the birch rod as opposed to the tree – instead a quirky mix of nimble quasi-prog-pop – oft-times shot through with a haunting air of melancholia – offset by the astringent nature of that baroque edge. There are also definite tonal similarities to the music of British polymath Matt Berry, a man more known for his outstanding comedic TV performances than his incredibly finely-wrought pastoral prog psychedelia, unfortunately.
With flautist Krizla and bassist Benediktator providing mostly unison vocals and some crazy pileups of heavily layered music on display, it’s fair to say that Riset Bak Speilet covers a lot of ground for what appears to be a minimalist musical roster.
Previously-mentioned opener Offerpresten powers along under the steam of the rhythm section, those strident unison vocals and the aforementioned brass notes and provides a punchy, hooky start to the album, swiftly derailed by the pastoral, gentle – but oddly sinister, thanks to a stalking bassline – flute-led second number Gamle After Kirke, a track that begins to build steam across the course of its length, moving from bucolic reverie into an almost-dervish-like approach with eastern scales and needling keyboards infringing on the edges of hearing.
Black Swift is initially driven by twinkling acoustic guitar and lively drums, but perks up as it heads into its chorus with parping brass and a really quite lovely theremin refrain that hovers like a ghostly Kestrel above the rest of the instrumentation. A very prog synthesizer and unison guitar solo section is added that I personally found just thrilling, but then I’m a total sucker for that kind of thing.
Violin – or it could be artfully deployed Mellotron – emboldens All Is Lost, the rockin’est track on offer, along with some dark, tumbling electric guitar, an endlessly shifting rhythm pattern and some nifty tub-thumping, putting me oddly in mind of a lost track from Cathedral’s classic Forest Of Equilibrium being played on 45, which is, again, no bad thing!
Finally, we reach Riset Bak Speilet itself, a funky mix of effected, busy bass, swirling organ and expressive Norwegian vocal delivery that twists and turns in many directions across its serpentine 14 minute length and never once fails to enthrall and delight the ears and mind. So many different meters are employed but the darkly buzzing thrum of the electric organ is a constant throughout, leaping between joyous runs and ponderous throbs like it ain’t no thing at all. Krizla’s breathy flute really jumps to the fore here too, either singing sweetly or else tolling hollowly as chaos whirls all about in the climactic run up to the finish. Just wonderful, wonderful stuff.
One point I will make before signing off is that there are five tracks on the LP, and on this promo, but the CD adds a further three tracks, soooooooo, if you think Riset Bak Speilet sounds like your bag, baby – and it is most certainly very much mine – you may want to plump for the compact disc…..or both. Which is more than likely what I’ll be doing.
As I said earlier, this is just wonderful stuff that presses all of my buttons and I can’t possibly recommend it more. Now, where’s me cloak?
Scribed by: Paul Robertson