My mind wandered to consider how bands I know whose name describes car features. Airbag is a cool name. I’m not aware of any bands called Anti Lock Braking System (ALBS) or Heated Rear Window, so I guess I’d better move on in every sense.
This album of so-called scenic epic rock is the Norwegian band’s fourth. With a thirteen minute title track and a theme about the individual and society, it upholds progressive music conventions. As my listening experience got under way, I was struck by the lush sound waves. The constancy of the drum beat creates a calming effect. There’s a little bit of U2 about the guitar work. But what counts is the package of emotions, and I immediately warmed to the quiet power of the melancholy and rock-rich “Killer”. I liked its straight delivery. There’s no weeping and wailing, but straightforward expression. Mid-way through the nine minute opener, we are treated to an expansive instrumental section. Reminding me of a Porcupine Tree interlude and with the dreaminess of a Pink Floyd track, there’s no unnecessary exaggeration as the soundscape becomes darker and more wistful towards the end. If I thought that “Killer” had tones of Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd, the devastatingly wistful “Broken” leaves it standing. So it is with the even gloomier “Slave”, not to be mixed up with the Leprous track of the same title. I felt that I’d heard both “Broken” and “Slave” before. They reminded me of what I once heard on Steven Wilson’s first Blackfield album. “Slave” is so utterly melancholic and gloomy that I thought it was going to disappear inside itself. This made it atmospheric in an isolated person sort of way, but I couldn’t daydream with it and actually found it uncomfortable to listen to, not to mention in close proximity to other prog music that I’d heard before.
The acoustic gentleness continues with “Sleepwalker”. While it hasn’t got to the weeping and wailing stage, it’s reflective and shows pity rather than having self-pity. There’s a certain beauty about it, and the swaying acoustic rhythm gives the song a calm ambience. It was just too slushy for me, and I longed for the directness of “Killer”. The thirteen minute title track follows and the time is well spent exploring soft and luscious territory, including a jazzy bass line and nice mellow drums. Again it’s very Porcupine Tree with its cosmic sound effects and lyrical approach, turning into the Floydian dream world, which is not to say it’s bad. In fact “Disconnected” the track is a very pleasant piece of prog without being overwhelming in any way. The album ends gloomily and reflectively with “Returned”. Again it didn’t hit me, and drifted away in the figurative wind.
I can’t say that this album, ambient and technically competent as it is, really inspired me. “Disconnected” fulfils its remit, I suppose, and it’s quite nice but I didn’t find it hugely original. It didn’t touch me and like the main theme of the album, I just felt I was on the outside looking in with no connection to it.
(6/10 Andrew Doherty)