The interesting thing about Norway’s Wobbler, whose fourth album this is, is that they push boundaries in the world of prog, yet their music is so recognisable. This, without doubt, is the charm of it. This prog that they peddle is of an older school variety with 70s bands like Yes and King Crimson coming to mind. The analog keyboards reinforce this impression. The vocalist has a uniquely intriguing voice at the higher end of the scale but it’s the structures, which are the most engaging and intriguing. Right from the opening “Fermented Hours”, we are taken on an exhilarating adventure. The urgency and manic nature is that of Atrox.
The gripping journey continues with the fluty “Foxlight”. There’s something playful about all of this, but so there is delicate beauty from the combination of the acoustic rhythm, the willowy flute and the haunting vocals. The background sounds create a fluid air, like a spring day with the wind and leaves blowing around. The scene darkens but the progression continues. Each passage is expressive. There is a mediaeval air. The guitar weaves sophisticated patterns. There’s a bit of Haken in the quirkiness in the way the mood develops. It’s done in a mellow way. All the while we’re taken back to the 1970s and of course the flute will always conjure up Jethro Tull or East of Eden as an image but it’s not stuck there or anywhere. “Foxlight” is an exquisite track. The title track, a twenty one minute piece, starts flutily like another piece from the land of retro prog, earnest bearded ones, Old Grey Whistle Test et al. Instrumental keyboard-driven, bass-infused proggerie takes us into the world of dreams. The vocalist adds to the delicate tones just as Ross Jennings does with Haken. Again it’s as if leaves are gently falling to the ground, but the place to look is upwards as this is celestial, epic prog. The flute provides the rustic touch. From somewhere comes an array of colourful sounds, but it develops into twanging guitar and even a touch of flamenco to fire up the dynamic prog. The scene reverts to its former calming self. The drum adds depth, and with perfect timing the singer comes with expressive vocal delicacy and melancholy. His words capture the gentle scene of green shades, fluttering leaves and warm winds perfectly. The mood switches for the final movement with the dark melancholic piece “Rendered in Shades of Green”. This is an album of the unexpected, and I certainly didn’t expect that Wobbler would try to water down the joy of what went before it.
Creative and retro without being in any way derivative, this gentle yet at times dark album is a sheer delight. Analogies may be drawn between The evocative “From Silence to Somewhere” and both old and new prog, but this is a highly original work and deserving of a lofty place in the prog annals.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)