Monday, November 28, 2005

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but a lot of the new bands I like are the musical equivalent of those societies for creative anachronism…you know, where librarians and computer programmers trade recipes for mead, don homemade chain mail vests, and have a bit of a joust on the weekend. Certain musicians take a similar approach to music, buying up old equipment and recording in analog to achieve their own vision of rock’s medieval period (i.e. 1974). Go to it, I say.

Norway's Wobbler are definitely of this ilk—a band desperate to be not of their time. As far as I can gather, lead guy and keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie was born in 1982, for chrissake (the year that marked the official death of progressive rock with the release of the first Asia album), yet he’s buying up barnfuls of vintage keyboards and writing florid-yet-menacing 27-minute epics like the post-hippy brave new world is at hand. The songwriting on their Laser’s Edge debut Hinterland is wild and wooly for sure—reflecting more of an influence from the restless Italian bands than the more stately British prog originators—with only differing elapsed time to distinguish the three main tracks on the album. Despite that lack of discipline, I’ve gotten a huge kick out of Hinterland, probably because I was around in 1982, head in hands as “Heat of the Moment” oozed from the radio. Having survived that experience, I’ll always have time for the Wobblers of the world.

When I did an email interview with Frøislie for the next Unrestrained!, I had to ask him about his arsenal of vintage gear. Which keyboard is his prize possession?

“I guess it would be my first Mellotron M400, serial number 1652 from 1976. It has never let me down to this day. I got it from the national radio in Bulgaria along with about a dozen other vintage keyboards. I basically bought the old prog band Formation Studio Balkanton’s studio. It was converting into a folk rock studio, so the keyboards were just in the way.”

Whereas a lot of keyboard players chicken out and use digital keyboards with patches and samples on stage, Lars goes for the full Rick Wakeman, bolstered perhaps by one of those backbraces favoured by Home Depot employees.

“On the last concerts I’ve had a Hammond C3 with Leslie 122, two Mellotrons, MiniMoog, Arp Pro Soloist, Roland Ep-10, Clavinet and Rhodes. It was hell lifting and setting up, and we used my father’s truck without any roof (thank God it didn’t rain), since it was the only one large enough.”

So do Wobbler and White Willow (whom Froislie also plays with) have the Norwegian prog scene all to themselves, or are there any other bands we should know about?

“It has been growing over the last few years. Prog rock has almost been accepted in the media in Norway, so it’s not as uncool as when we started up. There are not that many symphonic prog bands like us, but there’s Anti-Depressive Delivery (heavy rock/metal prog), Circles End (Canterbury/pop), Panzerpappa (RIO) and Gargamel (retro).”

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