Bly de Blyant - Hindsight Bias [Hubro - 2014]
Bly de Blyant is a jazzy psychedelic math rock trio from Norway, whose first album "ABC" on Hubro I gave a mildly positive review, thinking them incredibly talented but unfocused. With their new album "Hindsight Bias", also on Hubro, they correct many of the issues I had with them on their first recording, and deliver a stunning piece of work.
There is a powerful emotionality on this album that rarely appeared on their first; as a whole this effort seems more 'serious' and intentional. Where the first album was more like a collection of inspired but lackadaisical improvisations by virtuosic musicians, this album undoubtedly has a number of full blown compositions, which marry a kind of romantic Morricone flavor to moody electric space outs.
Brevity is a defining feature of the band's output, as both their albums are roughly 30 minutes (EP length, really), and filled with a number of largely short songs. On this album, though, there are fewer songs, and the band has done a better of job of packing each track with melodic substance, and making it easily distinguishable from the others. It's a great album to leave on repeat; in fact the first track almost seems more logical as a finale than as an opener.
Some of the band's choices are rather inexplicable. The opening guitar figure on the album is probably the most stridently emotional moment on the entire recording. It's the perfect blues solo to plays in your mind as you're collapsing into a comfortable chair after a long, hard day of work. It has such a sluggish, world weary, yet oddly contented feeling that I find it strange for it to be the beginning of anything. Still, it's gorgeous, and hearing the ethereal, almost shoegazey chords I find myself wishing I more often found such darkly luminous and vibrantly melancholy rock music. I recall hearing Dredg's "El Cielo" in high school, which has a number of instrumental tracks that resemble this music.
The 2nd track "Westkreuz" is a heady jazz fusion with a similar lounge vibe to bands like Vital Information and Mike Stern. There's a lot more funk in this beat and the feeling is more lively. The rhodes-ish electric piano that plays leads through the second half of this track is, I've become to realize, a characteristic Hubro sound, as they are a label that specializes in krautrock/70's/space jazz throwbacks.
An entire album of pieces like Westkreuz would be a bit stuffy, but luckily the band lurches into a charming fuzz bass dub groove, almost like a slow disco beat, for "Laura", and a reverberant guitar cascades across the background. It's an altogether complete chillscape that I could listen to on repeat for hours, or could play in the futuristic monorail in the Jetsons. Without deviating at all from the same funky riff, the band shows they know how to jam out when needed, and use their musicianship when needed. It's likely my favorite track on the album.
The highly technical passages that sometimes occured on their debut are nowhere to be found. The band is content here to play very slowly most of the time. The title track "Hindsight Bias" is a classic major/minor alternated chord progression from a majestic, shimmering organ, played at dirge speed. As with a band like Spacemen 3, the music seems to promote the progressive slowing of consciousness, a feeling of drifting out.
The last few tracks do have a few heavy, angular and dissonant figures, which are coupled with powerful pounding drums in Deerhoof-like exuberance. Parts of "Bunker Hill" break down into truly discordant free jazz chaos. These provide a nice contrast to the first half of the album.
Bly de Blyant use their jazz level musicianship to bring a tonal intelligence and precision to their miniature psychedelic jams, adventures and experiments. This is far from so many stuffy, over calculated instrumental albums I hear: the emotional intent of the music remains entirely in the fore. Anyone interested in soulful psychedelic rock experimentation should check this out.Josh Landry