Panzerpappa – Astromalist
Panzerpappa from Norway is a band founded in 1996 when Trond Gjellum recorded demos in the vein of some of the first Rock In Opposition bands like Samla Mammas Manna and Univers Zero. However, founding a band takes time and accordingly, Panzerpappa didn’t show up on stage before 1999 and presented their self-released their debut “Passer Gullfisk” only in 2000. Subsequent to their second record “Hulemysteriet” and some line-up changes, two more records were released single-handedly, before “Koralrevens Klagesang” caught the attention of Rune / Grammofon and they recently signed up on the well-known Norwegian label.
Panzerpappa are retro. Well, not the kind of retro you might think of – less classical Retro-Prog, but rather some kind of Retro-Canterbury, as you can witness on their fifth release “Astromalist”, which hit the High Street on October, 5th, 2012.
Compared to their earlier releases, luckily not much in the sound has changed. Hence, on Astromalist, Panzerpappa present a chilly version of Jazzrock-influenced Rock In Opposition (or Avantgarde Prog) ranging from cozy Camel tunes in “anomia” along the Frogg Café like “femtende marsj “ to monolithic Present-like chamber prog, e.g. in “satam”, the staggered rhythm of the latter being set by an alarm clock. This variety in styles may originate in the different musical backgrounds of the musicians: There is Gjellum on drums who is musically tied to Scandinavian bands like the above mentioned Samlas Mammas Manna and Canterbury bands like National Health, Caravan or Hatfield & The North, Anders K.Krabberod on bass guitar who regards Van der Graaf Generator but also modern classical composers with a favour or Ståle Storløkken’s cousin Jarle on guitars, who has played in the excellent classical prog cover band Dead Dino Storage before.
The variety is also reflected in the sheer diversity of instruments including several guest musicians like Univers Zero’s and former Art Zoyd’s Michel Berckmans contributing bassoon and English horn, the flute by Jaga Jazzist’s Ketil Vestrum and violin, vibraphone and xylophone.
Some fans of the more extreme avant-garde tunes might dislike the chilly, long on melody passages, some followers of classical progressive rock might dislike the more heavy passages or shifted rhythms. However, since none of the mentioned is dominating the record, both camps will find their respective moments on this fine record. And in the end, you get what you’d expect from Panzerpappa and, yeah, they could be tighter like on “satam” but they just don’t want to – and that’s one for the plus-side here.
Hence, to sum it up with a quote from band’s label page, they “mix the melodic and complex” and do a damn good job. Their compositions on Astromalist are more dense and the sound is more transparent than on the antecessor “Koralrevens Klagesang”. But like already heard there, Gjellum’s collaboration with Richard Sinclair clearly left its marks. Or, to sum it up with the words of one of the Avantgarde-Prog Godfathers: ”melodic, with a light but solid ensemble sound, rich, detailed, nuanced and with a style that is still their own”. Accordingly, this distinguished combination of Rock In Opposition wrapped up in Canterbury sound hence comes clearly highly recommended.