Gazpacho, SOYUZ (Kscope 2018). Tracks: Soyuz One; Hypomania; Exit Suite; Emperor Bespoke; Sky Burial; Fleeting Things; Soyuz Out; and Rappaccini.
To be sure, every release from the Norwegian art rockers extraordinaire, Gazpacho, is not just another moment in a progger’s life, but an actual event—filled with meaning and significance, marked by the awareness and heighten-ness of all five senses.
For those of us in the United States, we wait that extra week for the package from Burning Shed to arrive. Then, we carefully remove the rectangular sticker from Kscope (this one, Kscope607) and, then, the cellophane. I have the strange habit of collecting every one of these cellophane stickers, placing each within the front or back cover of whatever book I’m reading at the time. Today, when the mail came, I was re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Book of Lost Tales, Part I. Hence, the Kscope607 sticker sits nicely behind the front cover.
Opening the booklet releases a smell every bit as satisfying as that of a brand new car. It’s a bit sweet and a bit pulpy. And, then, we dive into the pictures and, most importantly, the lyrics.
The only disappointing thing about a Gazpacho release is knowing that the next one is most likely at least two years out. Real art takes time, especially in the northern parts of the world. I’ve now gone through this ritual exactly 13 times (counting studio, live, and re-releases) since I first purchased NIGHT in 2007. It’s always healthy, and it’s always inspiring. As much a release as it is an inspiration.
Since the band’s first three albums, Gazpacho has only written concept albums. And, these are high concepts, generally, moving the listener into drifting and meandering dreamscapes, equally divided between peril and joy. One might see St. John the Beloved, or one might see the demon-god of avarice. Rarely does Gazpacho provide the listener with any physical anchor, taking us from windswept deserts to ceaseless horizons.
To my ear, SOYUZ is Gazpacho’s finest album since MISSA ATROPOS, and this is in no way slight praise, as the albums in-between—MARCH OF GHOSTS, DEMON, and MOLOK—were rather stunning, if not downright extraordinary.
To be sure, the band never fails to reach excellence, but it’s achieved a bit more than excellence with NIGHT, MISSA ATROPOS, and, now, SOYUZ.
On the last several albums, the band has experimented with the incorporation of traditional folk music, stories, and instruments. Ostensibly, the story of this latest album follows the tragedy of an April 1967 spaceflight, the Soviet capsule hitting the ground after the failure of its parachute to deploy. As the band’s keyboardist, Thomas A. Andersen, said in January, the album is really about a moment in time, captured, frozen, and, ultimately, stolen.
It is about being frozen in time…. Originally, it was only going to be a tone poem about the feeling you get from watching a white sail on a blue sea, but it grew into the monster it has become with the usual misanthropic drive now taken to an extreme, with the protagonist wanting to stop time in order to exist within a frozen moment. It laments the death of the old world, where everywhere was a different place with cultures and beliefs to match and not the homogenized marketplace the world has become. [https://www.popmatters.com/2018-progressive-rock-preview-2524218211.html]
Not atypically, Gazpacho employs a number of atypical instruments on this album. At least, that is, atypical for rock. What intrigued me most, however, is what seems to me to be a strong influence from the soundtrack of the Netflix series, STRANGER THINGS, by Texans, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. This seemed especially true on the second half of the album and most particularly on the album’s longest track, “Soyuz Out.”
As always with Gazpacho, their tenth studio album is delicate but not unredeemably fragile. Just when you think it might break, it bends and sways. The album is as much an orchestration as it is a release. Existential, it takes one toward the abyss, but it halts, just before possible impact.
A must own. A masterwork. The band’s third such.