Gazpacho’s Molok: Norway’s Latest Mystery

Gazpacho's latest album, MOLOK (Kscope, 2015).
Gazpacho’s latest album, MOLOK (Kscope, 2015).

Gazpacho, MOLOK (Kscope, 2015).

Every time I delve into a new Gazpacho album, I fail to understand at what level I should comprehend and analyze the lyrics.  Are they meant literally or symbolically?  Is the band writing poetry or recording a nightmare?  As always, Gazpacho presents puzzles, usually quite Gnostic, that might or might not sort themselves out after many listens.  The latest album, Molok, is not only no different in this respect than their previous albums, but it is also much more frustrating to comprehend.

Molok, of course, is neither a good god nor a good guy.  He’s a terror and a horror to all that is decent and civilized.

In English, his name is generally rendered as Moloch, and he is best remembered in the western tradition (through the Jews) as the god who demands the blood sacrifice of children.  He is, simply put, a demon and an abomination.  Across the centuries, almost no one has defended Moloch as anything other than a horror.

In the 1920s, especially, he made several cultural appearances.  In Willa Cather’s stunning American novel, DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP, Archbishop Latour retches upon finding the cave in which the natives once threw their children to the gods.

In that same decade, film director Fritz Lang depicted Moloch as the modern machine of industrialization—raping and pillaging life, while demanding conformity in all things.

In the 20s and 30s, many in the West would associate Moloch with the machines being erected in fascist Italy, German, Portugal, Poland, and Austria.

Interestingly, Gazpacho sets their album in 1920.

After listening to the disc close to twenty times and delving deeply into the lyrics, I still don’t know what the album is about.  When asked by TeamRock (Prog and Classic Rock), the keyboardist answered:

Molok is about a man that, sometime around 1920, decides that wherever anyone worships a God, they always seem to be worshipping stone in some form. Whether it’s a grand cathedral, the stone in Mecca or Stonehenge, God seems to have been chased by his worshipers into stone, never to return.  This harkens back to Norwegian folk myths, where, if a troll was exposed to sunlight, it would turn to stone. But it also reflects the way God has been incommunicado for a very long time.

I get the second part of the statement, but the first part baffles me.  Indeed, it begs more questions than it answers.

I find it hard to believe that a band as seemingly humane and dignified as Gazpacho would ever have anything positive to state about an abomination or a fascist.  Indeed, such an interpretation flies in the face of everything that seems true about the band.

Presuming, then, that Gazpacho is not promoting any form of fascism or an abomination, I find myself scratching my head.  What on God’s green earth are they talking about?

The lyrics refer to two important figures in the Western tradition, the pre-Socratic philosopher, Zeno (not the Stoic one of later centuries), and the Hessian-Anglo composer and astronomer, William Herschel.

I’m no closer to an answer.

I first came across the Norwegian art rock band around 2007 when the band released its magnum opus, NIGHT.  Since then, the band has never NOT taken chances.  Importantly, as they’ve explored the mystical in their lyrics, they’ve successfully incorporated a variety of folk music and folk instruments into their rock.  As far as I know, they rarely promote themselves as art rock rather than prog.  This is fine, of course, and it applies.  Gazpacho is nothing if not arty.

The new album, MOLOK, is a real treat.  As I admitted, I’m still not sure what the story is.  But, in no way has this lessened my enjoyment of the album.  I’ll keep exploring, as I’m bound and determined to figure this thing out.  Until then. . . any thoughts are more than welcomed.

RochaNews: Gazpacho’s Latest, MOLOK

A review copy of the latest Gazpacho showed up about three or four days ago, and I’ve been listening to it, over and over again.  My first thought: what is this?  My second thought: wow, this is really subtle.  My third thought: there’s something really profound going on here.  My fourth (and most recent) thought: this is freaking incredible.  I still need to listen with headphones, but my thoughts (collectively) after about five listens–MOLOK is a thing of intense beauty, the best Gazpacho has made since MISSA ANTROPOS.  More to come. . . .

Molok.  In English, Moloch, a king who demands the sacrifice of children.
Molok. In English, Moloch, a king who demands the sacrifice of children.

GAZPACHO TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM “MOLOK” THIS WEEK ON KSCOPE

First single “Know Your Time” streaming online

NORWAY – Norwegian art-rock progressive outfit Gazpacho will release its brand new studio album Molok through Kscope this Friday, October 23. Molok can be pre-ordered on CD and LP via the Kscope web-store at: www.kscopemusic.com/store. The CD version will feature an additional instrumental track “Algorithm.”

The first single, “Know Your Time,” is streaming on Soundcloud at: https://soundcloud.com/kscopemusic/gazpacho-know-your-time-taken-from-new-studio-album-molok/s-dBSqz.

1. Park Bench

2. The Master’s Voice

3. Bela Kiss

4. Know Your Time

5. Choir of Ancestors

6. ABC

7. Algorithm

8. Alarm

9. Molok Rising

Molok, the follow up to the acclaimed 2014 album Demon, sees the band continue to push the boundaries for creating the most complicated and strangest concepts for a record while simultaneously becoming the first band ever to actively try to destroy the universe with an album. A small code that sounds like a strange noise at the end of the album will cause the correction software that runs in all CD players to generate a random number every time the CD is played. If that number should correspond to the actual position of all electrons in the universe then technically the universe could be destroyed.

Dr. Adam Washington from the University of Sheffield confirms that this is science fact rather than fiction: “The random signal produced by the end of the disk contains enough bits of information to express a measurement of the total number of fundamental particles present in the universe. If the noise actually contained such a measurement, and that measurement was performed rapidly enough, the universe’s total particle count could be fixed under the Quantum Zeno effect. Locking the total particle count would prevent the pair production that forms a fundamental part of the decay of black holes. Without such decay forces, black holes would remain stable forever, without the need for nearby matter or the cosmic microwave background to keep them fed. This would greatly hasten the practical end of the universe.”

The band further commented: “If it can be destroyed by such minute creatures within it, if it is just a chemical reaction, then does it have any spiritual value? In this scenario there is no good or bad, just an absence of meaning.”

Across the album there are religious themes going head to head with modern day new science ideas and theories, Gazpacho’s Thomas Andersen states, “the album itself is about a man that sometime around 1920 decides that wherever anyone worships a God they always seem to be worshipping stone in some form. Whether it is a grand cathedral, the stone in Mecca or Stonehenge. God seems to have been chased by his worshipers into stone never to return. This harkens back to Norwegian folk myths where if a troll was exposed to sunlight it would turn to stone but it also reflects the way God has been incommunicado for a very long time.”

The band goes on to say: “In a mechanistic view of the universe all events in the universe are a consequence of a previous event. This means that with enough information you should be able to calculate the past and the future and this is what he does. He names the machine ‘Molok’ after the biblical demon into whose jaws children were sacrificed because his machine crunches numbers. On solstice day he starts the machine and it quickly gains some form of intelligence as it races through history undergoing its own evolution.”

Throughout Molok Gazpacho focuses on the idea that without God/a god to guide us, humanity is unsure of the meaning of life, that while we attempt to fill the void with other things we’ve still not found the answer; without a master to lean on we are very much alone in this universe.

On the album Gazpacho makes a direct connection with history. Norwegian music archaeologist Gjermund Kolltveit appears on the song “Molok Rising,” playing his reconstruction of stone-age instruments with an educated guess at what the early songs of worship must have sounded like. This includes small stones, moose jaws and an assortment of flutes and stringed instruments. He also plays the Skåra stone, a singing stone which has a strong possibility of having been in use since the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago. Technically this means that the album uses the oldest original instrument ever recorded on an album.

The band is also joined by world-renowned Norwegian accordion player Stian Carstensen who is a central member of Balkan-jazz orchestra Farmers Market.

Stay tuned for more information on Gazpacho and Molok, out this week on Kscope.

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Gazpacho online…

www.kscopemusic.com/gazpacho

www.gazpachoworld.com

https://www.facebook.com/Gazpacho.Official.BandPage

The Billy Reeves/Kscope Podcast 67 Now Available

kscope-mileslogo3Who wouldn’t love the sound of Billy Reeves!  He possesses an immaculate, educated English voice.  And, of course, there’s a great brain and soul behind that voice.

Enjoy Podcast 67.

The TesseracT Special

We speak to guitarist James Monteith about what makes this new album (their first for Kscope, Polaris) different from the predecessors.
Plus: how to vote for Steven Wilson in the Classic Rock magazine awards, and details of a new album from Norweigan art-rock masters, the mighty Gazpacho.

In this podcast (all from Polaris):
Dystopia
Hexes (collaboration with Martin Grech)
Survival
Seven Names

ORDER ALBUM:
UK & Europe: bit.ly/1IjRAHn
North America: bit.ly/1KLUuHU
Australia: bit.ly/1SVJZng
Digital iTunes:  smarturl.it/Polaris_Digital
Digital Amazon: smarturl.it/Polaris_AmazonMP3
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO FOR SURVIVAL: bit.ly/1NJ8wwt
www.kscopemusic.com/tesseract

http://www.kscopemusic.com/Podcasts/

Pillage and Plunder – The Show Must Go Wrong

pillageIf you have occasional fond thoughts of 90s art rock bands like the Monks of Doom you may also recall, while waxing nostalgic about the dear old 1990s, that there was a golden moment, after the commercial breakthrough of punk/grunge/indie rock in America but before the advent of Napster, when bands that had been toiling in musical nether regions for years finally had their moments in the sun.  The MoD were an offshoot of Camper Van Beethoven, the most palatably inventive American band of the 1980s and early 1990s, and like the great Camper Van approached American prog — delegated generally and unfortunately to the backwater of “jam” band categorization — with a firm belief that dumping every damn thing they could think of into the musical kettle and bringing it all to boil would work.  And it mostly did.  We’re talking about music that went deeply into the spirit of blues and other “ethnic” musics as processed through Roky Erickson, Captain Beefheart and, later, performance art bands like Butthole Surfers and the Flaming Lips, a twisted and distinctly American edge-of-the-frontier wildness that would make a great novel if Cormac McCarthy ever chose to write it.  In the pages of Progarchy I’ve before referenced the spectacular Metal Flake Mother out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who sailed these same waters and with the same ethic in the 90s, and my notion is that regionally there were many bands following a similar path, nodding to the blues, jazz, European folk, surf guitar, 50s lounge music, Tom Waits, and punk all at the same time, as if the real guitar heroes in the room were Django Reinhardt, Marc Ribot, Dick Dale, and Sonny Sharrock.  In the post-punk pre-internet age, these bands sold records, sometimes lots of records, and could sustain careers lasting, well, months.

Pillage and Plunder brought this short-lived and extremely satisfying era to life when I spun up their new record, The Show Must Go Wrong, for the first time.  Mixing an eclectic take on Belew-era Crimson with an Esquivel-via-Cake loungeyness, Pillage and Plunder map a journey that’s less highway than exit ramps, and across its 35 minutes The Show Must Go Wrong takes every possible detour, sightseeing on the outskirts of modern music.  The breathtakingly inventive “Beetlejuice” opens the record, with its furious and metallic nod to prime Oingo Boingo, and with “Boogeyman” the music maintains its carnival-esque darkness, backed by big riffs and chops.  “How Did It Come To This?” follows, and the album turns in mood, which got me to thinking that the precocious musicianship here on display presents a problem for Pillage and Plunder, though it’s not a bad problem to have: while the songs are composed and concise (a big plus), as an album The Show Must Go Wrong comes at times dangerously close to living up to its title, as it suffers at points from a lack of curatorial will in favor of showcasing musical dexterity, favoring breadth over depth.  So the promise of sideways-tilting, reach-deep, dark humor at the top of the album — and revisited in such songs as the excellent “Moocow” and “Nutcracker” — turns into an occasionally studied oddball-ness as the record unfolds.  But it’s a small complaint for the kind of record this is supposed to be, not to mention that the songs have a way of turning themselves into earworms that simply will not leave the head and hum alone.  Check for instance, “I Will Drink The Ocean When I Go There,” which premieres here on Progarchy:

The assured pop classicism and working of the tropes is skilled, while the power trio of guitarist/vocalist Gokul Parasuram, bassist Hsiang-Ming Wen, and drummer Noah Kess flexes its axe-wielding abandon with a kind of Les Paul meets Alex Lifeson glory in big guitars, impossible drums, and killer bass.  Pillage and Plunder has the skills to create great music, and while the successes on The Show Must Go Wrong may be qualified by work that is less focused than it could be, the promise of the record suggests we should keep listening.

Hsian-Ming Wen graciously sat down with Progarchy and gave us some answers to our burning questions.  I’ll say right now that name-checking Television’s “Friction” alone could sell me on the the band, and I’m impressed with the way Pillage and Plunder sees themselves and their work.

Q: Given your youth, Pillage and Plunder has a long history — what keeps you together and what inspired the new record?

A: Before the band started, we were already best of friends, so making music & being around each other all the time came pretty naturally. Our songwriting almost always stems from whatever is prevalent in our lives at the moment. So, for the new record, inspiration drew mostly from themes of personal relationships, struggles with self-worth, and existentialism. I had just graduated college when I wrote “Summer Days” and couldn’t find a job, and was just thinking, “shit, what do i do with my life?” It was me dealing with the frustration of trying to meet my personal goals, and “Moocow” deals with the idea of self-doubt when it comes to your personal talents — questioning when people pat you on the back and tell you how well you’ve done. It actually has the line, “I’m screaming at the world for tricking me into thinking I had a purpose, a gift that’s rare.” So we ask ourselves if it’s a fluke, or do we/you actually possess that talent?

Q: Who would I find next to Pillage and Plunder on Pandora? What songs would you imagine coming before and after “Beetlejuice”?

A: We’d like to imagine we could tango with the likes of Muse, Deerhoof, King Crimson, and Weezer. “Friction” by Television and “Drug Ballad” by Eminem would be a fun juxtaposition for “Beetlejuice.” We like to think that our music is universally acceptable as we draw from so many different wells, where post-punk enthusiasts, indie-rockers and the hip-hop heads could each find something enjoyable to take out of it.

Q: There are several nods to traditional pop song structures — thinking the tarantella-ish “I Will Drink the Ocean When I Go There,” the music hall  of “The Last Date,” and the noir jazz of “Hit & Run” — what took you down these roads?

A: We grew up listening to a variety of music styles, Charles Mingus & Art Blakey, Green Day & Weezer, and traditional pop like Sinatra, and just like learning a language, we started out imitating what we heard until we began to understand the different structures & nuances. Then we start putting our own spin on things and developing a personal songwriting style, the fruits of said efforts being what you hear on the new record; a blend of homage and trying to carve out our own little corner in the musical world.

Q: While this is a very guitar-forward record, the drums and bass really push and pull the songs in a way that makes the musicianship of all the band members clear.  What are your musical backgrounds, and how do you find a balance so all the voices are heard?
A: Gokul & Noah are both jazz-trained and listened to a lot of progressive rock & hip-hop growing up, while I was classically-trained and listened to primarily pop rock & folk. Being just a three-piece band challenges us to get creative with our parts, and I think our definition of “interesting” music is instinctively geared towards more acrobatic, spacious, and diverse parts. Like in “Moocow” the three of us play distinct poly-rhythmic time signatures with Noah keeping down the basic beat on drums, me hitting a constant up-and-down bassline, while Gokul plays a series of single note riffs on guitar. And we move together. As the guitar simplifies the bass becomes more complex and vice versa. And on “Hit & Run” we built a weird, offbeat, syncopated rhythm. It almost sounds like it’s tripping up some stairs. It’s so different from most pop-rock songs.

Q: You have a gonzo vocal approach to offbeat lyrics — how do you think about words in songs, and how would you describe the balance of words and music when writing?

A: 99% of the time the music comes first, including the vocal melody, and the lyrics come in to play last, with things like cadence, alliteration, & rhyme schemes kept in mind while we write out the lyrics. However no rules really exist with our songwriting; it changes from song to song based on the mood we take from it. For example “Keep Dreaming” and “The Last Date” are sonically like siblings, but the vocals were written in completely different ways. “Keep Dreaming’s” chord progression was worked out first. Then, the lyrics came more as a narrative without worrying too much about how it fits while keeping things simple and melodic without too many syllables or rhyming. Where on the “The Last Date” I wanted to write a short pop song that adhered to a traditional rhyme scheme.

Q: As a narrative, is The Show Must Go Wrong a novel or a collection of short stories?

A: We’d consider TSMGW more of a collection of short stories about different personal struggles. There is however an overall theme of always moving forward and trying to pick yourself back up when you get knocked down. Even if things don’t go as planned, nothing gets accomplished unless you do something about it.

Q: Do you think of Pillage and Plunder as an Atlanta band? What other bands there hold your attention?

A: We all grew up in a suburb just outside of Atlanta called Alpharetta, but Pillage & Plunder as a collective has lived in the city for years and we definitely considers ourself an Atlanta band. We love this city. Atlanta has seen a lot of exciting developments & growth in recent years, with everything from architecture & film to theatre & food, and we’re proud to be a part of it. As far as the music scene goes, you can find a little bit of everything here. Some personal favorites, in no particular order, include Slowriter, Mice in Cars, Baby Baby, Noel Stephen & The Darlings, Clibber Jones Ensemble, Hello Cobra, Places to Hide, Futo, and SEX BBQ.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: We’re going to keep writing music and try to contribute what we can to this funny thing called life.

RochaNews: New Engineers, September 16

ENGINEERS TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM “ALWAYS RETURNING” ON SEPTEMBER 16 VIA KSCOPE

Teaser video featuring track snippets posted on YouTube

ENGLAND – Engineers will release its upcoming fourth studio album, Always Returning, on September 16 via Kscope. The band has unveiled a teaser video containing snippets of the tracks “Fight or Flight,” “Searched for Answers” and “Always Returning” on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GswJTg4ykGw.
Written and recorded alone at home in York by multi-instrumentalist, Mark Peters, before being coated with deft brush strokes of ambient electronica by celebrated German artist/producer, Ulrich Schnauss, Always Returning is a record that unhurriedly drifts in and out of focus, hinting at themes without ever making them so explicit that the listener can’t map out their own personal interpretations. It delivers an overall emotional heft that’s impossible to pull away from.

1.  Bless the Painter

2.  Fight or Flight

3.  It Rings so True

4.  Drive Your Car

5.  Innsbruck

6.  Searched for Answers

7.  Smiling Back

8.  A Million Voices

9.  Smoke and Mirrors

10.  Always Returning

Engineers – with London based drummer and composer, Matthew Linley, rounding out the line-up – has been creating mesmerizing music with brilliantly shaded guitar textures and teasing lyrical ambiguities for over 10 years across three albums – 2005’s debut Engineers (“hypnotic lullabies from beautific Brit newcomers” **** Q), 2009’s Three Fact Fader (“a blistering statement of intent” **** The Sunday Times), and 2010’s swift follow-up In Praise Of More (“should be given to most UK bands as an example of in making an album that is a joy to behold” 8/10 Clash).

 

Stay tuned for more information on Engineers and Always Returning, out this September on Kscope.

 

UPDATE (July 10): 

The band is now offering a free download of the new track “Fight or Flight” via the Kscope website at:http://www.kscopemusic.com/2014/07/10/engineers-offer-free-download/. The song is also streaming on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/-MxRgFAWjMo.

 

Engineers online…https://www.facebook.com/engineersband

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/engineers

 

Gazpacho Explains the New Album

A note from Thomas Anderson

Hi all connoisseurs and lovers of different music! We are in the happy position of being able to offer you the chance of indulging in the guiltiest pleasure of all for music aficionados. You can now purchase the new Gazpacho album.

It is called Demon and it is a true fully fledged concept album.

Here is the official info on the album:

Demon is inspired by a conversation Thomas had with his father a few years ago where he spoke of a dark force moving through history. During the conversation his father recalled a business visit to Prague in the seventies where he visited the family of some of his hosts.

The family lived in an old apartment, recently renovated after a fire. In the debris, an old manuscript was found. The manuscript was written by a previous resident, for which no records existed other than that his rent had been pre-paid for many years.

Written over two years, the band have described Demon as the ‘most complicated and strange album Gazpacho has ever made’ and whether the manuscript is truly the work of an obsessed madman or an urban legend it has certainly provided the basis for an interesting twist on a concept album. The manuscript contained various ramblings and diagrams which formed the basis of a diary, of sorts, of the man. He claimed to have discovered the source of what he called an evil presence in the world.

This presence, ‘The Demon’, was an actual intelligent will, with no mercy and a desire for bad things to happen. The author wrote as if he had lived for thousands of years stalking this presence and the manuscript contains references to outdated branches of mathematics, pagan religions unknown to the present world and an eyewitness account of the bubonic plague. So crazed were the writings that the document was donated to the Strahov Library in Prague, where it was thought it would be of interest to students of psychiatry.

The thought of this mysterious figure that had lived through the ages, hunting the ‘Demon’, seemed like too good of an idea not to write about. Thomas presented the idea to the band who were just as inspired by the story, and with Jan Henrik, he started writing the lyrics based on what they thought the manuscript would reveal, drawing inspiration from previously ‘discovered’ diaries and manifests.

The story is told in four parts, ending with ‘Death Room’ which are the last words of the unfinished manuscript written just before the disappearance of the unknown writer.

We hope you enjoy it.

Love from all of us, Gazpacho

A Song for Our Surveilled Time

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the release of an overlooked landmark of blue-eyed soul — Hall and Oates’ AbaFile:Hall Oates War Babies.jpgndoned Luncheonette.

But I’m not going to write about that.  Digging up and sharing “Laughing Boy” to my Facebook wall sent me on a tangent to locate another lost “jewel” from their 1974 follow-up, War Babies.  Produced by Todd Rundgren, this LP was as close as the Philadelphia duo came to exploring the boundaries of art rock (Daryl Hall would revisit the medium with his Robert Fripp-produced Sacred Songs).  It’s a post-traumatic tale of life in the stagflationary doldrums, when “radical Islam” was merely a pawn to be maneuvered against an existential Soviet threat.

The song I was searching for is track 2, side 2, entitled “I’m Watching You (A Mutant Romance).”  Now, unless you’ve been under a rock or living with Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen in a swamp, you are surely aware of the Snowden revelations of sweeping government snooping.   “I’m Watching You” eerily anticipates such a claustrophobic dystopia by nearly four decades.

It’s the first-person narrative of a “dirty spy with a TV eye” following the wanderings of a prostitute (“Jewel”) through the city, the sweeping movement of the surveillance camera captured by Tommy Mottola’s synthesizer.  There’s  enough resolution to make out the smile on her lips; she reminds him of a girl he used to know in junior high (my wife and kids, on a field trip to a police public safety office, were rather disquieted by the detail the cameras could detect — “The wasps looked like dinosaurs, dad!”).

Our hidden narrator bemoans the moments when she disappears with a client into a building.  But when she reemerges he can “love” her, “as a man can love a woman.”

It makes you want to sign up for HTTPS Everywhere and Do Not Track Me, shut down the kids’ chat sites and cover your computer’s camera with duct tape.  Todd Rundgren’s sweet slide guitar and angelic backing vocals, far from making this savory, only intensify the irony.

But it serves as a troubling insight into a world of some troubled snoops (and they are bound to exist), the tension between the necessity of public safety and private fantasy, between what is real and what is imagined in the darkness behind watching eyes…