Review Summary: "The best unsigned band in the world" exceeds expectations.
As stated in the summary, Gazpacho has been dubbed “the best unsigned band in the world” by some critics. This is a pretty impressive claim, and anyone who has read this statement without listening to the band must imagine that there is some good reason why they haven’t been signed; they couldn’t possibly be that great. Anyone who has read this statement and then has subsequently listened to the band must think that there is no good reason why this band isn’t signed; they’re really, really great. With that said, let’s get to know Gazpacho a little bit better.
Hailing from Oslo, Norway, the original five members of Gazpacho came together a decade ago just to write and record music for the sheer pleasure of it, with no real intentions of releasing anything. Half a decade later, however, their intentions must have changed, as they have added a sixth member and have been releasing albums at a rapid-fire pace ever since. Since 2003 they have released four records, getting better and better with each new offering. Their first three: Bravo
, When Earth Lets Go
, and Firebird
all share a similar sound, heavily influenced by the slightly progressive alternative music of Marillion and Radiohead. 2007’s Night
, however, is a concept album that shows the band making huge sonic strides.
The album deals with illusion vs. reality, specifically while dreaming, and the music they have made is appropriate for the subject matter. Gone are the four-minute-long songs that filled their previous albums, and in are five sprawling epics, ranging from six and a half to seventeen minutes in length. The music is atmospheric and dark, violin and pianos abound, with the occasional noisy sections just to keep things interesting; this is their most progressive recording to date, sharing more similarities with Pink Floyd than Radiohead. These similarities are no more apparent than on the opener, and aforementioned seventeen-minute-long song, “Dream of Stone.” It is soft and slow, building at a snail’s pace, possibly capable of inducing sleep if the listener wasn’t paying attention to its haunting beauty.
“Chequered Light Buildings” calls to mind Radiohead and Jeff Buckley more than its predecessor, mostly because singer Jan Henrik Ohme sometimes sounds uncannily like Messrs Yorke and Buckley. This song is like a condensed version of “Dream of Stone,” as the guitar and violin slowly become more and more prominent, but unlike the opener, it doesn’t go through several movements. Its structure, which is much more “normal,” also adds credence to the Radiohead and Buckley comparisons. This song flows seamlessly into “Upside Down,” which is arguably the best song on the album. Softly sung female vocals occasionally add some of the catchiest and most beautiful moments of the entire record, and some prominent keyboard work from Thomas Andersen combined Ohme’s own hypnotizing vocals drive the song forward until violinist Mikael Kromer gently closes everything out.
“Valerie’s Friend” is the most accessible song on the record, sounding almost like a Dream Theater ballad. Typically “Dream Theater” and “accessible” aren’t used in the same sentence, but “Valerie’s Friend” isn’t overbearingly accessible, so I’m not crazy. The song goes back and forth for five minutes between calmer, acoustic sections and heavy, electric sections, before another orchestral-sounding outro. The outro connects it to the album’s closer, “Massive Illusion,” thirteen minutes of brilliance. Things border on typical for the first two minutes and forty seconds, before the song turns... folky, with acoustic guitars, vocal harmonies, and handclaps overpowering the ambience. Things straighten out eventually, almost sounding like a grander version of their earlier work, until the nine-minute mark, where everything drops out except for the violin and piano. This duo provides a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful album, until even they exeunt, leaving us with a minute of peaceful street traffic; the night is over.
If I were in charge of a major record company I would be in contact with this band immediately, it’s no wonder how they have sold thousands of records and gained a decent fanbase through just word-of-mouth and the internet. They could probably become one of the best signed bands in the world if they are given that chance; I think they’re that good. Now go listen to this.