Review Summary: A magnificent desert walk.
Gazpacho are a Norwegian neo-progressive band with strong ambient and space rock sensibilities, standing at the forefront of the prog revival movement. Since their first album in 2002, the band has managed, promoted and produced all of their own albums. The structure and feel of the music are reminiscent of Phideaux, while the slow-paced progressions recall Talk Talk’s later post-rock days. Due to their dark, passionate ambiance and sonic texture, the group has always been associated with the Hogarth-led incantation of Marillion (a regular touring partner), though they also reference Radiohead in this context. Gazpacho offers strong melodic content, complemented by dreamy, ethereal moods. The expansive music combines subtle shades and airy, spacey atmospheres through clever arrangements, with orchestral overtones.
The band found both a mature and distinctive sound (soundscapes combining piano/keyboard and violin) through their two stellar concept albums: Night
and its successor Tick Tock
, their most representative efforts to date. Tick Tock
has more depth and content than its predecessor, a natural evolution stylistically. Both build towards a similar climax, retaining a melancholic, heart-wrenching attitude. They are skilfully gloomy, at times even radiant within their atmosphere. No place for fiery solos, sudden time changes or a technical skill display, only for incredible songwriting; their style falls somewhere between moody progressive and classic alternative, unable to be really defined.
Gazpacho’s influences are noted in Jan Henrik Ohmes’ deep, sensitive yet fragile voice, which could be described as Mark Hollis meets Steve Hogarth. The band’s playing creates a sense of restrained power, as guitar, keyboards and violin weave a compulsive spell around the hypnotic rhythm. The well-accentuated use of cello, violin and flute strengthens the piano, organ and especially dominant mellotron, respectively manned by Mikael Komer and Thomas Anderson, who keep on building a wonderful wall of sound with their instruments.
This particular record is the extended development of a theme: the two featured epics Walk
and Tick Tock
are sandwiched in between the two shorter Desert Flight
and Winter is Never
. A simple, repetitive rhythm – as implied by the album’s title – sets the foundation for magical slow builds and haunting soundscapes, as the musical tension is ever so carefully wound up. The subject matter concerns the attempted long distance flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, his co-pilot, and their crash in the desert. Listening to the album with the proper background in mind adds to the music considerably. The title ‘Tick Tock’ is a metaphor for the walking that these men did through the desert, and draws the foundation for the album; Gazpacho hit the feeling of this environment perfectly. The cover art helps to convey the desperation of the trek across the desert, with the mirrored image of the clock set in sand.
is the harder rocking opening that actually represents the flight itself. The song is pretty fast paced for their style at the time, showing an edgier side of Gazpacho with its harsh guitar, very much comparable to Muse. After the plane crashes and the wandering starts, the album comes closer to the subtlety, hypnotic flow and mellow atmosphere that the band accomplished in the cold beauty of Night
As a result, the remainder of the material presents this dreamy atmosphere with many eerie tapestries, in an emotional and focused way. The Walk
is deeply melodic, with wonderful layered keyboards and a Middle Eastern-flavoured violin, full of grace and character. The title track targets a timeless horizon, displaying arrangements that rise in a calm, determined splendour; the ticking rhythm that runs through it is a great touch and invokes the story well. The closing Winter is Never
is the most straightforward track and acts as a lullaby, gently easing towards the end of this incredible musical vessel.
Gazpacho bring well-crafted songs and passionate performances here, creating incredible, emotionally strong atmospheres, which further benefit from an excellent production. The music is grandiose but never self-indulgent. The emphasis is on the collective: thanks to the recurring rhythmical motif, the tracks flow together to make standout moments less important than the overall feel of the record. It is an engaging, carefully plotted journey, an insistent train ride where the scenery slowly becomes more dramatic. Tick Tock
demands your full attention, but those who enjoy subtlety and flow are in for a treat.