Review Summary: Fuzzy frolics under a kaleidoscopic sun. The Norwegian psychonauts are back with a rollicking beast of a record brimming over with confidence and swagger.
One thing you could never accuse Motorpsycho of doing is settling into a groove. Over their prolific 25 year career the Norwegian trio have incorporated such disparate elements as grungy alternative rock, jazz, psychedelia, prog and hard rock in their music, admittedly with varying degrees of success. The 2012 release of the ambitious double album 'The Death Defying Unicorn' found the group venturing about as far into the realms of symphonic jazz and progressive rock as they had ever wandered and proved to be a divisive offering. Since then they have retreated somewhat from the inscrutable airs of that particular opus back into their more familiar territory of psych-fuelled hard rock and jazz pumped jams. 'Behind The Sun', their 16th studio release, finds them in an almost consolidatory mood drawing upon many of the styles they have already explored. So, is this album just another example of an artistically spent force going through the motions, bereft of motivation and zest ? Not a bit of it.
At their best, Motorpsycho seem able to effortlessly blend multiple styles into a seamless flow without so much as a second thought. A case in point is the extended suite 'Hell, part 4-6, Traitor/The Tapestry/Swiss Cheese Mountain' which takes the listener on a sonic adventure through dreamy psychedelia, pastoral prog, urgent hard rock and pounding spacescapes. The skewed rhythms pull you through a landscape of gently swelling mellotron, crunchy guitars and plaintive vocals before erupting into the sort of vacillating rhythmic grooves designed to lift the listener into a heightened state. The performances throughout are tight and focused but the music retains an unforced quality which suggests that these guys have honed their collective musical prowess to near subconcious levels of synergy. There is also a playful exuberance about the more experimental passages and this is exemplified by the instrumental piece 'Kvaestor (Where Greyhounds Dare)'. This particular chunk of unabashed self-indulgence is a gloriously effervescent mash-up of wild rhythms, chaotic widdling and lovingly butchered Iron Maiden
This album isn't all about extended jams and hedonistic musical adventures. Motorpsycho are able to successfully focus their energy into more easily digestible songs which is amply demonstrated on the vibrant rocker 'The Promise' which bubbles over with urgent hooks, insistent Rush style riffing and frizzy lead guitar. The trio's indie-psych leanings of the past re-surface in the downbeat tones of 'Ghost' with its guileless vocal track and fragile melodies which almost manage to conjure the spirit of Sparklehorse
mastermind Mark Linkous. The group's innate hard rocking sensibilities also manifest on a number of the tracks including the bluesy fuzzorama 'On A Plate' and the deranged album closer 'Hell Part 7: Victim Of Rock' which is a bedlam of thrusting hard rock riffs, frenzied leads and sheer bloody noise. But whatever style of music these guys deliver the most striking thing about the album as a whole is its brashness and fearless nonchalance.
This is a vigorous pot-pourri of ideas from a group of musicians brimming over with confidence and panache. A morass of stylistic lurches and sonic flights of fancy are held together by a super-glue like web of savvy musicianship, easy swagger and killer chops. Maybe Motorpsycho have indeed settled into a comfortable middle-age and will plow a familiar furrow from now on or maybe they are just having some fun before launching off on another one of their eclectic ventures. Either way, this album is a vital and energetic statement that suggests they will be entertaining us with their particular brand of bold sonic fusion for a long time yet.