Anekdoten – From Within (1999) (****)

 

Cover

What’s to like?

Classy Scandinavian prog album from the nineties gets a second lease of life as a Kscope label reissue, with a finely balanced remastering.

The low down

Anekdoten were one of a clutch of Scandinavian bands that came to the fore in the progressive scene during the nineties, inspired by the sound of early King Crimson, with an emphasis on vintage organ and mellotron, underlined by aggressive bass and guitar lines.

This period of prog completely passed me by, and it wasn’t until the Kscope label released a compilation titled Chapters in 2009, that I had my first encounter with Anekdoten. The band’s earlier material is very dark and intensely moody, which I actually like, but the tendency to briefly riff on a beautiful melody and then crush it mercilessly with discordant thrashing can get wearing after a while.

The later material, on the other hand, saw the band moving slowly away from that musique-concrete approach, and focussing more on melodic song arrangements, but without compromising the dark ambience and experimental vibe characteristic of Scandinavian prog.

Anekdoten’s career so far has included six studio albums, which can be acquired in a bundle package from the band’s website, but given the band’s comparatively low profile (especially in the UK), it could be hard to track down their cds, even in used stores.

So now Kscope have released the band’s third album From Within, newly remastered, and it’s a good place to start, if you’re unfamiliar with the band. The previous album, Nucleus, saw the band push the Crimson template to the extreme, with the discordant element overwhelming everything else and making it an exhausting listening experience. [Interestingly, Kscope have lined this one up as a remastered reissue in late July.]

Happily, From Within is a welcome contrast, focussing more on songs and melody, and ditching the impenetrable dissonance. The mellotron is very much at the forefront of the mix, giving the music a sense of drama and pathos, but equally offering some beautiful moments of tranquillity.

The electric guitar is more of a partner for the mellotron in the music, rather than a lead instrument, and provides layered notes and effects to complement the keyboard melodies. The bass guitar on the other hand, brings a much more muscular presence to the music, and if you love the sound of a Rickenbacker being aggressively strummed to provide deep and driving bass notes, then this album will definitely appeal. Check out the album’s title track for a fine example of this style of playing.

Anekdoten’s music is very much a case of substance over style, with each song having a unique ambience to it, and all four members synched in to a collective mindset. So even though the songs eschew conventional arrangements, and can twist and turn in unexpected directions, there’s a sense of control all the way through, with each moment precisely as long or short as it needs to be.

There’s also a sense of less is more. The track The Sun Absolute uses the bare minimum of notes to introduce the melody and then gradually builds on this foundation by continually repeating those basic notes, while gradually introducing new layers of keyboards in the background. It’s very effective in building up an atmosphere and engaging the listener.

The vocals are sung in English, and the lyrics have a state-of -mind vagueness to them, but they flow well within the tempo of the song, and Nicklas Barker has a gentle lilt to his voice which adds to the effect, especially on the tender eulogy of For Someone which closes the album.

It’s interesting that this album is over twenty years old, because to my ears it sits very comfortably alongside the current sounds of post-progressive bands on the Kscope roster, and will appeal to fans of Lunatic Soul and Katatonia, and possibly also fans of Opeth’s recent albums.

And the remastering of the album has been nicely done. When I compared this version with the previous edition, it quickly became apparent how harsh the original mastering, whereas this new edition has a much more dynamic range, with a tad less volume. The bass guitar in particular sounds much warmer and full-bodied, and the background guitar and keyboard effects now have more presence.

Anekdoten haven’t been the most prolific of acts, either in terms of albums or live performances, but if Kscope are picking up their back catalogue this might offer an opportunity for newcomers to discover this interesting band, and From Within is a recommended starting point.

Anekdoten

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