Issue 2009-012: Gazpacho - Tick Tock - Round Table Review
Round Table Review
Tracklist: Desert Flight (7:39), The Walk (13:41): [Part I (8:03), Part II (5:39)], Tick Tock (22:24): [Part I (7:16), Part II (9:39), Part III (5:30)], Winter Is Never (4:55)
Brendan Bowen's Review
Gazpacho is a rare breed. There have been many attempts to over describe the music they produce as if to pigeonhole their style but such is a frivolous endeavour; it just ends up creating a long series of words that when put together actually describe nothing – so here goes: currently, as a continuation in style of their last album, Night, it is a dreamy latticework within which a story is told and stays within the context of a journey.
The first song is Desert Flight and it begins this story with an airplane flight from Paris to Saigon that crashed in the desert. This story, as described at www.gazpachoworld.com/news is the real-life experience of writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which formed the basis to his book called "Wind, Sand and Stars". The music is built up as a sort of auditory walk through the desert. This beginning seemed pretty fast paced for their current styling and even brought some of their earlier work to mind. In fact, this cut would have fit on Bravo quite nicely (previously reviewed here at DPRP.)
From there the similarity to previous albums is relegated to Night only. The full-bodied textures and spacious production make each individual instrument easily discernable and that much more integral. For an album that has been billed as having minimalistic elements, there is a lot going on to create this atmosphere.
The Walk is a build up segment that definitely takes its time and as such it is appropriate to the theme of walking through the desert; there is no short way through the desert when on foot.
The title cut, Tick Tock, runs just under 23 minutes and not a spec of it is boring or redundant. Consider the statement made by the band when introducing the general content of the forthcoming album: “After Night the monotonous repetition of a single bar of music that is changed by the chords and the songs on top of it still held a seductive charm for Gazpacho and thought Night dabbled in this, Tick Tock wallows.” It seems so counterintuitive that such a musical direction would not only work, but would set themselves up as giants in the prog field. Hard to imagine, but the success of Night was a real eye opener to the possibilities of this approach. Tick Tock, while much different than Night, follows Night with an immediate respectability.
The vocals of Jan-Henrik Ohme are showcased much more in this album than the past and used more as part of the instrumentation. His vocals are not an immediate bonus for a new listener but after a listen or two I couldn’t imagine any other vocal style to this music.
As mentioned before, there is a lot going on in this album. Many instruments congeal expertly in the slow paced progressions. Some instruments are quite foreign to rock (and prog rock in particular) such as the violin, and where many bands have ventured and under whelmed us, Gazpacho shines beautifully in their incorporation and introduction of these instruments and effects.
If you are a fan of music that transports you to another place, you will find nothing better. I, personally, listen to music primarily for this purpose so my rating will not come as a surprise. I live near a desert and the tactile nature of their descriptions through sound has a truth and substance to it that is rarely brought to this level by anyone. The master of this art is Pink Floyd, and Gazpacho did it without doing anything Floyd has already done. Bravo!
Geoff Feakes' Review
Up until now I’ve been familiar with Gazpacho in name only even though they’ve received a good deal of DPRP coverage and recognition over the past few years with each successive release receiving a recommendation tag. Not unnaturally I was curious to discover what all the fuss was about so when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a Round Table Review (RTR) for their fifth official album, I was quick to put my hand in the air. Back tracking through the previous reviews the names Radiohead, Coldplay, Muse, Marillion and Talk Talk consistently appear in the ‘sounds like’ category. I would largely agree with latter day Marillion coming closest along with shades of Steven Wilson at his most melancholic.
Desert Flight doesn’t for me get the album off to the most promising of starts with its stark vocal and grungy guitar intro. Once the song gets into its stride however it improves no end with solid drums and bass work from Robert Johansen and Kristian Torp, respectively supporting Jon-Arne Vilbo’s compelling guitar riff and atmospheric touches from keys man Thomas Andersen. The slow burning outro builds from humble beginnings to an intense finale with melodic violin embellishments courtesy of Mikael Krømer.
The two part The Walk opens in mellow fashion where Jan Henrik Ohme’s measured vocal is very reminiscent of Steve Hogarth, not so much in tone but in the delivery and phrasing. Delicate mandolin and acoustic guitar ease the song along with Middle Eastern flavoured violin against a keys string backdrop providing a feel not unlike Led Zep’s Kashmir. The mood is carried over into part two building to a confident vocal melody and it was around about this point that Tinseltown In The Rain by The Blue Nile came to mind. Aided by layered, orchestral keyboard textures it develops into an infectious vocal coda.
Appropriately, the three part title piece Tick Tock shows the band at their most inventive and most accessible. Influenced by the title, (or perhaps the other way round) it features a constant clock like rhythm overlaid initially by a slow and moody vocal section cut short by crashing piano chords leading to a strident guitar led interlude. A Gregorian chant is an unexpected addition, joined by a prominent drum pattern and chugging metallic guitar riff. Part two includes one of the album's most heavenly moments with a lyrical piano theme supported by warm bass lines and sustained organ chords followed by a brief but soaring guitar solo. Following a rhapsodic piano intro, the concluding part builds like so many of the bands songs from laidback beginnings to a strong vocal melody. In terms of the mood created I’ve written in my review notes ‘Hope rising out of despair’. The band puts its full weight and power behind the uplifting finale with Vilbo ringing every drop of emotion from his guitar.
Compared with the dynamics of the proceeding tracks the closing Winter Is Never is in my opinion a tad disappointing. Whilst being a pleasant and engaging song the band never gets out of first gear with Ohme almost sleep walking his way through the vocal although he does achieve some very high notes towards the end. A track entitled Speed Of Envy had also been planned and recorded for the album but was dropped at the eleventh hour. A wise decision in my view as the mournful mood and the arrangement is just a little too close to the aforementioned Winter Is Never for comfort in my opinion.
Although the band’s sound could be best described as brooding, moody and often melancholic it’s not without its colourful textures. True those colours come in restrained greys and blues rather than vivid reds or yellows but it does demonstrate that they are much more than a band of introspective shoe gazers. Featuring some very mature playing they manage to create an atmosphere of restrained power as guitar, keyboards and violin weave a compulsive spell around the often hypnotic rhythms. With the recent weather here in the UK resembling a Nordic winter they’ve certainly provided a very fitting soundtrack' and I know this may sound like a well worn cliché' but this really is an album that demands as well as rewards repeated plays.
Menno Von Brucken Fock's Review
It’s no secret that Gazpacho was founded by members of the Marillion fanclub in the late nineties. Tick Tock is the sixth album by this Oslo (Norway) based outfit, consisting of founder members Jon-Arne Vilbo (guitars) and Thomas Andersen (keyboards). When they met Jan H Ohme (vocals), things began to get serious. Rounding off the line up at present are Mikael Krømer (violin), Robert Johansen (drums) and Kristian Torp (bass). Having a taste for music ranging from Electronic to Metal, I must confess I’ve never had a chance to listen to Gazpacho’s music before, so this is my first encounter with the music provided by these Norwegians.
Desert Flight is a delightful, strong opening track. Great melodies, nice changes of tempo and an atmospheric interlude featuring the violin, building up to a climax with rich keyboard sounds. A pity the bass is rather simply hammering merely a few notes, more to emphasize the power and the rhythm, where I would have liked it to express a little more playfulness and a more daring sound. Very atmospheric and totally like Marillion (with H) is The Walk: Ohme sings very much like Hogarth and one can hear awesome mellotron-sounds. Some oriental influences towards the end of the first half, almost turning into ambient music. Very nice bass playing in this track: superb piece of progressive music!
In the same vein, relaxed but still sending shivers down my spine is the second part of this track. The epic is also the title track, spanning over 22 minutes, mixing the sound of A-Ha, No Man and again foremost their icons: Marillion. Rather unexpected, the gentle ‘Marillionesque’ music, is disrupted by a piece of Gregorian chant until guitar, percussion and bass take over. When the piano joins in, the music reminds me a bit of the early albums by Renaissance but logically in a far more modern fashion. Ohme’s vocals are a mix of Steve Hogarth, Tim Bowness and Morten Harket. The middle section varies between floating keyboard sounds, chill out music with some flutes and more melodic, guitar dominated rock. The last part features the piano at first, again a great delightful atmosphere and it progresses with guitar leads, nice riffs and a ticking clock to remind us of the title. The violin provides a real original touch. Great performance again by Jan H Ohme. An easy ride with Winter Is Never, we can go on dreaming on the beautiful symphonic music provided by Gazpacho.
This is the kind of album Marillion should have made in my opinion. And there I find myself in the difficult position to either just sit back and enjoy this music or put it aside because it sounds so hugely like Marillion in their heydays. Just like the aforementioned band at present day, I do miss the heart breaking guitar solo’s. In spite of what one could call severe lack of originality, I can’t help falling in love with this album and I can’t wait to hear it on a proper sound system instead of my computer!
Gareth Long's Review
I have to admit that my awareness of Gazpacho was virtually non-existent until a friend of mine introduced me to their last album Night in 2007. It was an introduction I will always be grateful for, as Night has now become one of my favourite and most regular listens of recent times.
It would be far to say that Gazpacho will not be to every ones taste. Their expansive music is built on the creation of subtle shades and atmospheres through clever arrangement, thematic progression and building crescendos. Their music is not progressive rock in the classic sense but certainly progressive in its purest sense and fans of later period Talk-Talk, Radiohead, Sigur Ros and contemporary Marillion (circa The Invisible Man) will simply revel in Gazpacho.
My expectations of Tick-Tock were high and it was always going to be a difficult task to follow the sheer excellence of Night but, with a few gripes aside, the band have delivered another very fine record here. And a record that reveals itself further with each listen.
Opening track Desert Flight blazes from inception with a surprisingly gritty guitar riff lead and Jan-Henrik Ohme’s fragile vocals sounding edgy as ever. The song evolves into a trademark smooth melancholic chorus before a burst of heavy guitar and drums change the mood once more. Mid-way the song transforms into a classic laid back soundscape of gentle guitar, synth colours and bubbling bass that strongly reminds of Night. Things then build to an impressive conclusion with distorted guitar, violin and energetic drums that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Mogwai album. The song is a bold and impressive start.
Second up is the two-part The Walk that is seamlessly linked from Desert Flight via quiet understated tribal drums. Part 1 is constructed around a fragile melody via some lovely acoustic guitar, effective vocals and trademark synth layers. The song ebbs and flows building in sound with guitar embellishments and washes of strings before the mood is changed via an up-tempo instrumental section underpinned by busy bass and drums before settling back into a more laidback vibe via some gorgeous pulsing bass. Towards the end things are taken right down where sparse acoustic guitar and violin with a strong Middle Eastern feel slowly erodes into a collage of gently synth pulses and effects. Part 2 is more up-tempo with a strummed guitar lead intertwined with some nice instrumentation but the melody is a little unremarkable and at times the song seems a little repetitive. However it does finish very strongly through an emotionally charged intelligent and affecting melody.
The title track and centrepiece Tick Tock stretches out over three impressive parts although as a listening experience it is a single stream of creativity that sees Gazpacho at the very top of their game. The opening to Part 1 is very reminiscent of Night shaped by gentle guitar chimes and fragile vocals augmented with clever sound effects and synth. The song builds with gentle drums and an echoed synth line before evolving into a nice piano and guitar led melody. The song then plays out with a dirty guitar led rock melody dovetailed against a softer mid-section that includes a gorgeous mellow guitar solo. The song concludes with an atmospheric bass choir sample cleverly contrasted with intermittent drum and guitar riffs.
Part 2 opens with a stark guitar riff and rasping bass-line with some great synth before melting into a warm oil of languid piano, fragile vocals and bubbling bass. The gradual introduction of strings and synth textures propel the song into classic Gazpacho territory – sublime ethereal music that washes over you and sooths the soul. The introduction of an edgier dark melody then heralds the arrival of the epic main theme - a melting pot of rich string soundscapes and emotive guitar.
Part 3 is born through a staccato piano and drum lead with fragile vocals hovering over glacial synth. Some wonderful Steven Rothery-like guitar and superb up-tempo drumming shakes the song into life before dissolving once more into a gentle mellotron led theme before an epic wall of atmospheres and bleeding guitar raises the pulse once more. An understated warm synth and vocal coda bring things to an end with a forbidding synth chord drifting into silence.
The final track Winter Is Never – is the most straightforward song on offer here but is possibly my favourite track. It is a perfectly constructed piece of progressive melancholy built around a superb piano melody with a sublime vocal from Jan-Henrik Ohme. The emotive chorus is beautifully understated and perfectly constructed. As the song progresses the sound is filled out with some superb synth lines and subtle instrumentation. It is a fantastic ending to a very good album.
Tick Tock is without doubt another impressive release from Gazpacho. It both cements their reputation and stylistically can be seen as a natural evolution from Night. The elegant title track and delightful Winter Is Never both stand out as real highlights. However I do feel that it does slightly falls short of its predecessor – it never soars quite as high and The Walk is a little weak in comparative to the other songs. That aside this is without doubt a recommended release.