Strangely enough I hadn't heard anything from Needlepoint before I got their latest album The Diary Of Robert Reverie. This band from Norway already released three albums earlier in their career before they came up with the earlier mentioned album. So I did not know at all what to expect from this release. The press info that came along with the promo said the following; “A mix of poppy renaissance rock and dreamy jazzprog. The sound of Needlepoint is influenced by bands like Caravan, Matching Mole, Pink Floyd, Weather Report, Gentle Giant, Camel, Soft Machine and Return To Forever. Their fourth album, written by guitarist Bjorn Klakegg and produced by bassist Nikolai Haengsle”. Well let's hear if the information is right after all or is it just words on a piece of paper!
Well right from the start was I attracted to their strong compositions. Songs on which Needlepoint combined the classic Canterbury progressive rock elements with psychedelic moods and jazzy tones. As a result, the band celebrate a charming retro sound that could easily have come from the late '60s or early' 70s as an original. Not only the slightly ethereal vocals, which reminds one of Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine), Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd) or Pye Hastings (Caravan), but also the historic sound of the organ and piano by David Wallumrød add to the sound of the patina. Due to its special mix with alienated vocals and slightly reverberant drum sound, the historical touch is further strengthened. Moreover the rhythm section with Olaf Olsen on drums and Nikolai Hængsle on bass create a spirited mood through their irrepressible drive. Once in a while solo tours of guitar and keyboards are skillfully served and brings enough variety to the table.
The Norwegian quartet offers nine compositions between three and five minutes on which tales are told about the dreamy individualist Robert, who looks at the sometimes strange behaviour of the Swedish rural population with a wink.
If you can get excited about the perfect retro sound in the Canterbury-progressive rock area, you should have fallen in love with the band's music after the first few minutes of the opening Robert Reverie. The flowing retro keyboards played, the busy drums, the engaging vocal melody and the jazzy-melodic aura of the piece immediately make you want more. The final Shadow In The Corner beats in a similar notch, while some intervening pieces convey an even more pronounced nonchalance.
The second track On The Floor features a powerful fuzz bass, less casual, more impulsive rhythm and a slightly psychedelic touch. The instrumental parts of the following piece named All Kind of Clouds could almost come from Soft Machine. On the other hand the lyrical-folky guitars in Will It Turn Silent provide an optimal accompaniment to the gentle ballad, which bears a certain resemblance to the early Genesis. The emphatically casual In My Field Of View, In The Sea and Grasshoppers are lyrically less concerned with the strange villagers and instead describe the state of relaxation that can be achieved in the midst of rural nature with a bit of luck. This shows once again that the famous Scandinavian melancholy is not mandatory for all inhabitants of the region. Beneath My Feet resembles the virtuoso drifting drumming the progressive jazz rock of Colosseum, Weather Report, Soft Machine and Return To Forever.
Needlepoint has managed a fun and original retro-production, which has to put off a point deduction because of the short running time of 34 minutes and the sometimes unmotivated fade-outs.
No fan of Canterbury progressive rock and retro rock should miss The Diary Of Robert Reverie that's for sure! A fine album indeed!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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