Gazpacho - Tick Tock

Year of Release: 2009
Label: HWT Records
Catalog Number: 15775
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:30:00

I'd been listening to Gazpacho's Tick-Tock off and on over the last several months, at first with an eye to publish a review before ROSFest 2010, but when work-life swallowed up my personal-life and didn't spit me back out until early May, all hopes were lost. All of which tells you nothing about the CD itself.

Firstly, I'll note that this is Gazpacho's fifth studio release, not including the EP of demos, Get It While It's Cold, which I reviewed back in 2002. I point this out because, aside from When Earth Lets Go (2004), I thought they'd dropped off the face of the earth, until either I was creating the "new" site and updating their discography, or later, when Tick Tock was gaining press. Turns out, the tracks on the EP found their way in finished form on Bravo (2003). And then Firebird took flight in 2005 and Night fell in 2007. There is also a new live release A Night At Loreley, a double CD/ single DVD recorded last July at Night Of Prog Festival. So, yes, there's some catching up to do - beginning here.

Gazpacho's most recent release is a mostly mid-tempo, dark-toned affair, although they're not afraid of including heavier elements -- pounding drums (Robert R Johansen), aggressive guitars ((Jon-Arne Vilbo). Many of the features of 90s "neo-prog," which, as I've said before, is no longer "neo" and, in the case of some, even venturing away from the "prog" part of that name, some for good, some for not-so-good (even if the performances themselves are good). But rather it's the sense of the epic, the dramatic, that Gazpacho retain. Yes, I still think of mid-90s Marillion when listening. Yes, it's because the vocals hint, at times (and less so than when I last reviewed a Gazpacho title) at H. But more so, it's the music. It's the throbbing bass (Kristian Torp) during the instrumental section of "Desert Flight," creating tension - something is set to explode - it does but not in one full blast, instead in slow motion as the shattered shards of whatever come ever closer (of course, your visual interpretation will vary).

There are keyboards (Thomas Andersen) - sometimes delicate, as those that set the mood in "The Walk," but none of the widdly bits that the "neo" nomenclature suggest. It is here where the moody Marillion of Brave and Afraid? come to mind. "The Walk" is an emotive piece, a strong sense of sadness, even when the arrangement takes off with violin (Michael Kromer) and orchestration - moments of elation that plateau and then rise again. I like the fragility of this piece, and Jan-Henrik Ohme's vocal performance which is what gives it that fragility. At about the 6:30, 7:00 mark, we get a mid-eastern motif that wends its way with acoustic guitar and light and crisp percussion, all with a gently undulating gait. The track is called "The Walk" after all.

There are passages during "Tick Tock" that will recall "classic" period Marillion - a certain stroll across the keyboards harkens to Misplaced Childhood (and without checking my memory against the MC CD, I'm thinking of "Lavender"/"Bitter Suite" roughly). Although the vocals are much more melodic and soaring than Fish's, so still a bit H-like, although the tonal quality is different, throatier - to get a darker effect during the verses. At the 6-min mark of the middle section, things recall "Follow You, Follow Me" period Genesis for a bit (with a hint of Pink Floyd).

By the way, as indicated by the title, the tick-tock of a clock runs throughout the album - not just in the literal sense of a clock, as that that begins the title track, but also the percussive pulse to the music. In "Tick Tock" it is most pronounced. As elsewhere, this is a moody track, perhaps the moodiest of them all. Certainly it is more lyrically sparse than in "Desert Flight," which seemed lyric heavy to me - not in a bad way, but just that there didn't appear to be stretches where Ohme wasn't singing. On "Tick Tock" however, there are passages that are purely instrumental.

And to underscore the dark nature of this release, one need only listen to the bass voices of what could be a Gregorian choir. It's a rich tone, and but for heartbeat paced pulse of percussion and the occasional bursts of brighter toned guitar, would be downright creepy. Guitars get more distorted, take over for the voices, and then give way to light and lyrical tones of keys. Contrasts, dynamics - all giving us the dramatic elements I mentioned above. Well, and then you get a gentle breeze of a flute to end the middle section. Lyrical piano provides the intro into the final segment of "Tick Tock" - a too short a passage that threatens to run off into classical territory. Instead it's a prelude to a more aggressive (in the guitars, percussion) path, Ohme's vocals gliding smoothly over top.

The moodiness continues in the closing track "Winter Is Never." Like "The Walk" it is a mellow piece, unfurling at a leisurely pace although it is far from feeling languid. Keyboards breathe frosty air over pulsing percussion and almost breathy vocals. Like falling snow - contradicting the title - piano-like keys close out the piece.

It's a CD that has to grow on you; that requires attentive listening. Ohme has a certain kind of voice that you will either like or not, and even that between song to song. You may find it too whiney on "Desert Flight" but just right on "The Walk" or "Winter Is Never" for example. A surface listen means you miss a lot. But, musically, instrumentally, it's quite rewarding. Sure, I've found moments that remind me of? certain other bands, but that's just a small portion of what's on offer. I think, like other newer progressive rock bands, Gazpacho are moving beyond the confines of "neo-prog" - and isn't that what progressive rock bands should be doing? Moving beyond the genre definitions? That isn't to say that Gazpacho are venturing into heretofore unexplored realms, but that they aren't locked into a certain niche.

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)

Thomas Andersen - piano & keyboards
Jon-Arne Vilbo - guitar
Kristian Torp - bass
Mikael Kromer - guitar & violin
Robert R. Johansen - drums
Jan-Henrik Ohme - vocals

Get It While It's Cold (2002) (OOP)
Bravo (2003)
When Earth Lets Go (2004)
Firebird (2005)
Night (2007)
Tick Tock (2009)
A Night At Loreley (2010)
Missa Atropos (2010)
London (2011)
March Of Ghosts (2012)
Demon (2014)
Molok (2015)

A Night At Loreley (DVD) (2009)
Night Of The Demon (DVD) (2015)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin NO

Added: July 9th 2010
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2579
Language: english


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