Necromonkey - Necroplex

Necromonkey - Necroplex (2013)

2013 saw the release of many truly great progressive albums and the debut instrumental collaborative effort from drummer Mattias Olsson (formerly of 90’s Symphonic Prog group Änglagård) and keyboardist David Lundberg (who, in addition to Gösta Berlings Saga, provided keyboards on Änglagård’s 2012 summer tour), is certainly no exception.

The ‘band,’ dubbed Necromonkey, are one of the hardest-working acts around these days. In February, 2013, they released their debut album Necroplex (so named for the classic 1970’s Echoplex tape delay used on most of the album), and a mere 12 months later, followed it up with A Glimpse of Possible Endings, before taking the studio project on the road for their first US tour in the summer, all the while finding the time to record a third album due early 2015! In truth, Necromonkey are really two distinct entities - the duo studio project that utilizes the technologies of the recording studio as just another instrument at their disposal, and the four-piece live act, a hypnotic and dynamic machine that recalls early Pink Floyd, Magma, CAN, King Crimson, and Neu!

When setting out to write this review, I’ve been asking myself…how do I describe this music in words? This has proven to be quite a daunting task, as in order to describe music, one must provide a point of reference, however Necromonkey have produced a work that proves to have little in common with anything I’ve heard before. Musically, it combines the delicate balance of organic-meets-electronic sounds of Gösta Berlings Saga with the frantic, genre hopping intensity of Änglagård, with just a touch of industrial, making for an exciting and fresh listening experience. However, this proves to be an insufficient description at best, as this work simply defies all classification. I can’t even classify this as prog rock, as there is very little in common here with any kind of rock music, yet it is very progressive in its forward-thinking philosophy. As a whole, Necroplex is a futuristic film-for-your-ears, providing a variety of textures and emotions, though definitely not any film from this universe. 

The album opens with “Pea”, a song that begins with some keyboards and seagull sounds, a collage of sorts, with distant electronic drums and spacey mellotron chords. Scratchy vinyl record noises provide a nod to the past, most likely a product of Mattias’ sampling efforts, while the unique keyboard tone hints to the future. The effect is very surreal, somewhat recalling early 70’s Tangerine Dream in its compelling ability to pull the listener into the depths of its own unique environment. Rising from an ominous roar, the piece builds throughout its three minute duration, bringing the listener along a slow crescendo, before jarringly descending into a wild assortment of detuned pianos. A gong crash opens track two, the humorously titled “Asshole Vote,” with some distorted funky rhythms. The opening minutes of the track is comprised of controlled chaos and backwards effects, before pulling back to some Floydy keyboard and acoustic guitar chords and rising tension, made more effective with some great choir sounds. This track is one of my favorites, receding near the end to some drums and electronic whirling. Rising tension and jarring release seems to be a theme of the Necromonkey concept, as well as an expert use of dynamic contrast.

The tracks on this album range from melodic (the aforementioned “Asshole Vote” and “Elements”) to electronic (the CAN-inspired “Every Dead Indian” and “Knock Knock Hornet’s Nest”), to just plain weird (“Tuba Melt” – which utilizes and deconstructs tuba samples – and the hilarious “Spoken”, a piece which combines Beefheart-esque narration provided by Shep Gest, with wild, disparate music elements. Some how it works, trust me). Of course, as to be expected with composers such as these, all of these tunes are just downright cool. Check out the funk-inspired groove of “The Utopian and the Teaspoon” …simply some of the coolest music I’ve heard in a long time, complete with synthesizers and wild trombone sounds. The closing track, the aptly titled “Last Entry,” provides an excellent closure to what is a fantastically creative and varied work. Beginning with some dissonant synths, the piece gradually morphs into a piece dominated by glockenspiel, mellotron, and youthful vocals provided by Akaba and Tiger Olsson. Fitting into the Necromonkey concept, “Last Entry” builds an atmosphere akin to a film soundtrack...dark, moody, and otherworldly.

There seems to be no limit to the creativity of these two men, but they are supported by some guest musicians, most notably Einar Baldursson of Gösta Berlings Saga, as well as some bass clarinet and hammond organ provided by Yann LeNestour and Matti Bye, respectively. These guests don’t seem to take the spotlight, but rather fit into the texture of the pieces – adding and expanding to the sonic palette, without obstructing the artistic intention.

In a musical landscape dominated by artists who seek to recapture the essence of 1970’s groups, Necroplex is a very modern and fresh offering from Mattias Olsson and David Lundberg. Much of the album is heavily experimental and electronic, but surprisingly melodic in places. Before hearing this album, I honestly had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised to hear an eclectic mix of instrumentation and futuristic sounds. I can’t recommend this music for fans of the more symphonic prog style, as it certainly has its fair-share of avant-garde leanings and dissonance, but it is an absolute treat for the more adventurous listener looking to push his or her own horizons. 

To listen to a few songs by Necromonkey, go to https://soundcloud.com/necromonkeyNecroplex is available in digital form through iTunes and Amazon. Hard copies can be purchased by writing to necromonkeyness@gmail.com.