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Caligonaut — Magnified as Giants
(Apollon Records ARP046, 2021, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-03-23

Magnified as Giants Cover art

Caligonaut is yet another in the seemingly endless stream of Norwegian progressive rock projects featuring an all-star lineup. Ole Michael Bjørndal (guitar, vocals) is at the helm, and we know him from work with Gentle Knife, Bjorn Riis, Oak, Pymlico, and Airbag. He’s recruited some members of Wobbler to help out: Lars Fredrik Frøislie (keyboards), Kristian Karl Hultgren (bass), and Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo (backing vocals). Frøislie is of course also involved with White Willow and Tusmørke. Then we have Arild Brøter (drums) and Stephan Hvinden (guitar), who are in Pymlico; we round out the personnel with Henrik Bergan Fossum (drums) of Airbag and Åsa Ree (violin) of Meer. Not all of them appear on every track. Magnified as Giants consists of four tracks, only one of which is under ten minutes in length. As with most of the music that these players are involved in, it’s ambitiously written, meticulously arranged, expertly performed, and all-around enjoyable to listen to. Nothing sounds old-hat or by-the-numbers in spite of the familiar territory covered. These are multi-part pieces with contrasting sections, some of which are delicate and acoustic and others which are heavier and more powerful. One thing I especially like is that Bjørndal’s lead vocals are not of the smooth, breathy type so often heard lately — his voice reminds me more than a little of Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. In scope and overall style, pre-Lamb Genesis is a reasonable comparison, though Caligonaut doesn’t sound much like Genesis aside from the assemblage of contrasting sections into longer pieces and the way acoustic guitar is incorporated into the arrangements. And while the project is led by a guitarist, extended guitar solos are not part of the modus operandi. Bjørndal’s playing is more supportive of the songs than flashy or self-indulgent. Magnified as Giants is an excellent example of modern progressive rock, and provides ample proof that Ole Michael Bjørndal is more than just a sideman.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Ole Michael Bjørndal (Caligonaut), Lars Fredrik Frøislie

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