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Major Parkinson — Twilight Cinema
(Apollon Records APR027, 2014/2021, CD)

Major Parkinson — A Night at the Library
(Apollon Records AP107, 2022, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-06-24

Twilight Cinema Cover artA Night at the Library Cover art

My introduction to this great Norwegian band was their 2017 album Blackbox, and now Apollon has reissued their previous release, 2014’s Twilight Cinema, and also has their pandemic live album A Night at the Library on tap. Although the personnel on Twilight Cinema is different than on Blackbox, with turnover on drums, guitar, and violin, the sound is quite similar — it’s the voice of Jon Ivar Kollbotn that really sets the tone for this band. For the most part, keyboards dominate the arrangements, especially piano, and guitars are used for filling out the sound and the occasional melody. One of the highlights of the album is “The Wheelbarrow,” a tune that builds from quiet beginnings to an intense climax over nearly eight minutes, making its way through several varying sections along the way. “A Cabin in the Sky” and “Heart Machine” follow it, with a fondness for triple-time rhythms that reminds me of Cardiacs, though slightly less manic, and with vocals in a very different range. Procol Harum and Tom Waits also come to mind at times.

A Night at the Library presents a performance recorded May 15, 2020 at the Bergen Public Library. The personnel carries over from Blackbox, though stripped down to just vocals (Kollbotn), piano (Lars Christian Bjørknes), drums (Sondre Veland), and violin (Claudia Cox, who also provides some backing vocals). They selected three tracks from Twilight Cinema, including “The Wheelbarrow,” six from Blackbox, one from Songs from a Solitary Home (2010), and one new tune. The more intimate setting and limited instrumentation does not lead to less intensity — in fact, the impact is more direct with less clutter in the arrangements. Kollbotn is free to deliver his lyrics in an anguished whisper or pained roar or most anything inbetween. “Beaks of Benevola” is especially powerful, with pounding drums, aggressive piano chords, and scraping noises from the violin until Cox launches into furious sawing melodies. Other songs are poignantly intimate, with the lyrics more starkly presented. “Isabel: A Report to an Academy” is also quite fun, with Veland using an antique typewriter as a percussion instrument at the beginning of the song. The concert was streamed live, and can be watched in its entirety on Youtube. This live recording stands as proof positive that Major Parkinson is a band with a unique musical vision and great skill in presenting it in a variety of contexts.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases, 2014 recordings, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Major Parkinson

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