Exposé Online banner

Exposé Online

Not just outside the box, but denying the existence of boxes.
Covering music from the fringes since 1993.


Shamblemaths — Shamblemaths II
(Apollon Records ARP049, 2021, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-03-23

Shamblemaths II Cover art

Shamblemaths is a Norwegian band that sets itself apart from all the other Norwegian bands largely by the prominence of woodwinds in their progressive rock. Lots of bands have a sax or flute in the mix, but few make the instruments central to their identities. Simen Ellingsen is a really good sax player, too, with full command of his instruments, ranging from straight melodic playing to avant-jazz wildness. This is put in the context of complex, hard-hitting progressive rock that takes after King Crimson and Anekdoten, with angular riffs, prominent keyboards (especially Mellotron), and a lot of textural variety. In between sections of bombast, there are beautiful interludes of calm, where saxes wax lyrical and listeners can breathe for a moment. In addition to the woodwinds, Ellingsen is the primary composer, plays guitar, and sings; he’s also credited with “occasional keyboards.” The other full-time band member is Ingvald A. Vassbø, who plays drums and xylophone. The album features nearly a dozen guests, with Eskild Myrvoll handling bass on all tracks and others contributing keyboards, double bass, bassoon, guitar, and vocals on this track or that. The three different female vocalists mostly feature in the less chaotic sections, with Pia Samset’s Classical voice being of particular note. I’m a big fan of intense music that’s not afraid of dissonance, and Shamblemaths hits everything just right. Ellingsen’s compositions are augmented by arrangements of outside material, notably Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor and some credited to “Trad.” The “Lat Kvar Jordisk Skapning Teia” suite takes up an LP side’s worth of length, and takes the listener on a journey through many different moods and sounds, from wailing saxes to stately recorders, and is a wonderful accomplishment. In the liner notes, they write, “Most people won’t like ‘Shamblemaths 2’, but then, we don’t try to please ‘most people’. We’d much rather have a profound impact on a few than be liked by many!” Speaking as one of those few, I applaud their efforts, and encourage others to see which category applies to them.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Ske (Paolo Botta), Shamblemaths

More info


What's new

These are the most recent changes made to artists, releases, and articles.