I made the mistake of saying, whilst writing about 'Frank Frank Frank', that I probably wouldn't review the new 'Water Boogie System' album because I simply wouldn't know what to say. As much as I appreciate, and am often fascinated by Jazz influenced releases, my knowledge is too limited. But such a statement isn't really good enough, whilst I may not have the technical expertise, I feel it's only right to try and explain in my own way why I like the new 'Water Boogie System' album so much, and why 'Year of Silver' is, in my opinion, pretty essential listening.
To give some background first, well the band are from Gothenburg, and this is their 2nd album, following on from (award nominated) 'Greetings' back in 2014. A quartet formed back in 2011, the band pride themselves in their unpredictable compositions, which combine free-form improvisation with beautiful sublime moments of vocal harmonies. And of course, it's that unpredictability that appeals to me so much, given my interest in the unusual, and the enjoyment I get from hearing musicians stretch the boundaries of 'normal' - whatever 'normal' might be.
'Year of Silver' is 'just' 8 tracks long, but there is so much detail and complexity in each of those tracks. The title track is the opener, and it's almost 6 minutes long. Immediately confusing time signatures and rhythms compete against each other, but above it all, a delicate vocal melody dances over the cavorting madness, and the combinations work so well. 'RPD' is a hazy electronic dash, which raises the tempo, but it's the subsequent tracks that really appeal to me. I love the instrumental theme in 'Herne Hill', 'But Why' is packed full of ideas and the stand out track is the completely gorgeous 'Hear Me Out', with beautiful vocals and the most subtle touches from the accompanying musicians - I particularly love the unusual middle instrumental section and the huge finale to the track at the end.
'Hunting Song' takes the album in a completely different direction, just under 2 minutes, it appears to be the track that didn't quite make it into the pantomime version of 'Robin Hood, The Musical', with a fairground carousel style instrumental section that Cardiacs would be proud of, and it's both brilliant and totally ludicrous. Finally they conclude with 'Freedom Las Vegas', an epic track with a vocal theme that seems to be a hybrid of something which Arcade Fire might offer and one of those huge choral soundtracks from a 1960's biblical movie. Squeezed into the middle we get an extravagant double bass solo, and a goose bump conclusion as the vocal harmonies bring the track to a climax.
To me there no doubting the brilliance of 'Water Boogie System', but of course what might be brilliant to me, might be totally unfathomable to someone else. I was streaming the album around the house on multiple speakers last week when my other half came home from work, smiled serenely, paused then asked, 'What on earth are you listening to this time'? Now admittedly she did walk in during a particularly offbeat moment in 'But Why', where I think 'Water Boogie System' are trying to replicate that scene in The Clangers when Major Clanger has a stand off with an irritable hornet, so I do accept that this album will be too much for some people. To me though 'Year of Silver' is inventive, imaginative and pretty extraordinary, performed by evidently outstanding musicians, and the album is so full of complexities that it makes it interesting to listen to over and over. I really hope you will all give it a try.
Nordic Music Review 8.5/10