Acclaimed California keysman Erik Norlander has some 40 album credits, and the fact he’s the MD of Sonic Reality, Dave Kerzner’s music software company, will tell you where we’re headed on his seventh solo album. Surreal comes precisely 19 years after his debut solo work Threshold, and it’s another selection of thoughtfully constructed, mid-paced pieces with lashings of analogue synth.
From the scene-setting opener The Party’s Overture to theme-recapping dénouement El Gran Final, the album’s rooted in more symphonic, synth-phonic pastures, channelling Vangelis, Emerson, Wakeman, Rick Wright and other greats. High point The Galaxy Collectors has a gentle, crazy diamond of an opening and a romping mid-section complete with electro-brass clarion calls.
The themes and tones get a little samey at times and, notably on Suitcase And Umbrella, the ersatz-Gilmour guitar playing doesn’t match up to the musical standards set by Norlander himself. But the retro tone palette provides Proustian rushes galore, Unearthly’s Eastern flavour offers real spice, and Mrs Norlander, singer Lana Lane, adds a welcome, dramatic vocal to the strident title track of a clearly accomplished album, if just a little sterile.