A new Gazpacho record is always a mouth-watering prospect. This, their 10th, bucks the trend begun on Night in 2007 for ambitious concept albums. Instead, Soyuz is a collection of songs orbiting around the themes of frozen moments, the fleeting nature of experience and the desire to make time stand still.
Soyuz One is one of two tracks reflecting on the first in-flight fatality in the history of space exploration. Gazpacho’s usual unmistakable ingredients are present: Jan Henrik Ohme’s enigmatic vocal melodies take centre stage amid a dark and brooding soundscape, but things are stirred up a little. Keyboardist Thomas Anderson’s programming is more prominent this time, charting a course somewhere between Radiohead’s electronica and Peter Gabriel’s Up.
In contrast, Hypomania is a straight-ahead rocker. Ohme has never echoed Thom Yorke as closely as he does on these verses, and the chorus is a towering cathedral replete with tolling bell. It’s a natural candidate for a single.
Exit Suite may allude to a Radiohead songtitle but both it and the haunting Sky Burial share more DNA with the grandeur of Kate Bush’s most recent works. Sparse piano chords with lush strings recall Bush’s A Sky Of Honey suite, simultaneously conjuring the intimate and the universal, the intellectual and the spiritual. ‘These mountains made you small/We waited day and night,’ Ohme sings, reflecting on the duality of light and dark, which is a recurring theme.
Soyuz Out is the standout, recounting the personal cost of the pioneers of the space race via the catastrophic re-entry attempt of cosmonaut Colonel Komarov, who volunteered for what he knew was a suicide mission. The juxtaposition of a choral arrangement against a sample of the oldest voice recording – a rendition of Au Clair de la Lune from 1860 – is not so much prog as sonic sculpture.
Recent Gazpacho albums have been far-reaching in their concepts, spanning aeons, encompassing mythology, the supernatural and religious ritual. Soyuz zooms in on the private experiences of individuals on borrowed time and packs a greater punch as a result. When their ambitious writing seeks to marry grand ideas to situations in microcosm, their music gains an additional emotional weight.
Soyuz is another challenging listen from the Norwegians, one that demands and rewards investment from the listener. It’s not just another impressive addition to
a supremely consistent catalogue, it’s one of their most stellar achievements yet.
1. Soyuz One
3. Exit Suite
4. Emperor Bespoke
5. Sky Burial
6. Fleeting Things
7. Soyuz Out