- Finally, a good EP...
I think too often the term “EP” is poisonous in the world of music, and justifiably so. In the United States, EPs are more often than not a popular single with a few lesser tracks (that have no business anywhere near an album) un-enthusiastically tacked on. I don’t know enough about the inner workings of the recording industry in this country to be sure, but to me it feels like a way to re-package a hit for a cash grab, or to provide a “limited” release in between albums so fans and completionists can stay engaged. An EP should be a short but well-thought out musical project, and not an afterthought; there are many examples of good ones in the 50s, 60s and 70s (Elvis comes to mind but I’m sure Wikipedia has more), and the punk rock and hardcore genres seems to be holding the mantle by a thread today.
Well, I can safely say that Tusmørke has delivered a well-thought out, albeit short, musical project. The Norwegian prog folk group has apparently not taken a break since their 2012 debut “Underjordisk Tusmørke”, and released their EP on May 10th via a record label called Fresh Tea. Den Internasjonale Bronsealderen, which translates to “The International Bronze Age”, is a concept piece that pays homage to the era of bronze and mysticism, a time thousands of years ago when mystics shaped society and the gods were paramount. It’s just two tracks long, but each hovers around the 10-minute mark which, for you non-math people out there, makes for 20 minutes of music, a solid number for such a release.
Den Internasjonale Bronsealderen is a story of two worlds, of the North and the South. The first track, Kairo, starts off with motifs that immediately evoke Egypt, the southern limit of the Bronze Age and possibly the most powerful society in the ancient world. The vocals are a mixture of spoken word and singing, with that familiar low, warm tone that the Momraks projected throughout their first album. The “Tusmørke” sound is immediately recognized, but this song demonstrates an evolution in their composition: they’ve embraced new sounds (probably played by Lars Fredrik Frøislie) and the ability to compose without being as flute-heavy (although the flute, thankfully, is still prevalent). The instrumental bridge section, where the bass plays broken major triads in B-flat, C and D (the one in D also includes a minor-sixth at the top—gorgeous), is easily my favorite on the track: good vocal harmony, interesting sounds, and just the right amount of organ.
I completely forgot to ask for the lyrics to this one (I remembered for the other track), but it’s quite clearly steeped in Egyptian mythology and the connection of the gods to the Pharaoh. Take a look at their low-budget music video if you want to really set the scene for yourself, although I feel like the video was made mostly to showcase a particularly busty dancer. The song finishes with an extended spoken word section where multiple gods are mentioned and several screams are… screamed. Keep an ear out for several appearances by Lars’ vintage synth collection.
The second track takes you north, to Scandinavia, where the Bronze Age came a little late (via trade through the Amber Road) and where the lyricist, stuck in today’s world, dreams of the past. The lyrics in En verden av i Gaar are ripe with talk of death, but death isn’t necessary the focus: it’s explaining how the old ways, the artifacts and rituals, provide the memories that make up eternal life. At least that’s how I took it. That, and a lot of talk about people of today who are “full of contempt, all you think about is money.”
As for the music, this track is far more similar to “Underjordisk Tusmørke”: lots of flute, a classic “rock n’ roll” rhythm section, and supporting keyboards that add to the folksy feel of the music. The flute-driven section starting at the 4:32 mark might be the best I’ve heard yet from Krizla, as it follows up a nice solo with a soft and mellow section that I feel fits the subject matter perfectly. The song builds up towards the end with a fantastic groove, thanks in part to interesting drum set and percussion parts, with some intense vocals and more vintage keys. There’s another music video for this track, mostly concert shots and people doing interesting things in the woods, but kind of fun nonetheless.
Look, I know it’s only 20 minutes long, but Den Internasjonale Bronsealderen is a fun and eminently listenable recording with tons of replay value. The production quality, just like in the first effort, is excellent, and it’s clear these musicians will continue to grow together as performers. I’m a sucker for a good concept record, and this one didn’t disappoint. Long live Tusmørke!