No Torso - Several Brains
Release Date: May 9th, 2006
Record Label: Asian Man Records
It's no secret that Asian Man Records brandishes a perpetual tendency to draw it's roster from the far corners of the world, and in the case of their most recent signing, Oslo, Norway's No Torso, they have certainly made no exception. Yet, while the septet may be one of many culturally distinct acts the label has claimed to call it's own, No Torso's sophomore, full-length release, Several Brains, manages to retain a unique spirit that the label's extensive roster has otherwise failed to grasp, and while the act's comprehensive output is far from exclusive, the end results are rather refreshing. The group, who play an enthralling blend of ska, punk, rock, and soul, combine a vast hybrid of influences into an exciting, uncommon coalescence.
Still, despite the group's electrifying approach to a genre that's been tried and tested more than one could possibly imagine, I stand intently behind the notion that it's best to emphasize a band's flaws early on in a critical overview, regardless of how many blemishes or may not exist. While No Torso's procedure is impelling, one might affix a fair share of derogatory statements to their name. Thus, I consider it my duty to alert those of you who have discovered this piece to be cautious when engaging yourself the content found on Several Brains, as while I have been unable to discover anything overly unpleasant, it has it's visible flaws alike any other. To be more distinct, the band's most prominent imperfection comes in the form of the group's lead vocalist, Lars Oskarssen, who carries a strong, native accent. While Oskarssen's voice is far from dissatisfactory, the way his domestic tone is presented is often incomprehensible, and unfortunately detracts, albeit very slightly, from the release's overall enjoyment. Furthermore, while the majority of compositions offered on Several Brains each exert a rosy, cheerful vibe, the group fails to offer much in terms of incongruity, as a familiar feeling of repetition commences as the release nears it's midway point.
However, for the few times No Torso appear to reside below the bar, they succeed in dealing far more meritorious hands, and for that I count myself as thankful. On the release's opening effort, "Fight The Blue Horizon", a jaunty, ska-punk anthem, listeners will find what is quite possibly the album's most desirable song, and while such a stroke of cunning may leave audiences feeling wary of what's left to come, I assure you this release will happily indulge you on more than this lone occassion. On "Audition Divisions", the record's second presentation, we receive the first dose of the group's phenomenal horn ensemble, which merely consists of trombonist Hans Friis and saxophonist Bendik Braenne. To be a bit more literal, if the arrangements these two musicians offer were for some odd reason classified as illegal narcotics, then by all means, please consider me a delighted addict. Following the second number comes the first of the album's two demonstrations of "I'm Glad I'm Alive", the first of which (further into the release you will discover a more rapid take on the song's structure) standing as an impressive reggae number, on which Oskarssen chaperones the pack through an aggregation of hushed, soothing guitar work, jazz-inspired horn dollops, and breezy vocal work.
A small distance further into the release we find "Time Will Show", a high-spirited, rhythm-driven ska hymn, on which Braenne and Friis press their way into the limelight, and listeners experience the pair's uncanny aptness for unaccompanied performances. The track, albeit rather similiar to California's ska-punk outfit Mu330, will undoubtedly force mobility upon devotees, as will a fair majority of No Torso's contemporary work. On "Fatal Fraud", the album's eighth number, the group interweaves the grit of punk-rock and the uplifting mood of third-wave ska phenomenally, as Oskarssen recites "I'm not going to see the light." On the alternate side of "I'm Glad I'm Alive", which is interestingly labelled as the song's "original" version, dual guitarists Martin Brostigen and Kristian Hamang waste no time in assuring listeners of their sensational ability and undeniable adroitness, all of which complements the track's dynamic backbone fabulously, courtest of Chris Arnar Nerland and percussionist Elvind Dypvik. Finally, on "The Hardest Sound", which perhaps describes the act's method of choice, a mild riff drifts effortlessly into a dazzling horn arrangement amidst a ska-tinged, punk-rock composition.
As Several Brains draws itself to a close, it's challenging to gather your thoughts on the experience, and one may find it burdensome to decide if they are left with a feeling of further desire, or sheer delectation. Yet, whatever end of the spectrum one's closing notions may grasp, only a foolish critic would steer these efforts into dismissal. While No Torso certainly fail to excel far beyond one's expectations, their recipe is assuredly the bearer of freshly-baked success. Several Brains is an exciting collection of active melodies, brilliant instrumentation, and accomplished musicianship, and while I my Brain may not hold the act to ultimately higher standards, a feeling of enthusiasm is unquestionably flooding through me.