The Netherlands – Small as a Ball
Lars Boutrup is clearly a busy lad. In addition to supplying keyboards for other artists, and collaborating on projects such as Sonic Tool Box, Boutrup has just released his third album under the Lars Boutrup’s Music For Keyboards band name. The first eponymous album came out in 2005, although Boutrup has been active as a musician since 1979. He is, for the second straight release, joined by drummer Fredrik Sunesen and bass player Niels W. Knudsen.
While it might not be the catchiest of monikers – it would be a bugger on a festival poster – he’s obviously hoping that this upbeat music strikes more than a chord or two with progressive fans and keyboard aficionados alike.
It’s obvious from the first notes of this entirely instrumental disc, that the trio can play, and the musicianship is very tight throughout. It also firmly crosses into the progressive genre, with smoother passages followed by more aggressive sections, such as on Back to Horn, which floats along before taking off into heavier territory, before diverting into a more pop vein. Other tracks, such as Will We Dream About the Ball? tread more lightly, setting a brooding, atmospheric, late-night feel before meandering into a more jazzy realm.
Comparisons are tough. There are moments that hint of Anthony Phillips‘ catchy and uncharacteristic 1984 release, music by Jan Hammer or the underrated James Reynolds. Anyone familiar with the Innovative Communication label, and electronic bands in the vein of Mind Over Matter, Software and Megabyte will find much to admire here, although Boutrup’s music is livelier and somewhat heavier and jazzier at times.
Possibly the one exception on offer here is And the Boy Gets a Cigar, which bounces along with a strong melody that wouldn’t have been out of place on Camel‘s Nod and a Wink album, which itself paid more than a passing doff-of-the-cap to early Genesis.
Anyone enthralled by keyboard-led bands will lap up the array of instruments, sounds and musical chops on display. Repeated listens definitely highlight the quality of playing, however, it’s hard to remember any of the melodies. It’s also, very importantly, missing some of the prog traits of variety.
Sure, there are different tempos and sounds, and Boutrup uses his instruments well and appropriately. But there’s a spark missing. There are times when it’s crying out to be changed around a little. For anyone looking for a little more depth, especially from an instrumental album, the sense of how much better this could have been is palpable.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Reviewed by Jim Cornall