Ågren vs. Ågren: A Tale of Two Albums

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Morgan Ågren is quite possibly one of the best drummers alive. The man is a Swedish-born drum machine unfettered by genre classification or artistic ambition. His curriculum vitae includes collaborations with Mats Öberg, Frank Zappa, Devin Townsend, Fredrik Thordendal, Brendon Small and many more. We have written about Mr. Ågren twice in this here toilet, both times heaping praise after praise upon his prodigious talent. To describe the man as a giant in the music industry would sell him short.

It is with no small amount of intrigue then that I practically stumbled upon not one but two new releases bearing the distinctive drum patterns of Mr. Ågren recently. Even more intriguing is the fact that neither of these albums can be described as metal. The first, A Spark in the Aether by the seminal prog rock monsters The Tangent materialized at random in my inbox after Inside Out Music added me to their promotional platform. The other, Ågren’s own solo effort Batterie Deluxe came to my attention after our pal Roshin shared it on Facebook. Neither is music I would typically cover, but the duality here is quite interesting, to say the least.

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A Spark in the Aether is the eighth studio release by revolving-door prog rock band The Tangent. Embracing a similar artistic ethos and work ethic to King Crimson (which should come as no surprise since the two acts have shared members and experienced Robert Fripp cross-pollination), The Tangent has never attempted to house a consistent line-up. Instead, world-class musician after world-class musician joins up to lend his or her talents to a studio album or tour set before vacating the seat for another brilliant player. The only constancy is provided by multi-instrumentalist Andy Tillison. This sort of collaborative, multifarious approach to creativity leaves an indelible mark on the music, and though this was my first experience listening to The Tangent, the ebb and flow approach to songwriting is immediately evident in the final product. Every song drifts from element to element in a non-linear fashion, guided only by the preeminent influence of Tillison. However, each song maintains its own unique course, and the tracks never blend together. Ultimately, what results is a brilliant but slightly disjointed prog rock record that I’m certain will appeal to fans of the genre.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sold at first. On the first two tracks, I was off-put by the airiness and levity of it all, and my eyes kept darting around the room searching for the lurking bully who was certainly going to shove me in a locker for listening to such a (well, let’s be honest) dorky album. However, it was on the third track “Clearing the Attic” that everything started to click. This was largely due to the efforts of Morgan Ågren. On this song his peerless drum skills really started to take shape, and fills and time shifts caught my ear. Every note, every fill, and every empty space he injected into the song fit the product so smoothly without ever overpowering. This is a drummer who knows how to anchor and support a band without simply sounding like a battering ram. Ågren’s ineffable precision remained a consistent thread through the remainder of the songs, and by the end of “A Spark in the Aether (Part Two)” I found myself, much to own surprise, thoroughly enjoying the goofiness and self-aware indulgence of the record. I’m still not won over to the dork side, but I can certainly appreciate the talent and abilities on display here, especially those of Morgan Ågren. Unfortunately, I can’t find any streams from the new album, so this will have to do.

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In stark contrast to The Tangent is Ågren’s solo debut Batterie Deluxe. While A Spark in the Aether plays like a well-crafted, if not slightly bloated, coherent effort, Batterie Deluxe  is a schizophrenic collection of frenetic musical ideas. Tracks flow from jazzy interludes to Indian mystical chants to drum n’ bass breaks to metallic expressions of fury with no discernible rhyme or reason. This is not a bad thing. More than most musicians, Morgan Ågren has the rich background and experience to actually employ and bind those myriad elements into his own vision. His is a wild and multifaceted oeuvre, so it only makes sense that a solo effort would explore the many aspects of his own career.

Even more impressive than the wild diversity on display though is the fact that Ågren wrote and recorded the majority of this music himself. Nearly every instrument you can imagine is used at some point on this collection, most of them played by Ågren himself. However, several guest musicians do lend their immense talents, including long-time collaborators Mats Öberg, Fredrik Thordendal, and Devin Townsend. Still, it is Ågren who always remains at center-stage, and his immense and inhumanly varied talents are always on display. In fact, that’s probably the most mind-blowing aspect of this release; As Ågren transitions from drumming rooted in jazz to neo-classical to house to metal, it all feels so natural. Jarring time-shifts flow into restrained signatures and again into amen breaks. Fills and crashing cymbals give way to a steady, rhythmic tattoo on the snare and bass. The fact that one man can bind so much chaos to his singular will is equally baffling and laudable.

Ultimately, Batterie Deluxe is my favorite of the two albums here. It’s mercurial in nature without ever losing my interest. Others may get bored or find some of the songs less to their taste, but in my opinion every single track was just another excellent display of musicianship. There are few musicians who could pull something like this together, and I hope you appreciate it as much as I do. Stream “F Files” below if you want to hear the most metal song on the record.

Batterie Deluxe is out now, and you can pick it up on BandcampA Spark in the Aether comes out on April 20th via Inside Out Music.

(Photos VIA, VIA, and VIA)

 

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  • Eddie Trunk Jr.Trailerpants likes this!

  • Tyree

    Drummers are the worst.

    • Dr. Dubz

      Scum.

    • How was the camping trip!?

      • Tyree

        Actually, pretty stressful. Shit pile of snow plus it rained. I’m so sore today from all the hiking, shoveling, and over all labor. Not in shape at all. There was plenty of beer though.

        • Bummer about the snow/rain etc. Sounds like an adventure though!

          • Tyree

            Oh, it was certainly that. Saw a lot of tracks. Bear, mountain lion, deer, coyote, and turkey. No visuals on any of the goobers though.

          • I love looking at all the tracks in the snow, too. Sure wish we had more turkey here. The coyotes keep them pretty much destroyed. Our county only has a spring season. Last year the entire county killed 23 gobblers. 23!! Stupid low huh?

          • Tyree

            We got plenty around here.

          • Thats awesome. Do you Turkey hunt then?

          • Tyree

            Nah, not really. I really should though. They are practically in my back yard.

          • I heard they are tough to cook. I am not sure if they are worth it. But everyone that I know that is into raves about it. Hmmmmm. You will have to let me know if you give it a shot

    • tertius_decimus

      Guess, bass players bashing is too old?

  • Dr. Dubz

    FYI, if you want to listen to Batterie Deluxe, I encountered the bandcamp pay wall after just two listens. The album is on Spotify, though.

    • Hubert, Goat ov ……Satan

      The album isn’t on Spotify here 🙁

      • Dr. Dubz

        I’m sorry goat 🙁

      • Thanks for the lastfm add <3

    • Is there a way to scrobble to lastfm from spotify web player?

      Also, I did a VPN magic and now I can use Spotify, brooos <3

      • Enemy Of The Free World

        Yes. Just click scrobbling on from the settings.

        • I did, but didn’t scrobble T_T)

          Is there another way?

          I checked both in Spotify and in Lastfm and in both pages there’s the app on.

          • Enemy Of The Free World

            It scrobbles for me. I don’t think Spotify has another way to scrobble and not sure why it won’t

          • well, I’m using a VPN because Spotify isn’t available for Venezuela. It must be that…

          • Enemy Of The Free World

            Could be.

          • FUCK YOU GROOVESHARK!!!

            IT’S WORKING!

            IT’S ALIVEEEEE!!!

            http://www.lastfm.es/user/link-leonhart

          • Do you VPN to a location that has Spotify then?

          • yes. I VPN to United Kingdom!

  • Based Tapir

    This is something I can shake my willy to!

  • Hubert, Goat ov ……Satan

    I dig that Batterie Deluxe. The second track has a bit of a Massive Attack vibe to it.

    • Dr. Dubz

      It’s pretty good. All over the place, but I dig it.

    • oh shit son, Massive Attack >>>>>>>>>

  • YourLogicIsFlushed

    Batterie Deluxe is the exact sort of weirdness I am in the mood for today.

    • Dr. Dubz

      Embrace the weird.

  • Tyree
  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
    • Tyree

      Wow, that was one of the happiest jams ever. All smiling and shit and having a good time.

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        Being rich as fuck can do that.

  • Dagon

    The new Kendrick Lamar album dropped today. I’ll see you guys next month, love you all.

    Kisses,
    Renan

    • Stockhausen

      DOXX’D.

  • tertius_decimus

    The Tangent offers everything I love in prog. Everything and beyond. Thanks, W!

    • Dr. Dubz

      I’m glad you dig it. Like I said, I was skeptical at first, but it somehow sucked me in!

      • tertius_decimus

        First, the saxophone in heavy music is astonishing idea, it fits perfectly in the scene. Too bad musicians use it rarely. Second, at the first minute music drowns into beautiful atmosphere. It’s a very holistic stuff which I don’t wanna lay out in aсcustomed way: bass this, guitar that, drums blah blah, vocal blah…

        • J.R.

          Kamelot’s “Descent of the archangel” starts off with just the most haunting saxophone cry ever. Why sax isn’t in more stuff is a mystery.

          • Dr. Dubz

            I enjoy it a lot, but I know some here hate it.

          • tertius_decimus

            Brilliant song. I really should check more of their music.

          • Kamelot worth it, for me.

          • J.R.

            Can’t go wrong with the Epica or Black Halo albums. Pretty jammin Faustian tale.

            This one “Being as an Ocean” song off their new album uses some pretty juicy sax, but that whole album is just so emotionally draining. I only toss it on when I don’t want to think for 40 minutes.

          • tertius_decimus

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9jrL9c-DcM

            My favorite case of using sax in metal. Also, beautiful solo on clean guitar with light crunch in the middle.

          • I really need to check Anders solo work. I will check this. I think I will dig this.

          • tertius_decimus

            After that solo album At The Gates not needed anymore.

          • J.R.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhiiNMpQXGM&t=00

            at about 2:32 this…brass…thing kicks in. Real soothing.

  • Inside Out Music have an incredible rooster. I think I will try with this one.

  • Guacamole Jim

    Batterie Deluxe is killer. I’m getting a lot of Lux Occulta’s Kolysanki in the trip-hop sections. Morgan Agren keeps killing it.

    • tertius_decimus

      Kolysanki surprised alot even from such an experimental band like Lux Occulta. Cool stuff.

      • Guacamole Jim

        I’d never heard them before that album, and Stockhausen got me onto them. I spent a couple of weeks just devouring it. Really excellent stuff.

        • tertius_decimus

          He did you quite a favor! They’re so old, I thought they were disbanded long ago but then Kolysanki appeared on the horizon demanding completely different mindset compared to Major Arcana, so to speak. Just wow.

          • Stockhausen

            Indeed! I didn’t even come across it until after the release because it was such a surprise. Such a great album.

    • Stockhausen

      I was just playing those albums back to back in comparison. Great chip dip and dead composer minds think alike.

  • JVVG

    I know I’m supposed to avoid going OT, but I’ve seen some of the TovH Community mention this band so I figured it would be good news to many.

    New Liturgy album “First Listen” (Full Album): http://www.npr.org/2015/03/15/392100467/first-listen-liturgy-the-ark-work

    • There has been much discussion in the FB group about it. You should join. Also, the NPR player blows butt.

      • JVVG

        On that I can agree. But it’s sort of offset by the fact that you’ve got a major player in public broadcasting across the country bringing you full metal album streams.

        I’ll never ever see that on the CBC website. Not even if it were Canadian-content limited.

  • Stockhausen

    Morgan Ågren rules. Batterie Deluxe is seriously deluxing my batteries.

    • Stockhausen

      This is reminding me big time of Lux Occulta.

      • tertius_decimus

        And in some ways work of Nils Petter-Molvær.

        • Stockhausen

          That name is new to me, I’ll check him out.

          • tertius_decimus

            Famous norwegian jazz trumpeter who uses electronics in his music alot.

          • Stockhausen

            Sweet! I like all of those things, that should be right up my alley.

    • tertius_decimus

      Which genre is that?

      • Stockhausen

        If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

        (Which is code for “I have no idea”)

        • tertius_decimus

          Haha, that’s funny.

  • Does this dude seriously have 3 kick drums in the header pic? Seems excessive and i’ve seen many do more with less.

    • Tyree

      See my drum kit comment.

      • I saw that and whoever has to lug his gear to gigs must hate his guts.

    • Guacamole Jim

      He tunes them all differently and plays them very selectively. His playing with that style of kit becomes very musical, and less rhythmic. There are many videos you can find of him playing smaller kits with one kick – it really depends on the style of music he’s playing.

  • Mother Shabubu III

    Japanese writing on a non-Japanese edition? Weeaboo Ågren confirmed.