Prog - - Limelight -

70s prog wor­ship meets mega riffs and plenty of im­prov with th­ese Swedes…

Prog is by no means a for­mula-free musical genre, but the great­est bands al­ways seem to defy easy cat­e­gori­sa­tion. Stock­holm’s Brother Ape may oc­ca­sion­ally ex­hibit an un­apolo­getic debt to the giants of 70s prog and the big riff­ing grandeur of Led Zep­pelin and Deep Pur­ple, but the amount of musical ground cov­ered on their new al­bum Karma in­di­cates a much more ad­ven­tur­ous mind­set: those recog­nis­able tropes ar­riv­ing em­bel­lished with all man­ner of fas­ci­nat­ing stylis­tic quirks and un­ex­pected de­tours.

“The won­der­ful thing with this band is that we think the same when it comes to mu­sic,” says singer/gui­tarist Ste­fan Dam­i­co­las.“I guess it’s just a lit­tle bit eas­ier this way.

I would de­scribe it as if we were on a musical jour­ney. We make the mu­sic that in­spires us at this mo­ment, no mat­ter what style or mood it is and no mat­ter what peo­ple say. As time passes, ideas and feel­ings change and we adapt to that. The idea of stay­ing in some sort of con­fined space is both im­pos­si­ble and rather stupid! You just end up with half-hearted stuff that way.”

The cre­ative free­dom that Brother Ape en­joy as a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple means that songs on Karma of­ten sound like they are ex­pand­ing and evolv­ing in real time, as sim­ple ideas blos­som into grand but el­e­gant sonic land­scapes. Per­haps un­usu­ally, strik­ing that bal­ance be­tween metic­u­lous songcraft and free­wheel­ing aban­don seems to come nat­u­rally to the Swedes.

“There was a time when we just went into our stu­dio, the Mon­key Cave, and just im­pro­vised, jam­ming all the time, de­vel­op­ing our musical skills in both lis­ten­ing and play­ing,” Dam­i­co­las re­calls. “The im­pro­vi­sa­tions could go on for hours. There are al­ways new things to learn and we are learn­ing all the time and that’s what makes it all so ex­cit­ing.”

Veer­ing from the art­ful hard rock of Six­teen and the fid­get­ing funk of Let The Right One In to the skit­ter­ing beats and pop pomp of Hina Saruwa, Karma show­cases a no­tably dif­fer­ent sound from the one es­tab­lished on ear­lier Brother Ape al­bums, al­beit one still fa­mil­iar enough to fans to avoid alien­at­ing them en­tirely. As Dam­i­co­las ex­plains, the al­bum’s di­ver­sity was an in­evitable re­sult of some very mod­ern modes of dis­sem­i­nat­ing new mu­sic.

“Af­ter the re­lease of [sixth al­bum] Force Ma­jeure in 2013 we got into some heav­ier stuff, in­spired by our old­est he­roes like Zep­pelin and Pur­ple,” he ex­plains. “It was fun to make those kinds of tunes and it was a bit of an adren­a­line kick for us. We de­cided to re­lease them as an EP, only avail­able through the in­ter­net. Then we re­leased an­other two EPs, each with an­other four songs. The third EP was more pro­gres­sive and we used that one as the body for Karma, added songs that had the right mood from the other re­leases and I wrote two new songs in that same spirit. I think it still sounds Brother Ape over­all.”

Al­though the new al­bum has some dark mo­ments, it’s an oth­er­wise point­edly up­lift­ing af­fair, full of spine-tin­gling dy­nam­ics and rev­e­la­tory mo­ments where melan­choly erupts into joy. Given the tense and frac­tured state of the world at this point in his­tory, Brother Ape’s sim­ple but strong mes­sage of pos­i­tiv­ity, unity and wide-eyed spir­i­tual en­light­en­ment could hardly be time­lier.

“Our phi­los­o­phy? We are a truly pos­i­tive bunch and most of our songs have a pos­i­tive mes­sage,” Dam­i­co­las con­cludes.“Each song on the al­bum has, in one way or an­other, some­thing to do with karma. The song You Are is my ver­sion of ‘What you give is what you get’ and the song Karma is about the way we treat our planet. If we don’t treat it well, the karma will be dev­as­tat­ing. Brother Ape stands for the equal­ity in all of us on this planet. Not only brothers, though… sis­ters too!” DL


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