Norway’s 1099 doesn’t come off as a band with high aspirations. I suppose it would be hard to be as a post-rock band from a country that many music fans tend to associate more with their infamous early black metal scene than anything else – but it’s also their brand of light instrumental post-rock that makes me believe so. On first listen, there’s little about their sound that immediately beckons much interest, and in a genre as oversaturated and often generic as post-rock, I could see this turning off many bored genre fans looking for the next interesting movement. Their second full length album ‘Blindpassasjer’ isn’t quite as heavy sounding as a lot of post-rock aims to be, and it often moves at a middling pace, never drawing out its tracks as long as they could probably get away with. However, there are many subtleties and little intricacies that reveal themselves over a few listens. This makes the almost 80 minute run-time something of a slog when you’re, say, preparing to review it within the rather short timeframe given to you – but it also gives the album a replay-ability that many bands of its ilk tend not to have.
The album has its intense moments (mostly in the first half), though they’re not as cathartic as Mono or We Lost the Sea – but also not as emotionally draining. The dual guitars feel very light and delicate much of the time, and tend to interact in ways that are often winding and incredibly catchy, rarely harmonising completely but working with each other to create a beautiful counterpoint. The production work adds to this feel, and the mix is quite lush and spacious, really allowing each individual instrument to glide along unhindered in its own little pocket. It’s fairly dense, but everything is quite audible, and thankfully so, as 1099’s compositional skills are something to behold; varied, attention-grabbing, and with something new to focus on each time you give the album a spin.
The off-kilter instrumentation helps; at various points the bands utilises a Rhodes organ and a Moog synthesiser, saxophones, flutes – even a mellotron at one point. It all helps keep the album from allowing itself to become too stale, which is a welcome idea in this style of music. For a little while I’ve felt like a lot of aspiring post-rock bands have brought the style into something of a generic zenith, if you will, with post-rock seeming more popular than ever, but also at its most dull and oversaturated. As is the case with many once new, supposedly “progressive” styles, it’s becoming increasingly standardised as aspiring bands fail to inherit the drive and creative spark of their influences in favour of ripping them off entirely. To be sure, 1099’s influences are obvious to anyone familiar with the post-rock subgenre, Til Jorden echoes bands like Mono or Fourteen Nights at Sea, Under Isen’s crescendo brings to mind the controlled chaos of (the highly underrated) Oceansize, and the jazz-rock leanings of Kontinental and Osiris remind of the progressive underpinnings of Tortoise, – but make no mistake, these tracks all come together with a wistful, light feel that is entirely 1099’s own. Not to bands subtle flirtations with jazz and progressive rock, inclinations that are becoming regrettably rare in this supposedly experimental musical movement.
The album itself seems to take you on a musical journey, with each track seemingly aiming for a different feel that goes from chipper and bouncy to melancholy and nostalgic, often through highly emotive, yet also somewhat restrained, melodies. This isn’t music that thrives on attention grabbing hooks or instrumentation or energy, but music that can read to or meditated with. Chill-out music, basically – but for jazz fans. As stated before, with only 12 tracks but an almost 80 minute running time, listeners, especially those unfamiliar with the established tropes of post-rock, may find that album difficult to sit through, but for the already initiated or the especially attentive and patient listener, the album is highly rewarding.
You can pick up your copy of Blindpassasjer, out now via All Good Clean Records HERE!