It was May 2012, when Cakewalk released their genre-melting debut album Wired. Released to critical acclaim, Wired featured intense, mesmeric music. Featuring three experienced and talented musicians, Cakewalk became one. Each member of Cakewalk seemed to have know exactly what the other was about to do. The interaction between them was peerless. They fed off each other, and seamlessly, Cakewalk fused musical genres. Krautrock, experimental, electronica, free jazz and punk all melted into one. The result was music that veered between lively and vibrant, right through to frantic and frenzied. Influences included David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, plus the Krautrock of Neu and Can. Wired was akin to a musical tapestry, full of nuances, surprises and subtleties. Critics who were won over by Cakewalk, hungrily awaited the followup to Wired. Thankfully, they’ve not had to wait long. No. Transfixed, Cakewalk’s sophomore album, will be released by Hubro Music on 6th January 2014. Before I tell you about Transfixed, I’ll tell you about Cakewalk.
For anyone whose yet to discover Cakewalk, they’re best described as a supergroup of three innovative Norwegian musicians. Their lineup includes Stepan Meidell, Oystein Skar and Ivar Loe Bjornstad. Since they formed, Cakewalk have established a reputation as a groundbreaking group. Their music is melting pot of seventies psychedelia, Krautrock, industrial, experimental, electronica and noise rock. That’s partly because of the three members of Cakewalk’s different musical backgrounds.
Away from Cakewalk, Stepan Meidell is a member of The Sweetest Thrill. He plays bass, guitar, boxes and tape machines. Previously, Stepan was a member of jazz group Mr. Eart, and played on their 2007 album Facts In The Case Of The Mysterious Pop Machine. Two years later, in 2009, Stepan was a member of Vanilla Riot, who fused jazz and electronica. They released their only album Stitch in 2009. Since then, Stepan has been a member of The Sweetest Thrill and Cakewalk.
Oystein Skar, who plays synths, in Cakewalk is a member of two Norwegian groups, Highasakite and Sacred Harp. He played on Sacred Harp’s 2009 eponymous E.P. Then in 2012, Highasakite released their debut album All That Floats Will Rain. Best described as indie rock, ll That Floats Will Rain was well received.
The final member of Cakewalk is drummer Ivar Loe Bjornstad. He’s also a member of The Hedvig Mollestad Trio. They’ve released two albums, 2011s Shoot and 2013s All Of Them Witches. As you can see, the three members of Cakewalk have very different musical backgrounds. This shines through on Transfixed, where Cakewalk change direction.
In some ways, it’s no surprise that on Transfixed, Cakewalk have decided to change direction musically. After all, Cakewalk feature three innovative, groundbreaking musicians. They’re mavericks, and the thought of standing still musically, wouldn’t appeal. Cakewalk want to continue to push musical boundaries. This they do on Transfixed. Gone are short songs of Wired. Replacing them are longer, darker songs. Transfixed is also a bigger album. It’s Cakewalk’s experimental Magnus Opus. That’s not changed, the music on Transfixed is still improvised.
The music on Transfixed were recorded at Cakewalk’s Bergen studios. During the recording sessions, Cakewalk focused on experimenting. They jammed, sometimes for hours. Through these jam sessions, ideas for songs came about. Sometimes it was just riffs. Other times, it was melodies. If they were lucky, Cakewalk found the structure for a song. They were following a well trodden path. Groups like Can had been here before. So, Cakewalk are keeping the improvisational flame alive. Once a song has evolved, that doesn’t mean they’re finished. No. Cakewalk continue to improvise, honing the song until it’s the finished articles. Cakewalk sculpt songs, resulting in mini modernist works of art. Six of these feature on Transfixed.
For recording of Transfixed, the three members of Cakewalk wrote the six songs. Stepan Meidell played bass, guitar, boxes and tape machines, Oystein Skar plays synths and drummer Ivar Loe Bjornstad. They were joined by guest artist Espen Sommer Eide, who plays modular synthesizer on Transfixed, which I’ll tell you about.
Ghosts opens Transfixed, Cakewalk’s sophomore album. Immediately, genres unite. Quickly, the drama builds. It’s ever-present, as jazz, experimental, Krautrock, psychedelia and rock melt into one. Drums provide the hypnotic heartbeat. They’re joined by shredded, machine guitars and a myriad of synths. Cakewalk are in groove and are determined to exploit it fully. As synths add space-age sound effects, others drone and a wall of sound assails you. Best described as a soundscape, it marches towards you, marching to the beat of Cakewalk’s drum. Dramatic, melodic, grandiose and dark describes this track. So does ethereal, explosive and enthralling.
At first glance, Bells sees Cakewalk pay homage to Krautrock Kings Can. However, there’s much more to Bells then that. It’s a fusion of jazz, Krautrock, ambient, funk, experimental, electronica and psychedelia. Cakewalk’s rhythm section lock into a groove. The mesmeric drums drive the arrangement along, while Stephan’s bass adds some funky licks. With the rhythm section providing the foundation, Cakewalk develop this soundscape. It flowers and blossoms. Subtleties, surprises and nuances unfold. This includes Bells that ring, washes of synths and pizzicato strings. All the time, layers of music reveal themselves. The result is music that’s captivating, enchanting and full of surprises aplenty.
Transfixed has an experimental, space-age sound. Cinematic and haunting best describes this track. It would make the perfect soundtrack to a dark, gothic novel. Cakewalk do what they do so well. That’s combine musical genres. Electronica, experimental, industrial, Krautrock and rock combine. As the rhythm section, synths and sound effects lock horns, they make eerie, disturbing, overbearing and gothic music. A six-minute cinematic Magnus Opus, Cakewalk supply the music, you supply the script.
Just a gently strummed, spacious guitar opens Swarm. Then from the distance, guitars Swarm and charge in. They’ve a sense of urgency. This is replicated by the banks of keyboards. They’re almost prog rock in style. Dramatic sound effects, like sonic fireworks are launched, assailing and surrounding you. That’s the signal for Cakewalk to kick loose and find their inner rock god. Searing, scorching, shredding guitars join the rhythm section. As usual, the rhythm section have locked into the tightest of grooves. Joining them are banks of synths and keyboards. You can’t help but be impressed by Cakewalk in full flight. Drawing inspiration from classic rock, psychedelia and noise rock, Cakewalk pay a fitting homage to everyone from Brian Eno, Can, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
Synths drone, as the meander and provide a moody backdrop to Dive. It’s an understated, experimental soundscape. A myriad of eerie beeps and squeaks provide the backdrop to what sounds like someone asleep. Sometimes, the sounds veer grow in power, becoming dramatic, discordant and challenging. However, you never lose interest. You always wonder what’s about to happen? Are Cakewalk about to spring a surprise? What follows is an eerie 21st Century experimental soundscape, which again, has a cinematic sound. Think The Blair Witch Project set in Bergen and you’re halfway there.
Dunes closes Transfixed. Drums provide a dramatic heartbeat. It’s as if we’re on a voyage of discovery. Cakewalk paint pictures. It’s as if we’re heading deep into the jungle. Synths and sound effects escape from the arrangement. They ring out and reverberate, adding to the drama. Influences include Can, Afro-beat, experimental, jazz and rock. Dramatic, grandiose and cinematic, Dunes has an evocative and atmospheric, as it assails and surrounds you and proves a fitting finale to Transfixed that has you Transfixed.
Just under two years after the release of their debut album Wired, Cakewalk return with their sophomore album Transfixed. It’ll be released on Hubro Music on 6th January 2014. Transfixed is aptly titled. It’s an album that has you Transfixed from the opening bars of Ghosts to the closing notes of Dunes. During the six tracks, the music is variously atmospheric, cinematic, dark, dramatic, eerie, ethereal, evocative, experimental, gothic and haunting. Subtleties, surprises and nuances unfold. Soundscapes flower and blossom as genres and influences melt into one.
Everything from ambient, experimental, electronica, free jazz,funk, jazz, Krautrock, prog rock, psychedelia and rock. Influences include Brian Eno, Can, Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Led Zeppelin, Neu and Pink Floyd can be heard on Transfixed. One of the most obvious influences is Can. Just like Can, Cakewalk improvised on Transfixed. Cakewalk are keeping the improvisational flame alive Transfixed. They hone and sculpt a song until they’re mini modernist works of art. The other way to describe Transfixed, is a cinematic Magnus Opus, where Cakewalk continue to push musical boundaries to their limit and beyond.
- Posted in: Ambient ♦ Electronic ♦ Experimental ♦ Free Jazz ♦ Jazz ♦ Krautrock ♦ Prog Rock ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Cakewalk, Espen Sommer Eide, Highasakite, Hubro Music, Ivar Loe Bjornstad, Oystein Skar, Sacred Harp, Stepan Meidell, The Hedvig Mollestad Trio, The Sweetest Thrill, Transfixed, Wired