Three years after the release of Cakewalk’s sophomore album Transfixed, the Norwegian supergroup recently released their much-anticipated, third album, Ishihara, on Hubro Music. It finds Cakewalk at their innovative best, on what’s without doubt, the most ambitious album of their career so far. Ishihara is another album carefully sculpted soundscapes from sonic adventurers Cakewalk, who continue on their journey to make groundbreaking and genre-melting music.
That has been the case since Stepan Meidell, Oystein Skar and Ivar Loe Bjornstad decided to form a new group together, Cakewalk. In an instant, a new Norwegian supergroup was born. Cakewalk featured three leading lights of the Norwegian music scene. They were all vastly experienced musicians but came from from very different different musical backgrounds.
Keyboardist Øystein Skar was born and brought up in Vinstra, in Norway. Originally, his background was originally in classical music. Later, Øystein Skar began to expand his musical horizons, and was soom playing pop, jazz and improv. All this would stand Øystein Skar in good stead for the future.
As Øystein Skar’s career progressed, he began working as a composer, and has written everything from pieces for a solo piano to a large ensemble. Many of these pieces have been performed in public. However, composition is just one string to Øystein Skar’s bow.
Apart from playing synths in Cakewalk, Øystein Skar is a member of two Norwegian groups, Highasakite and Sacred Harp. He played on Sacred Harp’s 2009 eponymous E.P, and three years later, played on Highasakite’s 2012 debut album All That Floats Will Rain. Since then, they’ve released Silent Treatment in 2014 and Camp Echo in 2016. Øystein Skar has also played on albums by Jessica Slighter, the Loud Jazz Band, Glow and Aurora. Still, though, Øystein Skar finds time to record and play with Cakewalk.
Ivar Loe Bjornstad.
Drummer Ivar Loe Bjornstad was born in Surnadal, and nowadays, is based in Oslo. Ivar Loe Bjornstad who is an experienced musician, who comes from a rock background. Away from Cakewalk, he’s a member of two bands.
This includes The Hedvig Mollestad Trio. Ivar Loe Bjornstad has played on the five albums they’ve released between 2011 and 2016. Their debut album was 2011s Shoot, with All Of Them Witches, following in 2013 and Enfant Terrible in 2014. Last year, 2016, The Hedvig Mollestad Trio released two critically acclaimed albums, Black Stabat Mater and Evil In Oslo. They were the latest additions to Ivar Loe Bjornstad’s burgeoning discography.
Ivar Loe Bjornstad is also a member of Friensemblet, and has played on their last two albums, Undergroove in 2012 and El Aaiun-Across The Border in 2014. Still, though, Ivar Loe Bjornstad found time to feature on two albums by Anja. However, the busiest member of Cakewalk is Stepan Meidell.
He was born in Kristiansand, and for several years, lived in Amsterdam. Nowadays though, Stepan Meidell based in Bergen which has a vibrant music scene. That is where his impressive CV has taken shape over the last decade.
Stepan Meidell 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, when they released their only album Stitch in 2009. Since then, Stepan has been a member of The Velkro, Sweetest Thrill, Krachmacher and recently released his sophomore album Metrics. It was released just a week before Cakewalk released their third album Ishihara.
Cakewalk released their critically acclaimed debut Wired in February 2012. This was the album that established Cakewalk’s reputation as a group why released ambitious, groundbreaking music. Wired was a melting pot of seventies psychedelia, Krautrock, industrial, experimental, electronica and noise rock. This was a musical representation of the three members of Cakewalk’s very different musical backgrounds. However, the result was an album that launched Cakewalk’s career.
Two years later, and Cakewalk returned with their sophomore album. It found Cakewalk continuing to combine musical genres and influences. Elements of ambient, experimental, electronica, free jazz, funk, jazz, Krautrock, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock combine, while Cakewalk draw inspiration from Brian Eno, Can, Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Led Zeppelin, Neu and Pink Floyd. Some of the time, Cakewalk improvise, before honing and sculpting songs into the mini modernist works of art that became Transfixed. Cakewalk had set the bar high for the followup, Ishihara.
Just over a year after the release of Transfixed, Cakewalk entered the Duper Studio, in Bergen in the summer 2015, to record their third album Ishihara. It would eventually feature six soundscapes that were composed by the three members of Cakewalk. These would be sculpted by Cakewalk in the familiar surroundings of Duper Studio.
As recording got underway, drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad as joined by bassist, guitarist and synth player Stephan Meidell. The third and final member of Cakewalk was sonic scientist Øystein Skar, who would play synths. They were part of Cakewalk’s vast musical palette that they would put to good use.
During Ishihara a myriad of beeps, squeaks, drips, hip hop scratches, special effects and what sounds like samples from early computer games are deployed. So are futuristic, sci-fi synths, pounding, driving drums and the sounds of everyday life that Cakewalk have sampled. This becomes part of a musical tapestry that reflects each members of Cakewalk’s musical backgrounds. This ranges from avant-garde and avant-jazz to classical music, electronica, improv, pop and rock. They’re among the disparate threads that were woven as gradually, the multi-layered Ishihara took shape.
Once Ishihara was complete, Stephan Meidell mixed the album. All that was left was for Jørgen Træen to master Ishihara. All that was needed was a title.
After some though, Cakewalk decided to call the album Ishihara, after the Ishihara colour test which was used to detect colour blindness. It was developed by Shinobu Ishihara, a Japanese ophthalmologist. Ishihara proved to be a fitting title for Cakewalk’s long-awaited third album.
It’s possible to focus on different levels of the music on Ishihara. Some people will to focus on front, others the middle or back of the soundscapes. Each part of the soundscape has something different for the listener to perceive. While some will turn their attention to the slow, pulsating heartbeat in the deep in the music, while others will be happy to concentrate on the outside of the music. Regardless of which level of music the listener concentrates on, the important thing is how they perceive it. Ishihara was a fascinating musical concept. Despite that, they seemed in no hurry to release Ishihara.
Having completed Ishihara in 2015, Cakewalk decided to lay the album down like a fine wine. After just over a year in Cakewalk’s vaults, Ishihara was ready to be tasted by the record buying public. They were in for a musical feast.
Hip hop scratches replicate the sound of Monkeys which opens Ishihara. Soon, sirens sound, before thunderous, pounding drums add an element of drama. What sounds like a fighter jet soars above the arrangement, adding to the dramatic cinematic sound. Sometimes, filters are applied to parts of the arrangement, before drums pound and dominate the soundscape. Then the baton passes to sci-fi and haunting sounds, while the drums send out a warning. Meanwhile, a thoughtful sound sits atop the multilayered arrangement. It’s an aural feast, as sounds assail the listener. By then, the music is dramatic, futuristic, wistful and ruminative. Partly, that’s because of the sweeping classical strings, while drums pound and sirens wail as an apocalyptic sound emerges. Later, sci-fi sounds combine with roars and growls, before what sounds like a plane taking off can be heard. So can the beeps, squeaks and bubbling, dripping sounds. Latterly, mechanical sounds pervade this captivating, multilayered cinematic soundscape that’s guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing.
Metallic, sci-fi, beeping and robotic sounds combine to create an alternative, mesmeric symphony that marches to the beat of the drum on Shrooms. That’s until the bass dominates the soundscape, while percussion rattles and a melodic cooing sound emerges and shimmers. It adds a contrast, while banks of synths beep, squeak and squawk as if providing the soundtrack to a futuristic merry-go-round. Still the bass propels the soundscape, while percussion rattles. Meanwhile, this dreamy, melodic soundscape ebbs and flows, and sounds like the soundtrack to a lysergic and surreal cartoon.
Elegiac describes Dome as it cascades and shimmers. Meanwhile, a buzzing drone emerges out of the midst of hypnotic drums, glistening guitar and shimmering cymbals. Soon, synths buzz and beep adding to the dubby, sci-fi soundtrack. It sounds as if it would be the perfect accompaniment to a documentary about an Apollo space mission. Later, the arrangement meanders, as post rock guitars are honed and sculpted and add to the drama before the ethereal soundscape floats along. Still, the post rock guitars play their part in this deliberate, melodic and cinematic soundscape which soon, reaches it destination.
Just one note chirps before space is left on State. This is equivalent to a dramatic pause. Eventually, another chirp emerges from the soundscape. Soon, they become more regular and there’s less space between the notes. Meanwhile, a subtle synths prowls, while drums are played carefully. Cakewalk are playing within themselves, and taking a less is more approach. This proves effective as the arrangement builds, and drums add dramatic backdrop. It builds and grows in power, as robotic synths emerge melodically from the midst of the arrangement. It’s grown in power as the thunderous, powerhouse of a rhythm section combine with washes of swirling synths, sirens and bubbling sounds. They create a melodic cacophony of sound that’s truly irresistible. Cakewalk in full flight at their inventive best is a joy to behold, in this genre-melting epic which is the highlight of Ishihara.
Washes of mesmeric swirling synths combine with the rhythm section on Apostrophe. Soon, they’re carefully crafting another melodic and genre-melting soundscape. It features fleet fingered bass playing while drums power the arrangement along. Synths intertwine, adding further layers to what’s another melodic and cinematic soundscape which features Cakewalk at their most accessible.
In the distance, the arrangement to Rebound, which closes Ishihara, crackles, buzzes and shivers intermittently. Soon, a dark synth buzzes ominously, while a post rock guitar cuts through the arrangement. In the background, hammering and metallic sounds can be heard, before synths strings, shrieks and sirens sound. All the time, an array of disparate synths assail the lucky listener. They’re advised to shut their eyes and wallow in the delights of Cakewalk at their most innovative. Sometimes, beeps, squeaks, sci-fi and futuristic sounds emerge, while the rhythm section power the arrangement along. Meanwhile, post rock guitars and synths play leading roles as the arrangement takes on a softer, more melodic sound. Still, the arrangement marches to the beat of the drum, before the bass plays as jarring, grinding sounds are emitted from the soundscape. So two are squeaks and squeals that signal the end of Rebound, and indeed Ishihara.
It’s without doubt the best album of Cakewalk’s three album career. Cakewalk reaches new heights on Ishihara, which is a career-defining album from the Norwegian supergroup. Ishihara finds Cakewalk at their most inventive and innovative as they push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond to create six genre-melting, cinematic soundscapes.
The soundscapes find Cakewalk combining and switching between musical genres. Everything from avant-garde and avant-jazz, to Berlin School, classical, electronica and experimental, can be heard on Ishihara. So can improv and industrial, to Krautrock, post rock, psychedelia and rock. Similarly, Cakewalk combine an array of disparate musical instruments. This ranges from traditional instruments to synths, special effects and samples. They become part of Cakewalk’s carefully crafted tapestry, Ishihara. It’s without doubt, the finest album of Cakewalk’s career.
So much so, that Ishihara is career defining album from Cakewalk. They have set the bar high for future albums with Ishihara. It’s a genre-sprawling, vibrant, cinematic epic from sonic explorers Cakewalk, who reach new heights on their much-anticipated third album Ishihara.