Soft Ffog - 2022 - Soft Ffog

(35:44; Is It Jazz? Records)

Track list:
1. Chun Li 9:45
2. Zangief 8:48
3. Ken 7:43
4. Dhalsim 9:28

Tom Hasslan - huitars
Axel Skalstad - drums
Trond Frönes - bass
Vegard Lien Bjerkan - keyboards

Norwegian band Soft Ffog is a fairly new creation, with the earliest information about the band appearing towards the end of 2021. Their self-titled debut album was released in the spring of 2022 through Norwegian label Is It Jazz? Records, a subdivision of Norwegian label Karisma Records.

To open with an answer to the name of the label releasing this album: No, Soft Ffog isn't a jazz band as such. At least to my mind this is a unit with more of an orientation towards psychedelic rock, and a progressive variety of that style at that. But this isn't music without it's jazz-oriented elements either, so a certain affection for jazz music elements will be needed to enjoy this production.

I gather that the key aspect of this production is that it is retro-oriented however. The compositions, which all have something of an improvisational character to them, are all revolving around an array of retro-oriented elements. The guitar sound is dark and dirty in a manner that comes with associations towards the 1970's when used for support and flowing with an elegant psychedelic orientation or delivering psychedelic laced, vibrant solo runs when taking the lead. At times with a bluesy undercurrent of the kind that reminds me ever so slightly about the classic Robin Trower albums.

The floating keyboards and often expressive keyboard solo runs adds a 70's progressive rock flavor to the proceedings, and fans of classic era keyboards will have plenty to enjoy for this aspect of the album experience as a whole. The bass and drums get their moments to shine too, and the rhythm sections appear to me to also be the main providers of the jazz-oriented details and sections throughout, either as the strict providers or as the driving elements that calls out a shift towards more jazz-oriented landscapes.

All of the compositions ebb and flow, twist and turn, surge and fall and in general keeps a momentum going while either subtly developing towards new pastures or making a sudden left or right turn into them. This is music in motion and music in flow, always going places and occasionally dropping back to revisit landscapes previously explored. As the entire album is an instrumental one, it is the instruments that do the talking here and as indicated with the guitars and the keyboards being most expressive and dominant in their conversations.

Soft Ffog doesn't venture into any novel landscapes with their debut album, but the entire album documents a band that know what they want to do and have the capabilities and talents needed to create the desired end result as well. Instrumental psychedelic rock explored within a progressive context, complete with more or less subtle nods and inclusions of jazz music elements and with an improvised feel and arguably orientation to boot. With a distinct mood, sound and atmosphere that many fans of early 1970's progressive rock of a more expressive nature in particular will adore. A solid debut album.

Olav "Progmessor" Björnsen, May 2022



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