Artiest / Band: 
AIRBAG (2009)

Airbag hails from Norway. The current line-up consists of Asle Tostrup (lead vocals), Bjørn Riis (guitars & vocals), Jørgen Hagen (keyboards), Anders Hovdan (bass) and Joachim Slikker (drums). Identity is their debut album after releasing two EP's. The band played with Pineapple Thief, Riverside and Gazpacho and has an extraordinary liveshow with an extensive use of backdrop films. Their music is chilling, soothing and has this phlegmatic atmosphere of 'don't make a fuzz , just sit back and relax'. The Prelude is an all instrumental track, gradually building up from a ticking clock - I wonder who inspired who, thinking about Tick Tock by Gazpacho! - and then there are gentle soundscapes with a delightful bass pedal. The only difference between ambient music and this track would be the bass and the guitar, playing the slow melody. No Escape is one of the beautiful mellow tracks, with influences of A-HA and the more gentle, psychedelic tracks by Porcupine Tree. Tostrup's voice sounds to me like a mix between the voices of Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Morten Harket (A-ha) and Jan-Henrik Ohme (Gazpacho). Safe Like You sounds very much like the psychedelic Porcupine Tree, the atmosphere could also be compared with the slower songs of the Polish band Collage. Only subtlety, no distorted guitars but a major role for the keyboards. There's just a modest role for drums and bass as we also know from Camel albums like Moonmadness. Even more psychedelic is Steal My Soul. It sounds a bit like Spirit Of Eden by Talk Talk but could have been an early Porcupine Tree song too, while there are moments that remind me of Pink Floyd as well: slow, majestic, sometimes with echoing guitars, relaxed with some nice changes in key. The track features a melodic Floydian solo by Riis, accompanied by Hagen's organ and of course bass and drums, tastefully fading away until you only hear the plucking of the strings on a guitar. Quite the same atmosphere characterizes Feeling Less, beautiful but hardly original and the transition from symphonic rock to the acoustic guitar reminds me of Pink Floyd or a laidback song by Spock's Beard. That same acoustic guitar opens the song Colours with only Tostrup's voice. The chorus is again very much in the vein of a symphonic Porcupine Tree. Ambient soundscapes and a piano are the overtures for Tostrup's voice in both How I Wanna Be and Sounds That I Hear. After a little while the full band join in and we hear a combination of very chilling music and slightly more powerful pieces with more heavy guitars. Don't think of metal or hard rock, it's still very mellow, without fast solo's from guitar or keyboards. In the last track Tostrup's voice sounds like the voice of Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues) and also the guitar and the atmosphere remind me of the mellow songs by The Moody Blues.

In conclusion I'd say that Identity is a fantastic album for all those who like mellow progressive pop music as performed by the bands mentioned above. Identity is a delightful debut with the same characteristic as Gazpacho's last few albums: it's all about atmosphere and melancholy. For my taste the music sounds a bit 'too much like' and there's not enough challenge or tension, just a little too laidback.