2009 (Karisma Records)
That Norwegian prog band Airbag relies particularly heavily on Pink Floyd has been written on their ID card since their debut album “Identity” from 2009. Correction: actually that is already the case a few years earlier since “Identity” is a compilation of previous EPs. The greatest affinity lies in the guitar playing of Bjørn Riis, which is infused with a delicious Gilmour DNA. The combination with the atmospheric keyboard work of Jørgen Hagen also leaves nothing to be desired for in terms of clarity and no one will criticize all those hammond and mellotron sounds. Because there’s so much musicality in their music.
Airbag creates dreamy atmospheres à la Gazpacho, No Man, the later Marillion, Blackfield, No Sound and Porcupine Tree, but there is also a lot of melancholy in their music as we know from alternative bands like Radiohead and especially Saybia. The comparison with the latter is quickly made since the voice of Asle Tostrup with its long sweeps resembles Saybia frontman Søren Huss a lot. Having said so doesn’t mean that Airbag does not have its own identity, they do. There are more dogs named Fikkie.
“Identity” contains the material of the previously digitally released EPs. It is nice that the eight songs together form a consistent whole. The album opens with Prelude where the soundscapes trumps. The relaxed song with its warm keyboard playing is a nice preview of what is to come. The subsequent No Escape is a fine song with a remarkably produced ending. However, the six that come after that are all brilliant. They show a beautiful mixture of extremely melodic guitar interpretations and solos combined with various tastemakers. There are rolling organ sounds, stately strings, monumental mellotron chords, steaming piano touches, rousing beats of the acoustic guitar, deep basses, industrially designed drum rhythms and a lot of gripping vocals and singing together of the catchy kind. We can no longer distinguish the east from the west.
Airbag is mainly a band that has to have subtle playing, which is well reflected in the guitar-key moment of the beautiful Safe Like You. Very strong are also the solos in Steal My Soul and Sounds That I Hear where the goosebumps take on dermatologically scary proportions.
Still, in my opinion, the best song on the album is an ordinary song. Colours is so indescribably beautiful. It makes this CD a beautiful pearl, because that is “Identity” and airbag can write that on his ID card.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022