The lush, cosmic parps opening Torpor (Svart), the second album from Brighton / Nottingham (UK) quartet Baron, suggest some kind of Jean-Michel Jarre Prog-fest. The ensuing sublime beauty blows that suspicion clean away, the band coming out like some Doors-infused Crosby, Stills and Nash excursion. The “Post” lead guitar and organ of opener ‘Dragonfly’ is pure Krieger and Manzarek;Alex Crispin and Blue Firth’s haunting harmonies stir the soul while the muffled pounding of Luke Foster’s Densmore-like drumming gently hypnotises the mind.
‘Mark Maker’ traverses a similar path, the almost dreamy pace and intonations gradually infused with a fuzzing chord yet descending to a sombre ‘church organ’ style section which, whilst striking in its solitude, leaves you wondering exactly what you’re listening to. The arrangement here, as throughout the album, is the key factor: soft, evocative leads strum over the coda with perfect timing, adding a piquant thrill to an already intriguing sound. The increasingly heady atmosphere of ‘Wild Cry’ leads further down the Jefferson Aiplane style ‘Hippie Rock’ path; while the ensuing ‘Dark Down’ sees Scandinavian Pop rhythms continue to sport those Americana influences like a hessian poncho.
None of this prepares the soul for the emotional wrecking-ball that is ‘Stry’, the first showing of real fire whilst still displaying Baron’s core subtleties in abundance. Initially a lonely stroll across an evening sun-kissed beach, wonderfully-stirring vocals suddenly morph into languid chants before the unexpected explosion into a potent, Drone-like state. The Fleet Foxes-esque melodic tones of ‘Sleepless’, meanwhile, are delicately fired by flickering keys and lead guitar, a sudden switch to Groove perfectly timed to click the fingers and wake the lazily-nodding victims from their peaceful trance.
Every ingredient within this entrancing piece of work plays a major role: Peter Evans’ pulsing, rolling bass the principal factor of ‘Deeper Align’s building swell before the track’s descent into Raga-tinged, heavy guitar-led atmospheres. Indeed there are so many influences in Baron’s armoury that the skill used in melding them together so effortlessly and organically leads to an even greater admiration of the band. The haunting atmospherics of closer ‘Albedo Dei’ carry the listener from an album that will leave an indelible mark on the psyche: the kind that will release something new with each listen, caressing the mind and soul whilst reminding the recipient of the loneliness of despair.
Memorable, magnetic, and nostalgic without being derivative, Torpor is a gloriously reflective experience.