Album review: Lars Fredrik Frøislie - Fire Fortellinger (2023)
The debut solo album Fire Fortellinger (Four Tales) from Wobbler keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie was created during the Covid pandemic and while it features Frøislie's classic 70s keyboard rig - a major component of the Wobbler sound - the lack of input from his band members, what has been described as being 'run through the Wobbler grinder' along with Norwegian lyrics and a reliance on improvisation and single takes (including the mistakes) makes the album sound more immediate, but still recognisable as Frøislie the 70’s prog-influenced keyboard player and Wobbler band member. Frøislie also plays drums and recorder on the album but bass is supplied by Nikolai Hængsle (BigBang/The National Bank/Needlepoint/Elephant9).
The four tracks on the LP are the four tales of the album title encompassing folk-lore and Norse mythology, pictured like cameos in four windows on the front of the album sleeve, imagery that is further enhanced by the zoetrope-like images of a caped horseman on side A of the LP label and an eagle in flight on side B.
'Rytter av dommedag' (Doomsday Rider) is a Ragnarok-themed tale, where King Rakne rises from the dead, emerging from his burial mound to cause chaos and destruction. This long-form piece has plenty of room for development, with a stately opening and ending, fast paced movements, slower vocal sections, quiet moments and metrical trickery.
'Et sted under himmelhvelvet' (A place under the firmament) contains bucolic, symphonic moments representing the idyllic setting of the track’s title, which could be anywhere. It's about travelling to somewhere new but where you feel you've been before, before discovering that you have ancestral ties to the place.
'Jærtegn' (Milestones) channels the folk-lore of enchanted forests and the aurora borealis when a solar eclipse coincides with a horse-drawn cart accident as it races through Myrkviðr. The riders become eternal wanderers in the forest, only occasionally visible like the northern lights, stretching their arms towards the sun in the vain hope of finding their way home. The track can be roughly divided into two parts; a dynamic beginning section which resolves into a slower section with melancholic overtones.
'Naturens Katedral' (Nature's Cathedral) is a depiction of winter in the Norwegian mountains. The mountainous landscape is synonymous with reflective thought, and the track is suggestive of a yearning for an earlier time when life was simpler. Not quite as long as opening track 'Rytter av dommedag', this is another long-form composition which flows through different moods, at times coming close to dark prog and even featuring a lengthy jazzy ending.
The music is well-suited to a keyboard-bass-drums trio format which is the greatest difference between it and Wobbler music; the array of keyboards easily makes up for the lack of guitar which in turn helps it to be less Yes-sounding. As much as I’d have liked a new Wobbler album, I’m more than happy that Frøislie has kept this music to himself. It’s an exceptionally good album.