A long time in the making, 120 Days II is the follow up to 120 Days – the self titled album from the Norwegian quartet seemingly short on inspiration for their titles. What they are probably more intent on is letting their music speak for itself, which it does so here to often powerful effect.
Listening to this work is like stepping back in time, sometimes to a Manchester disco in the early 1990s, or, on other occasions, much further back to a Berlin club in the 1970s. From that you will have gathered that the Krautrock influence is strong, but the quartet are sensible enough to take their influences and run with them, harnessing them for music that often speaks with genuine power and emotion.
Much is made in the press release of how the sound is darker and dirtier than the first album, and while that is indeed the case there are moments where sunlight splits the clouds. That proves the case when opener Spacedoubt gives way to Dahle Disco and the tempo doubles, the scenery rushing past in a blur of beats and loops before the band unleash a sharp riff at the lower end.
By now they have already set out their stall in the leering opener, full of attitude with its “rush of blood to the head” lyrics. This is complemented towards the end in Sunkissed, where Embla Kleivmyr’s vocals are softer, bearing more of a similarity to a quieter Ian McCulloch in their delivery. This leads straight in to the intriguing SF, whose cross rhythms are briefly puzzling as bongos and bass line strive for supremacy.
At the centre of the album is a three part suite, Lucid Dreams, which is palpably preparing for takeoff in its first part, the loops gradually honing in on each other, before dropping some pretty seismic four to the floor beats. Here the vocal sounds one paced though, fed through a vocoder and staying resolutely earthbound while the music around it reaches for the skies.
There is plenty of ambition here, and Sleepless Nights in particular is massively grand, but at times the music gets stuck in its own loops, orbiting itself in melodic circles that are admittedly wonderful to indulge in, but which don’t quite move forward with the propulsion that they could.
So it’s a guarded welcome for the second instalment of 120 Days, an energetic ride with plenty of musical thrills and spills which will sound a treat live, on the road or in the club, but one which doesn’t fully convince when the vocals are added to the mix. The band’s ambition cannot be faulted, mind – and this second part still bodes well for future instalments.