Blindpassasjer by 1099Release date: May 11, 2018
Label: All Good Clean Records
1099 are an instrumental post-rock collective from Trondheim, Norway. Formed in 2003, Blindpassasjer is their third album following on from the self-titled debut in 2012 and Young Pines from 2015. Quite what the band where doing for the first 9 years of their existence is anyone’s guess! But the main thing is, the music 1099 create is of a very high calibre and their combination of elements of post-rock, space rock and (whisper it) jazz make for an intriguing listen. As with a lot of acts from this genre, they don’t give much away so I’ll cut to the chase and get to telling you about what to find in Blindpassasjer.
I think it pertinent to travel through the album as it is laid out, the flow of the tracks has obviously been structured in a certain way to take the listener on a journey. Opening with the stabbing keys and insistent guitar groove of ‘Silverdal’, there are also elements of country with lovely sliding guitars. When the track explodes into life the melody is heart breaking. If this is your introduction to 1099 you’ll be wanting to hear more. If you’re familiar with the first two albums, then you’ll also be ecstatic to hear their sound has evolved further and for the better. On ‘Tundra’, there are echoes of mid-period Explosions In The Sky with the combination of clean guitar melodies and ethereal sounds buzzing away in the background. As the track builds I also hear elements of the sturdy metallic pulse of Pelican. This makes for perfect early morning music.
1099 showcase a wide range of styles throughout the album and on ‘Osiris’, a spacious jazzy dub groove intricately combines spaced out sounds with brass and delayed guitars weaving tangential lines. This is not my usual listening experience but 1099 want to encompass a wide range of sounds and they manage to pull you into their world. A lonely bass line wanders at the start of ‘Under Isen’ before being eclipsed by crisp drums and then some gorgeous heavenly EITS clean guitars teasing out a melancholic melody. The first signs of the Mogwai influence come halfway through when the distortion pedals make their first welcome appearance. When 1099 go for it they mean business and they very much exploit the opportunity to rock out on this occasion.
On title track ‘Blindpassasjer’, jazzy drums duel with lovely shimmering guitars that wondrously weave searing melodies. Somehow we leap from this to some 70s TV show music before triumphantly hopping to spacious textures that Godspeed You! Black Emperor would maybe sound like if they tried to do a pop album. It’s the first moment on the album that is utterly transcendent and life affirming. If Sigur Rós decided to try their hand at country music then ‘For Seg Selv’ might be what this would sound like. It’s an unlikely collision of sounds that really shouldn’t work, but in 1099’s hands it seems perfectly natural and it’s more than just novelty music. The melodies that permeate this track are haunting, beautiful and superbly played by musicians that are clearly masters of their craft.
‘En Druknet Verden’ continues the themes explored in the previous track adding lush spacey textures and euphoric guitars that sweep down and elevate you to a higher place. When the Pelican boys show up again wanting to jam I’m reluctant to let them break the mood of the track, but before long I’m fully engaged when those shimmering guitars appear over the top of the heavier sounds. The amount of influences going on in this track is confusing, but at the same time, makes perfect sense and the flow is never anything less than 100% fluid.
Reaching straight into the GY!BE pot and pulling out some delicious seared guitar lines, the epic ‘Til Jorden’ begins with tumbling drums and a driving bass. Then, in the vein of the aforementioned Canadian giants, the track subsides into lush passages of calm with barely there instrumentation that conjures up visions of an apocalyptic landscape. As those liquid guitars begin their flow I am totally devoted and drawn in to the beauty and majesty 1099 create. When the drums join in with a Bonham sized heft it lifts the track up to incredible levels of post-rock excellence as the band reach for the skies. ‘Det Britiske Imperiet’ continues the rock momentum gathered with a track that sounds like a sophisticated Pelican with an excellent mainline melody throughout.
The chiming keys that introduce ‘Kontinental’ are a throwback to 70s rock, complete with sleazy saxophones, this track is one that I could have done without, the album’s staggering 78 minutes is the only troublesome feature of Blindpassasjer and ‘Kontinental’ not appearing would have helped address this. Maybe it’s because I’m a tad offended by the previous track, but the irritating jumpy boogie of ‘Lausanne’ also has me wondering why 1099 thought this was a good idea. Staying in the realms of 70s rock, this could be an entirely different band from the guys who created the sublime ‘Til Jorden’, albeit there is some redemption as the track ends in a flurry of wondrous guitar melodies.
Album closer ‘Vintersovn’ features a yearning melody as 1099 play it straight with a Mogwai-esque track that builds from sombre quiet to a truly stunning crescendo of sky scraping guitar lines and crashing guitars, symbols and cavernous drums. When the melodies are as sumptuous you forgive them for recreating something that has been done before umpteen times. We should also remember that 1099 have just crossed multiple genres during the album with great effect.
Apologies to anyone who is familiar with 1099, I am only a recent convert and still getting to know the band. I checked out their other work while waiting for the promo to come through, so I was eager to hear Blindpassasjer and it doesn’t disappoint. Taking the genre of post-rock and adding a uniqueness to the well-worn paths it treads is no mean feat and 1099 manage to do that. There are clear influences, but it was those influences that led me to checking them out. If you haven’t already heard their music, I would strongly encourage you do, Blindpassasjer has some exceptional highs.