Review: Harlequins Enigma, champagne pop at chimp champ`s pop corn party

Harlequins Enigma, champagne pop at chimp champ`s pop corn party

12 Jun, 2013 Alexa Spieler

The Norway-based eclectic, essentially one-man band, Harlequins Engima, delivers yet another masterpiece with Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party. Åge Riisnes stands as the man behind the band’s success, accredited as a synth musician, composer, and video producer; Elin Berge, Katie Leung, and Sara Jensen also contribute. Harlequins Engima’s latest release resonates of Riisnes’ brilliancy and musicianship that simply isn’t showcased by any other artist. After releasing a multitude of albums of the previous years, Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party delivers another accomplished full-length, displaying that Riisnes is as innovative as artists come, focusing the attention on his abilities to create music that isn’t necessarily heard frequently.

Harlequins Enigma attempts to achieve musical diversity with the beginning track, “Will.” The song stands as intriguing with its introductory hip-hop styled beat, which grows into an off-beat with sporadic strikes. Though initially enticing, “Will” resonates of underlying, clashing synthesizers. The spacey, eclectic tones seem to clash at times, providing listeners with too much at once. The haunting tones initially draw listeners in, along with the steady, yet uniquely supportive beat, but continually progress into a danceable, yet disorderly composition.  “Will” is a risk, but not necessarily the risk to take on a first song. However, with the following track, “Sun Moon Stars,” Harlequins Enigma distinguishes something of an audible, aurally-pleasing composition. The underlying tones continue to mix, presenting an up-tempo track echoing of higher, louder synthesizer tones atop the darker ones. Nevertheless, this mixture of elements seems to work. Pushing through the first song, “Sun Moon Stars” holds true to its title with its spacey atmosphere, allowing Harlequins Enigma to prove its musical diversity and musicality.

“Basis of Pop” seems to serve as the perfect follow up to “Sun Moon Stars,” appearing as the extended continuation of that composition. As a supportive beat introduces the song with a hypnotizing synth line, Harlequins Enigma establishes its pattern of building up a composition with the frequent additions of different synthesizers. Though the original beat and frequent high-pitched melody act as the steady rhythm section, sonically, infrequent placed tones stream throughout the composition. There’s a trustful infrequency, but reliability within “Basis of Pop” that prepares listeners for Harlequins Enigma. Every opportunity listeners think they’re prepared for what Riisnes has prepared, this composition alters patterns. What remains consistent is this additional tone, providing an impeccable build-up that allows for a hypnotizing, enticing sound.

Harlequins Enigma establishes that this release isn’t something steady and that listeners will be caught off guard. No track proves that more-so than “Lake Frog,” where the album in its entirety changes pace. Transitioning from an album that appeared to only resonate of modernity, “Lake Frog” combines early jazz influences with a twist of the modern synthesizers. While the drum beat holds true to jazz with its infrequent appearances and strikes on downbeats, the synthesizers clash in shockingly beautiful way. Surprises frequently exist while this steady drumbeat echoes and underlying darker eighth note synthesizer pattern continues. This song won’t drive listeners to a dance floor, but will leave them remarkably intrigued by its frequent changes. Even as the song drives towards its coda, “Lake Frog” transitions alter its previously steady percussion, only to move back towards its originality. Concluding with the ominous underlying tones that initiating the track, “Lake Frog” embodies everything Harlequins Enigma seeks to achieve.

While many producers are expected to produce only of dubsteb elements and provide danceable tracks, Harlequins Enigma makes it a point to not entrap itself in genre constraints. Several tracks do exist purposely to intrigue listeners to dance, but that isn’t the point in the musical journey. Harlequins Enigma establishes that Riisnes isn’t simply another Avicii or Skrillex, but rather, a composer with individuality and originality. “3 Footsteps” is a composition that marks individuality. Stepping away from up-tempo numbers, “3 Footsteps” drives towards both a slower and darker route, unusual for Harlequins Enigma. Tributing modernity, “3 Footsteps” contains an occasional, infrequent bass drum strike that associates itself with dubstep; however, that’s the only calling to the genre. Nicely putting together a composition filled with different mallet instruments, the layering is to be praised. “3 Footsteps” is hauntingly thrilling, engaging listeners due to its ominous nature, proving that a composition doesn’t need to be filled with overproduction or clashes to obtain listeners’ attention.

Concluding the album is “Strange Noises of Dance,” where the title directly associates with the instrumentation. Audible are essentially the “strange noises of dance,” where Riisnes throws together multiple clashing synthesizer tones, recalling similarities to the album’s first track. While within the first track the mixture didn’t work, “Strange Noises of Dance” isn’t perhaps the most aurally-pleasing, but summarizes the musical journey. The pieced together jumble continues to clash in a similar way, but the method works. It would’ve been easy and predictable if Riisnes finished with a stereotypical danceable song. However, Riisnes decides to show more depth and expand his artistry, continuing to demonstrate that Harlequins Enigma is a musical journey no one is prepared to take.

Expect the unexpected with Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party. Harlequins Enigma presents something remarkably extraordinary and vehemently enticing. Some tracks may take time to adjust to, but Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party marks a release that’s simply atypical, and still, enjoyable. A musical experience, a journey – Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party is commendable for its attempt at attempting the unattempted.

Review by: Alexa Spieler
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)