Pokerface - Transeo

Pokerface is multi-talented Swede Stefan Heidevik and a plethora of session musicians and guests who have created a mind-melting mix of ultra-modern electronica and progressive musics that while at times redolent of the Pat Mastelotto/Trey Gunn project TU, has dug out its own deeply-ploughed furrow of synapse-stretching weirdness. That's a compliment, by the way!


You can listen to it here, while reading on...



A mix of studio and live tracks, the latter sound more organic, more human, as indeed it should be. It seems a real drummer is used on Quicksand/Concrete in addition to electronic percussion and some really nice jazz trumpet.

Veering from future projected madly clattering Aphex Twin percussion to implied jazz and eerie soundscapes on Beginnings and Endings, this one track sums up the unusual auditory experience that awaits the listener on Transeo. This album is at once unsettling, edgy, discordant, but for all that strangely compelling.

The frenzied percussion can get a bit overpowering, as it seems that every available space is taken up by something being hit, or a sample of some other things being hit, but I suppose as Pokerface evolved from a hip-hop outfit this only to be expected. The downside of the claustrophobic feel of the music is leaving the listener with no air to breathe. Even on a slower track like Miss You, the "drum kit" is still falling down the stairs, albeit in slow motion.

For once, the beat keeps relatively simple on Real Real Reality and a spoken-word oratory of dark menace that actually does have room to manoeuvre shows what can be done with a bit of "less is more" in the percussion department. Things become even more spaced out on For Those Who Have Fallen which meanders through slabs of heavy chords marching to militaristic beats and all sorts of odd electronica with neo-operatic vocals; zeuhl-hop anyone?

Next, we're back to the robots-on-powders jigging excesses, although Spider could well be Kraftwerk dragged into the 21st century, before Bryan Baker contributes a fast dissonant and angular guitar run that flies in and out a jazz-fusion tangent. Because of the guitar (I'm an old-fashioned guy), this is my favourite track on the album, as it has a different colour to anything else here.

The following and last six tracks on Transeo are tagged "bonus tracks" but are really part of the whole as I doubt you could get hold of this without them. Mattis Karlsson contributes a Terje Rypdal influenced and almost ambient layer to the hymnal Ending, and things get real strung out on the scratchy Stagger, random trumpet and guitar jitterbugging all over the shop; very odd indeed.

It has to be said that the end half of this album is more fulfilling than the beginning for this listener at least. For some reason Red Room First takes me back to Peter Hammill's Gog/Magog from In Camera, a similar dystopian fearfest looming over the listener like a toxic cloud. Dark dark ambience and modernistic dislocation have replaced the percussive fury of the early part of the album and although this is a thousand miles and more from easy listening, it's a preferred jerky version of the nightmare in this house. The groovily titled Born To Murder The World sounds like Leftfield on baaad drugs having a dance with IEM, and Morning Storm belies description...ok...if Faust were a jungle band they would not sound anything like this oddity...how's that?

Transeo is not for the faint-hearted, but get it on Bandcamp for as little as you want to contribute - what have you got to lose?

Stefan is, according to his Bandcamp page, "Currently working on a new album, featuring contributions by Morgan Ågren (Mats/Morgan Band, Trey Gunn, Devin Townsend) and Bryan Baker (Steps Ahead, Yellowjackets, Till Brönner)." Should be interesting!


Track listing:
1. Hypocrites (5:06)
2. Krtek Ve Snu (5:02)
3. Buildings - featuring Mike Lloyd (6:30)
4. Beginnings And Endings (7:18)
5. Quicksand / Concrete - Live (4:17)
6. Like Love - Live (4:36)
7. Miss You - Live (4:14)
8. Really Real Reality - featuring Michael Horvath - Live (3:37)
9. For Those Who Have Fallen - Live (3:56)
10. Spider - featuring Bryan Baker (6:26)
Bonus Tracks
11. Ending - featuring Mikael Karlsson (5:52)
12. Stagger - featuring Bryan Baker (3:16)
13. Red Room First (7:20)
14. Born To Murder The World - featuring Michael Horvath (2:15)
15. Morning Storm (7:16)
16. Nana-Dudeh (Remix) (3:19)

Total running time: 80:29

Line up:
- Stefan Heidevik / synthesizer, programming, glockenspiel, percussion, voices
- Michael Horvath / voices
- Olle Prim / drums
- Mattis Karlsson / guitar
- Per Eriksson / saxophone, clarinet
- Bryan Baker / guitar
- Anna Sahlin / cello
- Karin Svensson Nordberg / violin
- Mike Lloyd / trumpet

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