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Named for a movie by American sexploitation auteur Russ Meyer, Motorpsycho are an eclectic Norwegian band whose music is an adventurous amalgam of progressive rock, psychedelia, alternative rock, folk-rock, hard rock, jazz, country, and old-school heavy metal. Based out of Trondheim, the group emerged fully loaded in the late '80s, but really caught fire with the release of their ambitious third album, Demon Box, which spanned two LPs and earned the band a Norwegian Grammy nomination. With a loyal fan base established, Motorpsycho set out to make a name for themselves both at home and abroad, issuing a string of acclaimed albums that chewed through genres with impunity, with highlights arriving via 2001's Phanerothyme and 2009's Child of the Future. Resulting from a commission from the Teknisk Museum, Here Be Monsters arrived in 2014. The band issued the sprawling double-length The Tower as the first entry in an experimental, genre-crossing trilogy in 2017; it also included 2019's The Crucible and 2020's The All Is One. The following year saw the release of the double-length Kingdom of Oblivion, which was considered a return to hard rock and underscored by the four track, live-in-studio Ancient Astronauts in 2022. Motorpsycho were formed in the fall of 1989 by guitarist Hans Magnus "Snah" Ryan, bassist Bent Saether, and drummer Kjell Runar "Killer" Jenssen, who all knew one another from playing the regional club circuit with various bands. After cutting a demo in 1990 (which was released under the title Maiden Voyage) and releasing their debut LP, Lobotomizer, in 1991, Jenssen left the group and Håkon Gebhardt, a high school friend of Ryan's, took over behind the drums. After a handful of EPs and vinyl-only releases, the new Motorpsycho lineup added a fourth member, Helge Sten, on keyboards and electronics, and they cut the grand-scale 1993 double album Demon Box, which earned enthusiastic reviews while expanding the group's following. The band stayed busy in the studio, releasing a pair of EPs in late 1993 and early 1994, leading up to Timothy's Monster, an expansive work spread out over two discs on CD and three LPs on vinyl. After the release of Timothy's Monster, Sten dropped out of Motorpsycho as a full-time bandmember, though he continued to work with the group in the studio and appeared at their live shows as his schedule permitted; guitarist Morten Fagervik and keyboardist Lars Lien came aboard in his place. In 1995, the group released The Tussler, the original soundtrack album to a movie that existed only in Motorpsycho's imagination, and despite a busy touring schedule, they returned with another album, Blissard, in 1996. By the time Angels and Daemons at Play was released in 1997, Fagervik and Lien had dropped out of the group, and the core trio of Ryan, Saether, and Gebhardt soldiered on, releasing their next studio effort, Trust Us, in 1998, and the first in their series of Roadworks albums (collecting live recordings from the group's archives) in 1999. In the 21st century, Motorpsycho kept up a hectic recording and performing schedule, releasing four studio albums, another Roadworks volume, and a collaborative EP with Jaga Jazzist Horns between 2000 and 2003; during this period, elements of jazz and electronic music also began playing a larger role in their music. In 2005, Gebhardt left Motorpsycho, and the 2007 album Black Hole/Blank Canvas found Ryan and Saether recording as a duo with guest percussionist Jacco van Rooij and vibraphonist Øyvind Brandtsegg. Released in 2008, Little Lucid Moments marked the recording debut of Motorpsycho's new full-time drummer, Kenneth Kapstad, and in 2009 the band celebrated their 20th anniversary with a vinyl-only album, Child of the Future, recorded with engineer Steve Albini. Another studio set, Heavy Metal Fruit, was released in 2010 and the fourth Roadworks collection followed in 2011. In 2012, Motorpsycho collaborated with keyboardist/composer/arranger Ståle Storløkken (Supersilent, Elephant9, Humcrush, Terje Rypdal) and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. They released a reimagined studio version of the 2011 concert work The Death Defying Unicorn, which was commissioned by the Molde International Jazz Festival for their 50th anniversary. They returned with the genre-defying Still Life with Eggplant in 2013, and followed it with the sprawling Behind the Sun in March 2014. Later that spring, the band announced The Motorpnakotic Fragments, an extremely limited-edition (1,200) album created from four 7" vinyl singles; also included was a disc of the entire album. It was shipped throughout the fall of 2014. Motorpsycho kicked off 2015 with a deluxe five-disc reissue of their 1993 album Demon Box. Originally recorded as a double, it was trimmed and released as a single album. The set restored the entire recording in proper sequence, was fully remastered, and contained bonus EPs, rarities, and a concert video disc. It was followed by a live acoustic vinyl offering entitled En Konsert for Folk Flest. Also that year, Rockheim, the Norwegian national museum of rock, displayed a 25-year retrospective exhibition of the band called Supersonic Scientists. For the first time in their career, Motorpsycho assembled a retrospective collection; entitled Supersonic Scientists: A Young Person's Guide to Motorpsycho, it featured one track each from their "regular" studio album catalog outside of soundtracks, live recordings, collaborations, or special projects. It was followed in February by a brand-new single, a cover of H.P. Lovecraft's version of Terry Callier's "Spin Spin Spin." The full-length Here Be Monsters was released a month later. The album's origins lay in a commission for the centennial jubilee of the Norwegian Technical Museum in November 2014. The music was written for the expanded version of Motorpsycho that featured Storløkken, though he did not participate in the recording sessions due to time constraints. Following the touring for Here Be Monsters, drummer Kapstad left the band, leaving Sæther and Ryan to write and rehearse their live score for the Carl Frode Tiller play Begynnelser. In 2017, a double-live album and DVD of Begynnelser was released. Drummer Tomas Järmyr joined Motorpsycho as a full-time member and made his studio debut on the 2017 double LP The Tower. The band followed with The Crucible, a three-track album that, in visual design and music, began where The Tower ended, but could not strictly speaking be referred to as a "sequel." Broader lyrically and more sharply focused and idiosyncratic musically, it was recorded at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales during August 2018 with co-producers Andrew Scheps and Deathprod and issued in March of the following year. In 2020, Motorpsycho completed their informally titled "Gullvåg Trilogy" -- initiated by The Tower and continued on The Crucible -- with The All Is One. Recorded in France and Norway between September and November of the previous year, the double-length album was planned for a spring release but postponed until summer. Undaunted, the group used the extra time, returned to the studio, and carefully detailed the recording. The All Is One was issued by Rune Grammofon in August. The set not only charted, it was nominated for a Spellemannprisen (Norway's equivalent of the Grammy Award) in the album of the year category. Motorpsycho returned to the studio after only a few shows due to the pandemic. They spent months writing and tracking new material in a "consciously heavy" direction. The band emerged with Kingdom of Oblivion, a 70-minute, double-length album that re-engaged with hard rock and metal without abandoning their more recent experiments with prog. Following the completion of the Gullvåg Trilogy, Motorpsycho continued their rockist focus with Ancient Astronauts in 2022. Re-teaming with producer Deathprod for five days at Amper Tone studio in Oslo, they jammed and composed together, resulting in four tracks basically recorded live in studio. Among them was their longest instrumental, the 22-minute "Chariot of the Sun: To Phaeton on the Occasion of Sunrise (Theme from an Imagined Movie)." Vocals, some keyboards, and additional guitars were added later.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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