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Arabs in Aspic, Norway


Arabs in Aspic - Progeria (EP). 2003 Borse Music
Arabs in Aspic - Far Out in Aradabia. 2004 Borse Music
Arabs in Aspic - Strange Frame of Mind. 2010 Pancromatic LP. 2011 Black Widow (Italy) CD
Arabs in Aspic - Pictures in a Dream. 2013 Black Widow (Italy) CD + LP

Robert Fripp has stated that "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" means: "Something precious which is stuck, but visible. Something precious which is encased in form."  So with that heady bit of insight, it's obvious to me that Arabs in Aspic means... yea, I have no idea either. [shrug]

But what is "in aspic" is the band's ability to recreate the sounds of the 1970s. Specifically the American FM sound of 1975 and '76. Despite being from Norway, Arabs in Aspic are yet another band that would fit well in my USA Midwest / Ontario Progressive Rock (1970's/early 80s) list. Sounds odd doesn't it? Well... it's not as strange as it may first appear.

In 1990, in my European backpacking days, I was on an overnight train from Oslo to Bergen. And I befriended a nice looking couple who I thought might be American. They didn't look American (jeans and white tennis shoes were still strictly the provenance of Americans in those days), but they sure did sound like it. So I ventured into conversation with them - both college kids and only a few years younger than I at the time. They went on to explain that they not only learn English, but "American English" in school. Crap - they spoke the language better than I did (do)!

So a band from Norway being able to immerse themselves completely into the American mindset isn't that far fetched at all. Note I said the FM sound of America - not just bands from the USA. To me Arabs in Aspic have carved a niche out of something very familiar - somewhere between Pink Floyd, Kansas, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and Led Zeppelin. It's a fascinating blend - like mixing a new drink with common ingredients.

Sure, you say, but most of those bands were British and they were popular everywhere, right? True. But Arabs in Aspic remind me of those US bands that tried, successfully or unsuccessfully, to copy them. A deep diver may call out other 70s Norwegian bands like Host, Aunt Mary, or Ruphus, but that's not it... I hear the music here as something created in North America - not in Europe. Even more so than Black Bonzo, who came close, but still sounded "English". Seriously.

(Of note, they threw in two tracks with Norwegian vocals, that completely changes the tone of the music. For me, I'd like to hear more of this trend.)

To approach the album properly, I would probably avoid thinking of it as "progressive rock". More like "classic rock".

The question for you is: How much more do you need of this kind of stuff? If you're a freak for the 70s sound - then this goes to the top of your list. I have a friend in mind who I just know will adore this album. For me, I dunno, my personal taste leans more towards the 70s overt progressive bands. But hard to deny that Arabs in Aspic haven't absolutely nailed the 70s vibe here. 


As of this writing I have not heard any of the other Arabs in Aspic albums. I probably won't pursue actively even though I really did enjoy their latest offering.


  1. "Pictures in a Dream" is their best Tom. If you need one album of them, let be it. And I completely agree with your FM cum "proggy" label. To my ears they are the absolute 1975-77 revival band... On moderate doses they can be very enjoyable but I cannot picture myself listening to more than one album of theirs in a row...

    1. Thanks for the suggestion and comment, Spyros!


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