Back in February, I wrote a blog on the Norwegian geniuses Farmers Market, proclaiming them to be one of the best genre defying, outrageously fun and gifted bands producing instrumental music. Only one other group can lay challenge to that crown, and they were known as Estradasphere.
As you may have gathered, they are now sadly defunct, or on ‘permanent hiatus’ more diplomatically. Whatever their current status, they were fiendishly inventive and technically astounding and, as such, quickly became a band whose music I have the utmost respect for. Whether it be putting their own spin on old Nintendo tunes, switching from death metal to samba in the blink of an eye, or writing gypsy surf ditties, Estradasphere are ultimately a super fun happy time band.
The below video, a live version of the songs Burnt Corpse and Rise N’Shine (Epic Doobie), quintessentially conveys what Estradasphere are all about. For the first twenty-one seconds, you are confused and quite possibly angry at the black metal noise erupting from your speakers, only to be dropped suddenly into a gleefully buoyant jazz number. You can listen to the studio version here, taken from the album Buck Fever.
A personal favourite of mine, and lasting all of one minute, Planet Sparkle is a perky stroll in the park, taken from the album Passion For Life.
From their first album It’s Understood, The Transformation has catchy riffs tripping over each other in their demand for your attention, before languishing in a dub groove with swaying violin and brass from 1.40. The tempo is driven straight back up at 4.08, leading to a mother of a groove at 5.26.
If you do not feel the need to smile and shift your feet to this tune, I’m afraid that you are most likely an unperson, to make use of an Orwellian term. The Penguin is breezy, hip twisting jazz at its best.
Finally, we have Estradashpere’s pièce de résistance: Hungerstrike. This live performance of the track, also taken from the album It’s Understood, is undoubtedly one of the most impressive musical sights I have ever seen. As someone who plays an instrument, it is flabbergasting on a technical level that each instrument plays its part so precisely and with complete comfort. The appreciation of composing such a piece of music does not solely lie in those who have dabbled in playing an instrument however, therefore I like to think that anyone can digest something from this performance and admire how richly diverse the song is.
It starts off at Balkan breakneck speed before reaching the only real lull in the song, between 2.15 and 6.00, where slow violin playing has to be endured. Endure (or alternatively skip) this and your perseverance will be richly rewarded: the effortless switch back into the Balkan groove at 6.55; the double bass and guitar interplay from 8.50, which descends into tricky funk at 11.18; the irrepressible riff at 11.41; the dreamlike state at 12.42; the return to ska at 14.12 before the wah wah breakdown at 14.28; the climatic build up from 18.58 before the beginning of the incredible end at 22.38.
My goodness, I went off on one there, I do apologise. Hungerstrike is a ridiculous volume of ideas, styles and sound to take in all at once, but it is a prime example of when musicians can write uninhibited. I just hope that you are still with me after that.
As a novelty bonus, I will sign off with the band’s studio version of the Super Mario 2 theme track. Aaaaah the nostalgia….