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AGUSA - Noir

With not many shows on my schedule for a while I thought I could begin banging out album reviews from my ever-growing pile of purchases and promos last week, but then a malfunctioning motherboard made it impossible to write and completely stole my thunder before it could even begin to rumble. But now I'm back to get shit done!
My to-do-list is so long again though... where do I even start?

Hmm... why not in Sweden?

AGUSA - Noir (LP) (2024)

Yes, my - let's pretend I didn't use that exact phrasing before - favorite jolly Swedish Psych Folk Prog band is already back with another album, not even a full year after the fantastic "Prima Materia". This one is different though, not only in respect of it being darker than usual. (Who would have thought with that title?)

Of course I ordered "Noir" as soon as the distro of my choice offered it. Maybe I was a little too impulsive and should have at least taken a look at the different formats, because its one hour playing time is just in that range, which is too long for one LP yet too short for a double album - so the vinyl version misses five tracks compared to the CD and digital version. I'm still happy to have "Noir" on black gold, but I probably would have rather chosen the smaller silver version in this case.

Ok, if you're already a fan you probably stopped following my words after the number five. Five tracks? Isn't that a a whole album? - No, I told you this album is different!
"Noir" started as a conversation between two mailmen, one being Agusa's guitarist Mikail and his coworker being an independent filmmaker in need for a movie soundtrack. And because Augustin Sjöberg's scenes aren't exactly as long as Tarantino dialogues, his work hardly needed the epics the band is usually accustomed to, especially live.
So there are no long, even longer and never-ending tracks this time, but fifteen (including digital bonus twenty) tracks between one and five minutes each. And on these tracks Agusa explore the by far widest stylistic range they ever assembled on an album.

The Prog epicness with great flute, keys and guitar melodies is there, but it is condensed and concentrated. Similar to their 2021 album "En Annan Värld" most of it dwells more on the eery than on the cheerful side. And that is achieved in many ways. There are almost Ambient passages featuring spoken samples, lead instruments are pushed towards the foreground just that nudge too much which makes it a bit uncomfortable and intense. And often this album just suddely rocks way harder than one would expect. Most of "Noir"'s foundations were recorded without the drums before the previous two albums during the pandemic - and if you didn't know it you would never assume that the very motivated rhythmic performance here wasn't even part of the plan from the very beginning.

So these are the big strengths of "Noir": As it jumps between Prog playfulness, experimental Noise bits and typical droning movie score sounds, Rock explosions, Folk melodies, Classical influences ("Sk​å​nsk rapsodi nr​:​1" was inspired by Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody"), but also instances of smoky Detective Jazz or even galloping Country this album just doesn't even think of allowing one dull moment.

It's a lot, it's diverse and Agusa are constantly making the most of every idea, even without the usual space for developing and exploring it further. To be honest - and without any disrespect to the low-budget movie:
"Noir" may be a good soundtrack, but it actually works a lot better purely as a music album by itself. I'm itching to aks if this could even be one of the best the Swedes have ever done, but I know it's too early to set it into perspective. And of course everything Agusa has ever done so far has always been amazing, so what would even be the point of ranking their discography?

What you actually just have to remember from this review is that "Noir" is not the most typical Agusa release, but in no way a "lesser" work. If you're as addicted to the band as I am you cannot skip it anyway - and if you've never listened to Agusa before this is a starting point as good as any other of their albums. 

The movie "Malmö Noir" can be watched for free on YouTube:

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