In The Labyrinth - "Dryad"
(TonArt Production/Record Heaven 2002, TAP/RHCD 65)
From Aural Innovations #24 (July 2003)
In the Labyrinth (ITL) is a Swedish ensemble that play a mind expanding brand of Middle Eastern/Indian influenced psychedelia with healthy portions of folk and progressive rock. The roots of the band date back to 1980 when leader Peter Lindahl formed a trio called Aladdin´s Lantern focused on playing Middle Eastern music. Lindahl has been functioning as In The Labyrinth since 1994 and Dryad is the bands third release. Prior to receiving Dryad I had been familiar with the bands 1999 release Walking On Clouds. The music on Dryad is very similar to the style heard on Walking On Clouds and I wasn't surprised to read on their web site that many of the tracks for the two CD's were recorded during the same period.
The music is a beautiful blend of traditional, psychedelic, progressive and world pop elements. Just look at the lineup of instrumentation on this album: flutes, mellotron, electric & acoustic guitars, mandolin, viola, violin, zither, saz, samplers, fx, percussion, bass, sitar, tabla, darbouka, and vocals. Wow!! And it's clear that In The Labyrinth are using all these instruments.
The CD opens on a light and melodic but trippy note with the brief "Lost In The Woods", which introduces us to the floating paisley swirl of acoustic instruments and sitar, firmly based in Indian music but with a spacey psychedelic flair. I've heard quite a lot of Indian pop and there is lots of wonderful sounds to be heard, both in the music and the unique vocal stylings. Just watch any Bollywood film and they will inundate you with these pop songs. ITL do a craftsman job of drawing on these pop influences while injecting just the right dose of magic carpet ride psychedelia, but also utilizing the symphonics and thematic development characteristic of progressive rock.
For high cosmic intensity "Catch A Cloud" and "Muscarin Madness" are standout tracks, both culminating in lysergic heavy rocking prog-psych finales that I loved. "Nargal" has a majestic orchestral sound, that combined with the Indian influences and continually shifting prog rock themes makes for an intricate but meditative ride. "Trident" is an gorgeous instrumental soaked in sitar, tablas and wind instruments, painting aural scenes of colorful Indian markets and ornate Hindu temples. "Jabberwocky" is one of the shorter tracks but one I wished had gone on much longer as it's a molten fiery psych rocker. I could go on about the various standout tracks but the fact is this album flows seamlessly from one song to the next, from beginning to end. The CD includes a nice mixture of vocals, spoken word, and instrumental tracks, making for a hypnotic headphones trip that will leave you energized and with a feeling peace and serenity.
For more information you can visit the In The Labyrinth web site at: http://www.inthelabyrinth.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz