Formed in 1989 in Trondheim, Norway, by Bent Sæther (bass – vocals), Hans Magnus Ryan (guitar) and Kjell Runar Jenssen (drums), Motorpsycho were quick to shed their metal label and develop a mixture of diverse influences.
Over the course of a prolific and eclectic discography, the band surprised (and sometimes alienated) their audience, first by incorporating the noisy ideas of their collaborator and producer Deathprod and then psychedelic influences, including art rock, country, jazz, folk, and pop.
According to Bent Sæther, “the most exciting stuff tends to happen between the definitions.”
A change of direction
After a series of progressive rock albums, beginning in 2017 with The Tower, Motorpsycho once again took a change of direction with Yay! (2023).
The first album released on their new label, Det Nordenfjeldske Grammofonselskab, marked a departure from the heavy sound of their previous work towards more peaceful spaces. If, like Russ Meyer’s film Motorpsycho, the band’s last five albums evoked a drunken ride across the Californian desert on a Harley Davidson, Yay! is more like a bike ride on a spring afternoon.
Driven by seventies-inspired acoustic guitars, hand percussion and vocal harmonies, the tracks flirt with the singer-songwriter style of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young without ever resolving to drop anchor in those waters. The careful production by Sweden’s Reine Fiske and Lars Fredrik Swahn adds a welcome psychedelic touch to the sound.
Continuity within disruption
If there’s anything predictable about Motorpsycho’s music, it’s their unpredictability.
Their ability to surprise and baffle the listener is a constant for the band. There is also a certain consistency in the Norwegians’ output, notably the maturity of their compositions, the coherence of their approach, the effervescence of their ideas and their ability to execute them whatever the style and instrumentation chosen.
On Yay! every track has an acoustic folk-rock flavour. The songs are gentle, short and intimate, with the exception of Hotel Daedalus, which stands out for its prog rock edge and its almost eight-minute duration. This kind of meandering jam, laden with powerful, distorted bass, slide guitar atmospherics and layers of sound, acts as a link between the band’s past and present and ensures continuity within disruption.
With its inspired song writing, production and performances, Yay! presents the lighter side of Motorpsycho. While not retro, it should delight fans of the band’s early days.
Their sound and freedom of expression continue to inspire and surprise new generations of musicians and listeners.
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Photo credit : Motorpsycho