Airbag – Identity (Remastered) CD & Vinyl review

3 06 2021

Karisma Records are releasing a remastered version of Oslo band Airbag’s 2009 debut album Identity in June 2021 on CD and in early August on double vinyl.

The original, according to my Last.FM stats, was my most played album in 2009, so I’m obviously a big fan of this album. Identity has been lovingly remastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, The Opium Cartel).

Identity is a wonderful mixture of Pink Floyd influenced, melodic prog with quite wide-ranging pop influences such as later period Talk Talk and at times, hints of modern electronica.

Jacob Holm-Lupo’s remaster is a revelation. Comparing the two versions side by side, the new version is less sharp on the ear, the guitars are not always at the top of the mix and there is space for the electronics to breathe. Ride cymbals shimmer, the bass is deep and cuts through perfectly, and production touches such as effects on vocals and keyboards sit so much better in the mix. The original, which sounded pretty good back in the day, has been polished and cleaned, and is now a sparkling diamond of an album.

The instrumental Prelude sets the scene, with emotional solos from guitarist Bjørn Riis. The album is a definite pop your headphones on, sit back and close your eyes, listening experience. If you give the album your full attention, you will be rewarded.

No Escape is one of the key tracks on Identity. The pace is steady and constant, but the arrangement dips in and out of it’s intensity, with a heady mix of David Gilmour influenced guitar lines and simple but effective vocal arrangements. The ending, with processed drums and an emotional piano refrain, is a joy to listen to.

“Why does it feel like I’ve been here before,
please pull me out of this dream.”

Safe Like You has a Massive Attack sounding drum pattern, and infectious keyboard lines that underpin the emotive guitar parts. This is one of the songs that really benefits from Holm-Lupo’s warm, widescreen and colourful remaster.

“My stomach aches when you look at me as if I was fake”

Steal My Soul makes good use of soundscapes and Robert Fripp influenced guitar textures before the more traditional arrangement kicks in. This is the track that is likely to appeal to fans of 70s prog and classic rock.

The remaster of Steal My Soul is another noticeable improvement, and Colours, with its clearer vocal and acoustic guitar mix, sounds like it was recorded yesterday, rather than 12 years ago. How time flies…

The final two tracks – How I Wanna Be & Sounds That I Hear – thrive on the atmospherics, and work as if they are one long piece, rather than two distinct tracks.

Sounds That I Hear is one of my favourite Airbag songs, with delicate organ washes, snatches of distant radio conversations and a powerful classic progressive rock arrangement that sits comfortably (numb) alongside the dark lyrics.

“The memories we had
are left behind”

So if you already own this album, should you buy it again? For me, its a genuine sonic improvement, and the best version of one of my favourite albums of the past 20 years, and so yes I will be buying it again, on vinyl rather than CD. My original copy will go to a charity shop to hopefully turn someone else on to the band. Got to spread the prog love, right?

Buy the Identity (2021 Remaster) CD (available from 11 June 2021) from Amazon


Buy the Identity (2021 Remaster) (Deluxe White Vinyl) 2LP – pre-order (available from early August 2021) from Amazon

Tracklist:

Prelude
No Escape
Safe Like You
Steal My Soul
Feeling Less
Colours
How I Wanna Be
Sounds That I Hear

Identity-era Line-up:

Asle Tostrup – vocals
Bjørn Riis – guitars & vocals
Jørgen Hagen – keyboards
Anders Hovdan – bass
Joachim Slikker – drums


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