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Professor Tip Top – Hybrid Hymns

Professor Tip Top
Hybrid Hymns
by Santiago Puyol at 05 March 2019, 7:29 PM

PROFESSOR TIP TOP are a Progressive and Psychedelic Rock band from Bergen, Norway, with a strong retro, 70’s sound to them. “Hybrid Hymns” is their fifth album so far, and from the very start you get the vibe that you might just have entered a door to the past, as influences from great Prog giants like YES, PINK FLOYD, CAMEL or even Neo-Prog acts like MARILLION are easy to spot.

The album is bookended by “Black Holes” – which is divided in to two parts; this gives a strong sense of continuity and an overall concept feel. The pulsating synth sounds of part I almost border on an 80’s soundtrack atmosphere, bleeding quickly into first proper track “An akward choice”. The beginning of the track has an almost epic feel, and could have been a great opener itself. A few tempo changes, a nice syncopated rhythm, and a hypnotic bassline make it a strong song. The repetitive sequenced pattern in the background never gets old. The guitar soloing alternates between Gilmour-esque tones and sitar-like qualities - something that adds to the psychedelic atmosphere (sometimes evoking early GRATEFUL DEAD or late BEATLES) and is used to a nice effect at several points in the album, mainly on next track, “Machine Emotions”.

In fact, “Machine Emotions” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and really explores the intricacies and intelligence behind the songwriting. For a Prog band, PROFESSOR TIP TOP are not overtly complex and a lot of the material in “Hybrid Hymns” actually sticks to common time signatures. But they do have some nice tricks; like the drop of a 2/4 bar here and there in the lengthy middle-section instrumental of this song, or at the end of the verses on the pastoral and poppy “The Final Night”. The closer they get to Prog. madness might be on the bluesy “Data Mining”, where they move at least between 6/8, 3/4 and 4/4 when it comes to time signatures.

There are three instrumentals in the album (four including the trance-like interlude “Light Generator”),  and all of them are marked with personality. “The Dogs Are Coming” sounds like it was meant to be listened to with a good pair of headphones, and has some deep, almost didgeridoo-like synths, a driving rhythm section, and Gilmour-era PINK FLOYD overall vibe. “Passion” feels a tad overlong, but it has a soundtrack-like quality. There’s a little section right in the middle where guitar and bass do a nice call and response that, in a bit of a paradox, last just too little for a 5+ minute song; its MORRICONE western vibe and Knopfler-like guitar tone makes it more than worth the listen still. “Closer” sounds deceptively simple, but manages to be a headscratcher in its three minutes. Around the minute mark it seems to lock into a 7/4 groove, or maybe not.

The title track is the shortest proper song in the album. A delightful “Fragile”-era YES-inspired little tune, with lovely vocal harmonies and even a bit of an early BEE GEES touch; whilst “Turing Machines” has a great use of tom-toms, lending it a tribal, mystical vibe. Part II of “Black Holes” is more of a somber, meditative reprise of part I, ending the album on a quiet note.

Overall, “Hybrid Hymns” is a solid album, with creative songwriting anchored on the excellent guitar, synth and keyboard work of Sam Fossbakk. Vocals are mostly ethereal, behaving like another instrument, while the drumming manages to be interesting enough and the melodic basslines add a lot of depth to the whole thing. For a Prog band PROFESSOR TIP TOP are quite focused on their songwriting too, avoiding unnecessary noodling and sticking to the 3-to-5 minute formula. Only two songs get up to around the 6-minute mark, and it surely works for the best here.

The production too, is top notch; really warm and lovely, with a bit of a retro sound in itself, mainly evoking 90’s prog albums. A delightful listen.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Black holes part I
2. An akward choice
3. Machine emotions
4. The dogs are coming
5. Data mining
6. Light generator
7. Turing machines
8. Passion
9. Hybrid Minds
10. Closer
11. The final night
12. Black holes part II
SveinMagnar Hansen– Vocals
Sam Fossbakk– Guitar, EMS Synthi, VCO3, Rhodes, Arp Axxe,Minimoog, Mellotron, Vocals
Stein Høgseth– Bass
Charles Wise – Drums
Record Label: Apollon Records


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