There’s a hapless DJ I sometimes listen to who is always banging on about ‘texture’ in the music he plays, odd usually as most of it is swing and bop and the ‘texture’ is nearly always very much a case of what you hear is what you get.
He’d probably hate this latest record of guitarist Stein Urheim’s recorded in a Norwegian church in the town he lives and which lends its name to the album although ironically it is full of ‘texture’, a spacey string and air odyssey that he has cooked up by overdubbing himself on a whole range of complementary instruments that besides conventional guitar include banjo and mandolin, and he also manages to factor in a few loops and lots of delay for extra measure, only the synths of Jørgen Træen for company returning from an earlier album released in 2014.
Music like Strandebarm hangs there in the air, quite placeless and still in a way, and without much or anything in the way of strict rhythm or anything beyond sketched-out melody it’s like hearing work in progress as much as a finished piece. And that’s no bad thing: the experimentalism of Urheim’s approach kept intact and alive despite the process and amount of work needed to finesse the sound. But there is also something a little bloodless about the hovering strings and slices of reverb, the slowly crystallising ideas taking their time so much so that the collected sound somehow recedes into an ambient cloud in the background and never really achieves great impact. But if you’re after texture, the Nordic variety, then you’ve definitely come to the right place. SG
Neo-soul heaven here, a long time coming.
Fortysomething soul phenonemon Maxwell happily further strengthens his already formidable reputation here a long time since he had a record. It’s not a huge leap on from listening to someone like Bilal or José James to cross away from their jazzier sound to the velvety laidback swoon of Maxwell. And Maxwell, not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, has always had jazzers on board, Robert Glasper the coolest of all the names here.
Part two of a story that began with (upper case positioning important, infuriatingly, note) BLACKsummers’night back in 2009, how long we have to wait for the last part of the trilogy is unknowable. There’s a retro style here and a grandeur in the setting that connects with the past but does not deny the pop production taste of the present and if you were playing this record in a mix of classic black music you’d be subconsciously reaching for the ballads of Otis and OV Wright, Isaac Hayes and Marvin even Prince maybe settling on flecks of Al Green for the more spiritual side while you’re at it, Maxwell fits right in.
Maxwell's tender voice and vocal command sit well with all these great names especially in the all encompassing loverman role he adopts as part of the whole laidback seductive affair you can hear on ‘Lake by the Ocean’ and ‘Hostage’ just two of a bunch of the many choice songs. Simply a thrill. SG