For a few years now I have used music as a springboard to travel and back in November 2017 I went to Sørveiv, a music festival in Kristiansand in southern Norway. It’s a brilliant festival that started in 2010 and the gigs are held in a small number of venues around the town and there is also as a Music Conference running during the day. On the first night, in the KICK venue, I saw a band called Silver Lining playing their gentle take on Americana. They all contributed sublime harmonies, but I remember one singer in particular having an amazing voice. Later that evening that singer – who I subsequently found out was guitarist and singer Louien – played a solo set in the cosy cafe/bar called Vaktbua. That was where the spell was cast; one of those rare moments where surroundings fall away leaving just the captivating joy of a voice as pure as Arctic melt water.
None of My Words is a bitter-sweet take on mourning and introspection brought about by the death of Solberg’s Father four years ago: “this album is probably more about the first phase of a grieving process – hopelessness, isolation, anxiety and depression,”. However, don’t let that give you the impression this is the musical equivalent of a misery memoir. I found it a more reflective record; someone trying to make sense of a fundamental emotional shift in their life. There are songs of beautiful simplicity with exquisite tunes like the opening track ‘I Follow You’; an understated beginning is lifted by Kaja Fjellberg Pettersen’s perfect string arrangements (reminiscent of Nick Drake songs), bowed in the chorus and restrained pizzicato in the verses, and ‘Be Forgiven’ which is one of many stand out songs on the album and offers up swoops and swooshes from strings and voice sliding like a beautiful slow motion murmuration of starlings. There are also songs that focus concentration on Louien’s stunning voice such as the brief ‘Help Us’, a slice of picked guitar and vocals delivered in lush, tightly grouped harmonies and unison singing, ‘The Fool’, one of the more country-influenced tracks and ‘Endless Love’ which has a wonderful subtlety of expression; the chorus soars about a wide horizon provided by a bed of long-bowed strings, like a cloud supporting a butterfly, and flashes of lyrical, poetic delight: “All my loose ends, I tie on to him”. But the two tracks that stood out for me are ‘Broken Heart Love’ and ‘Demo No.1.’
‘Broken Heart Love’ has the melancholy muscle of a Portishead song, a slight rotary effect on the voice and woozy, Björk-like strings that all add to the otherworldly quality to the song. It’s the song that keeps playing in my head when I’m not playing the album. Then there’s the emotionally raw ‘Demo No.1.’ a delicate guitar part supports a voice that threatens to break through a deeply felt grief. You can feel the pain of watching the last moments of someone you love, trying to see it through their eyes and having to face your own mortality through it all. Powerful stuff.
This is an album you can curl up inside and if you listen with headphones you will fully appreciate Øyvind Røsrud’s economical but perfect production which places voice and instrumentation impeccably in the mix to create a protective cushion again the world outside. Words like Americana, Country, Folk will no doubt get used as genre types and influences but while there is familiarity in these styles, to me, None of My Words may draw from a broad church but still manages to create its own well-rounded style. This album is an exemplar for what a voice and guitar can do and Louien’s music would be the cream that rises to the top of any genre.
Note: I would also like to make a special mention about the amazing cover artwork by Aurora Lund Solberg.
If you fancy expensive an amazing 3 days listening to music on the tip of Norway then you can find out more information about Sørveiv here https://www.sorveiv.no/en/info/
Review by Paul F Cook