Those who bought a copy of long-maned, heavily-bearded Norwegian singer-songwriter Torgeir Waldemar’s 2014 eponymous debut album will be reassured that all is well in the world on listening to Falling Rain, the opening track of follow-up No Offending Borders. A stark acoustic Link Wray cover featuring just guitar and his tremulous, dusty warble it duly summons thoughts of Springsteen’s Nebraska, complete with forlorn harmonica.
So, it will probably come as a bit of a surprise when, on the second number, Summer In Toulouse, things get a tad louder. Drums, bass, organ, lap steel and distorted electric guitars combine in a Southern barroom strut and swagger reflecting his previous life in a variety of punk and rock bands. Indeed, the eagle-eared might also note the reference to the Dead Kennedys’ song, Holiday In Cambodia.
It’s a duality of styles that persist through the remaining six tracks. On the one hand, I See The End offers folksy, almost Salvationist hymnal harmonies and Island Bliss is stripped back acoustic blues gently clothed with mellotron, while, on the other, although still of a rootsy persuasion, Among The Low has squalling guitars alongside the banjos. Likewise, with both the lyrics and the music of Sylvia (Southern People) referencing Southern Man from After The Goldrush, even Neil Young might think it was a forgotten outtake.
An air of traditional backwoods folk dominates the resonant acoustic fingerpicking and the melancholic The Bottom of the Well (which premiered on Folk Radio UK), the stentorian vocal and off-kilter percussive clicks and clacks (Anders Møller is credited with carpentering) accentuating the air of Appalachian gothic. And then there’s the magnificent Souls On A String, which, despite an electronic squelch at the start, unfolds as an echoey rambler/gambler folk lament, the theme of solitude and doubt compounded by the use of saw, strings and lap steel.
Add to those the title track No Offending Borders, lyrics that speak of loss, despair, mortality and the past along with a front cover that has a picture of the chair in which, a good friend to Norway, Wilhelm II, King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, was sitting when told WWI had begun, and it’s clear this is an album of great contemplative depth. One worth seeking out.
No Offending Borders is released on Jansen Plateproduksjon March 17