Geir Sundstøl - Brødløs [Hubro - 2018]Norwegian guitarist Geir Sundstøl released his 4th album Brødløs in 2018, on the Hubro label. His style is tuneful, cinematic, psych-tinged folk, with a vibrant timbral range thanks to his use of a massive number of different instruments.
The mood is aching nostalgia, spoken with precision and brevity, and therefore clarity. Fans of Ennio Morricone should appreciate the wistful twang of his Western electric leads. Sun drenched licks of surf rock and country slide are the prominent melodic voice, with the other musicians generally playing accompaniment. As with Morricone, there is the sense of looking out upon a vast open vista.
Though it contains some rock influence and a double shot of blues, the way the music flows is much closer to a soundtrack. There are no repeated refrains, only a continuous movement from plane to emotional plane. The tempo is slow, and the riffs can take many measures to complete. There is the measured dramatic intensity of Godspeed You Black Emperor, though the destination is reached much quicker within these 2-6 minute songs. It is similar to the minimalist desert rock of later Earth, but for all the acclaim received by Earth, I actually far prefer Sundstøl's music, which is lush and harmonically complete, and never tests my patience.
For the album, Sundstøl himself plays a variety of exotic richly toned guitars (pedal steel, resonator guitar, 6 string bass) as well as mandolin, organ, zither and others. The percussion is delegated to one Erland Dahlen, who is credited as playing xylophone, dulcimer, steel drums, saw and many others. And this is nowhere near the end of the list!
All this timbral variety is certainly not squandered, or used without correct context. Listening casually to the music, I wouldn't've known the list was quite so big, only that the sounds of the instruments were resonant and colorful. The fact that an orchestra's worth of instruments were carefully threaded into a relatively relaxed style of music, which actually doesn't feel terribly dense, is rather remarkable. The album must have been carefully and thoughtfully orchestrated long before it was performed.
Sundstøl's melodic creativity is seemingly boundless. His note choices have a rare romantic sophistication. He wears his heart on his sleeve, in a way; every moment of the album is charged with feeling. Yet, it never becomes tiresome or indulgent, instead it is elegant and poetic, like classical music. It is wonderful to encounter someone who reveals the world of tonal possibilities for the boundless infinity it truly is, somehow existing outside of genre cliches and tired common choices. Part of this may be the rich Norwegian scene which has produced so many of these Hubro gems. This album may be the best of them all.Josh Landry