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  • David Bentley

Rural Tapes (Norway) – ‘Rural Tapes’ (album, including the title track Rural Tapes)

I’ve long anticipated the day when I could write that; the title track from the artist’s eponymous debut album.

When we last paid a visit to the slightly whacky world inhabited by Rural Tapes (Arne Kjelsrud Mathisen) in the countryside outside of Oslo, it was to listen to ‘Pardon my French’, a track on this album and which we described as like a little alt-rock symphony… jazzy, with mysterious synth sounds you’d associate with a sci-fi film as the credits roll.

This title track from his eight-song album is a little more kraut-rock influenced with simple synth notes on repeat over what sounds like a waterfall or a running bath. It starts to build but just as it’s on the verge of going all anthemic it wilts away, not annoyingly but frustratingly.

Again I can’t help but imagine it being a soundtrack to an arty sci-fi film or TV show, the sort of thing that would complement balletic spacecraft docking procedures. Or grainy videos of ‘UFOs.’ The PR describes the album as an ‘odyssey’ so perhaps I’m on to something. We’ve had a ‘2001’ and a ‘2010’ so perhaps this might be the music to a ‘2025’ or something. Alternatively, it might accompany a promotional video for the return of a normal international flight schedule, which should be sometime around then if we’re lucky.

Elsewhere on the album, the opener, ‘Reddal’ isn’t dissimilar from the electronic style being adopted by SkarWorx (Øystein Skar) whom we featured recently, with multiple intrusions which sound like short circuits while ‘The Observer’ has a distinct flavour of 1950’s Paris and ‘Maigret’ about it and could be the spawn of our favourite Francophile Swedes Le Lac Long 812. ‘Opus 13’ is a short classical piano piecewhich stands in stark contrast to everything else.

‘Lost in sound’ has a vocal part, the first track to do so and quite Dave Gilmour-like, but again is notable more for the melody as this time he conjures up a theme which would have been perfect for one of those secret agent-type ITC TV series from the late 1960s and 1970s such as The Saint, Danger Man, The Baron, The Persuaders, Man in a Suitcase, et al when nothing in particular was happening.

‘Harmony’ is different again, a faster pace to a repetitive and unrelenting series of synth notes. This is the alternative music to the kaleidoscopic trip to the edge of the universe experienced by astronaut Dave Poole before he transcends into God towards the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Then, in contrast again, the final track, ‘By Dusk’, opens like the intro to an edition of Springwatch before drifting off into a brass band piece at the Whit weekend competition up on t’moors, overlaid by what sounds like Bert Weedon, fresh from recording ‘Apache’.

There’s a lot going on here; there is plenty of variety, and differing musical styles and Rural Tapes isn’t shy to experiment with them. The stand-out track is ‘Pardon my French’,

but there is entertainment a-plenty in all of the tracks. As is often the case it requires more than one hearing really to get into any of the tracks but once you do that the quality of the writing soon becomes evident, and that of the playing too, which is abetted by such luminaries as Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor; Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of R.E.M; and Rhodri Marsden (Scritti Politti).

Arne Mathisen’s career got off to a flying start when his former band Heroes & Zeroes got two Norwegian Grammy nominations for their debut album Strange Constellations back in 2007. There is no reason why this one shouldn’t be in line for more nominations.

‘Rural Tapes’ is released today on Friday, April 30th via Smuggler Music.

Nordic Music Review 7/10


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