An Empty House Full Of Visitors
“Corporate Boss, Won’t Admit the loss, No need for change, And don’t give us the blame …
The last cars were sold, the men where are they gone”
‘Empty House’ the new album from Snøskred, is a record of many moods and hues, that switches from bleak to humorous, pensive to retrospective, in as many styles as it has themes.
Snøskred, a four-piece indie band from Norway recorded, ’Empty House’ back in Summer 2014,but the release date was pushed back to allow their music to find its place within the international market, and that it did, with singles ‘Puzzle’ and ‘Lexington Hotel’ finding their indie niche within the UK and Euro scenes.
‘Empty House’ opens on a relatively downbeat note with ‘Motor City’, a song about the collapse of the American motor industry. A slow tempoed ballad with a Kraut-country vibe, its sumptuous guitar riffs billow around vocalist Karl Klaseie’s American drawl and some sensational harmonica playing, giving the listener the a sense of walking into a dream. And in a sense this is like a dream, albeit a bad one, of a place long left desolate and forgotten, the life of which remains only in memories. Conversely, the song appears to end on a hopeful note, with bells ringing through a lingering instrumental, heralding perhaps, the dawn of a new era.
One of the more extroverted of the albums tracks, ‘Preparations’ has a quirky personality that stands out head and shoulders above the rest of its more introverted peers. Sung by Lars Ove Fossheim , it is reminiscent of Hyde Park Corner in its heyday, with the Soapboxer du Jour giving it welly with more gusto that a force 10 gale.
A little bit bonkers, and a lot David Byrne, it draws on a lot of influences which it breaks down to create a fantastic muddle of chiming guitars, glam rock beats, and Jesus Love You vocals. After you’ve heard this, you’ll probably be left with lingering visions of Byrne dressed like Bolan, doing a Brett Anderson on Speakers Corner!
I’m partial to a bit of drummING (as opposed to ERS) and there’s a lot of perky percussion on this album. Snatches of Fleetwood here, and lotta Watts there, samples of both can be heard on the open road trip that is ‘Blurred Out Lights’ – a song to which you can open your souls and “empty [your] minds”.
Next up are the three singles amigos, ‘Mirage’, ‘Lexington Hotel’ and ‘Puzzle’.
‘Mirage’ feels ‘random’, like a series of musical layers, a melding of several sketches, spliced and diced, that have been very haphazardly “mille-feuilled”. Each sketch has its own personality – the dark beat driven intro with is sense of anticipation, the OMD vibing synth beats (speed it up a bit and you’re in Enola Gay territory), the infectious if slightly schizoid slide riffs of Fossheim through which Klaseie adds barely there scratches of guitar. But, and here’s the science – they are all cleverly held together by the invisible seam of Martin Hvidsten Berger’s interminable bassline.
A collection of musical oddments, thrown together at will, the many elements of ‘Mirage’ somehow cohere to paint a musical picture that was only ever just a blurred figment of Snøskred’s imagination.
Next up is the somewhat claustrophobic 'Lexington Hotel', virtual home to Klaseie's mob nightmares, the inspo for the track. The vocal has Damon Albarn stamped all over it, with Klaseie having that same Albarn-esque way of letting the vocal slip languorously from his lips, with an air of nonchalant cool. This is a rich, sticky ooze of dark toxicity that captivates and holds you in thrall to its highly potent and dangerously addictive nature.
Rounding off the hat-trick is 'Puzzle', a lazy dayz sonic Sunday brunch complete with a cheeky glass of vino, best enjoyed outdoors amidst a haze of melodies so sunny you’ll need your Ray Bans.
Album closer, ‘Homeless’ is as the title suggests a song about homelessness – the fall into, and the journey therein. Thought provoking, and contemplative, it is a walk through social isolation and exclusion that brings ‘Empty House’ full circle and right back to where it started.
‘Empty House’ is a deep, reflective, and thoughtfully composed album. More “outro” than introspective, it focuses on humanity in its many guises and the complex web of emotions it weaves. Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, it runs the gamut and stylistically the songs are all the better for it. Throw a rainbow of influences and musical A.N.Others into the mix, and you have a glorious melting pot of kitsch, slick, ribald and profound.
Disparate yet analogous, ‘Empty House’ is an intelligently conceived of, ingeniously arranged and adroitly produced blend of sounds and styles that brilliantly showcase Snøskred’s myriad talents. 9/10.