I’ve listened to Arve Henriksen’s fantastic new album four times now and it’s so beautiful, so subtle it creeps around you and reveals new layers every time you hear it. I keep having to reach for the LP jacket (that’s right; vinyl for me thank you though it comes with a CD) to check on who’s doing what on each song. Amazingly, producers Jan Bang and Erik Honore, who leave a strong imprint on this album, still found ways to ensure that the trumpet remains front and center and is the main melodic focus on each track but they wrap the songs in such beautiful vellum.
Mr. Henriksen has a habit of recording where and when the mood and inspiration strikes him, in hotel rooms, backstage in green rooms, etc. and this new album expands on that immediately in the opening track “Adhan” where he is obviously being recorded outside as you hear birds chirping and it sounds natural, not added after the fact. But this record is clearly a studio creation with a great deal of atmosphere as a backdrop. The ambience is perfect for his earthy and voice-like breathy tone.
Speaking of voice, I had to reach for the jacket again to find out who the woman was singing on the track “Lament” and had to rub my eyes a few times thinking it was a misprint but no, it is indeed Arve Henriksen. I mean to say that it in no way sounds like a man trying to sing like a woman. It is truly authentic and shocking in a good way and perfect for the song.
Perfect for the song could be Arve Henriksen’s nickname in fact. He never overplays or overindulges. It is precisely what the song needs and no more, no less. Other stand out tracks for me are the final song, “Shelter From the Storm” written and sung by Mr. Honore (the only other vocal with lyrics on the album) and ”Alhambra” and “Bayon” featuring one of my favorite guitar players, fellow Norwegian Eivind Aarset but truly this record needs to be listened as one piece in my mind. Everything flows together so beautifully from track to track it’s mesmerizing.
I consider “Places of Worship” part of his massive LP box released in 2012 which encapsulated his entire Rune Grammofon output on 4 LP’s and included hi res downloads and though it was quite expensive it was extremely thoughtful and very well designed (Personally I find it shameful when record labels don’t include a CD or at least a download card with new LP releases but I digress…). It sounds like a natural extension of that box and the next logical musical step. The only negative thing I have to say is the record is so seamless it was too bad I had to get up several times to turn the LP over while listening to it for this review. But it was well worth it.