The White Birch – The Weight Of Spring (2015) review
The White Birch – The Weight Of Spring (Glitterhouse Records, 2015)
Nine years ago this month (August), one of Norway’s finest psychedelic bands dissolved, leaving four remarkable albums for us to replay over and over again. But fans can now rejoice, as leader Ola Fløttum has assembled an illustrious collection of some of Norway’s finest musicians (including members of Susanna’s Magical Orchestra, Kings of Convenience, and St. Thomas) produce this glistening recording of heartbreaking-yet life affirming soundscapes. (The album is dedicated to Fløttum ‘s mother, who passed away during its 9-year gestation.) Almost cinematic in scope, the album opens with ‘New York’, imperceptively tiptoeing into the room on a forlorn piano motif and Fløttum’s creaking vocals, seemingly whispered so as not to disturb the little ones slumbering in an adjacent room. ‘The Fall’ is even softer, a hazy treatise on loss and “a wish for some clarity” to explain why.
The somber mood continues through the ironic coupling of banjo and violin on ‘Solid Dirt’, at once both uplifting and mournful. ‘Lamentation’ briefly alleviates the pain with a (somewhat) upbeat resiliency, although the lyrics could be interpreted as someone sleepwalking through the day in a constant state of catatonic resolution to painful events that cannot be undone.
I must confess a weakness for everything Susanna Wallumrød has recorded, and her duet on ‘The Hours’ lifts it from the funereal, elegiac sway that comes over me as I spend hours waiting for the days to end. ‘Lay Me By The Shore’ is one of the most perfect love songs I’ve experienced in ages, and if a love song doesn’t make you cry, it’s not doing its job. Finally, Fløttum’s eulogy for his ‘Mother’ will leave not a dry eye in the house for anyone whose mum has passed, leaving behind all who knew and loved her “To feel the pain/As the morning dew/Fell as rain.”
Listeners unfamiliar with Fløttum’s previous White Birch albums may find comfortable reference points in the work of Tindersticks, Bill [Smog] Callahan, and Richard Baskin’s Welcome To L.A. soundtrack. Explosions In The Sky, Low, and Sigur Ros also drifted through my mind as I sat transfixed and transported to a distant horizon of grey days, rainy afternoons, and silent replies to my wandering thoughts. Snorecore enthusiasts will also recognize a major influence in seminal snorecore band, Codeine, whose final album, released just as they were disbanding and White Birch were forming, provided the band’s name. This is reflective, thousand yard stare music for navel gazing, silent contemplation, and taking stock of what you have before you lose it.
Review made by Jeff Penczak/2015
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