Torgeir Waldemar: «No Offending Borders»
Jansen Plateproduksjon, 2017
Torgeir Waldemar took the Norwegian people and music press by surprise with his eponymous debut album in 2014. Who had thought that the black-clad, longhaired and bearded man would deliver an album that captivated and moved us as much as it did. An acoustic masterpiece that sounded like it came straight from the rehearsal room of a young troubadour from Laurel Canyon in the seventies.
While his previous album cultivated a pure, acoustic sound, we get more rock music this time, and for Torgeir Waldemar nothing is more natural. With his background as a guitar hero in various rock bands, it was only a question of time before distorted tones would assert themselves in his solo career. «No Offending Borders» is a gloriously composite work with both dead honest acoustic laments and grandiose rock songs.
But the record is so much more than that, and for Torgeir this is a document that shows the seriousness we meet in our everyday lives. Both on the personal level, with relationships that falls apart and the loss of loved ones, but also on a national and global level, with refugee crises, suicide statistics and the weakest members of our society. You may have guessed it already, but this is a solemn record.
If you’re afraid that Torgeir Waldemar has turned away from what he presented on his debut album, you can relax. Here we get acoustic folk songs like «Falling Rain (Link Wray)», «Island Bliss» and «Souls on a String», but the album also contains more intense rock songs like «Summer In Toulouse», «Sylvia (Southern People)» and «Among the Low». A complete album, you might say … and we’re saying it.
Aesthetically, it’s also consistent from beginning to end – nothing at all is done by chance here. The historical lines that are drawn in the cover design, are also meant to point back to ourselves and to make us conscious of our past, so that we won’t make the same mistakes again. The cover of the single «Souls on a String» featured a photo of the decorated carrier pigeon from World War I, Cher Ami. It saved a whole British company during the war, when the British were caught in a battle, without any food or ammunition. Cher Ami was sent away, and taken under fire by the enemy, but finally delivered the message that saved the British troops.
The chair on the cover of «No Offending Borders» is from Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand. This is the chair that Wilhelm II, the King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, was sitting in when he was told that World War I had started. Wilhelm II was a friend of Norway and spent much time on the west coast in the early 1900s. What would you have done if you were sitting in that chair and received that message? Sit down, think thoroughly about it, while you’re listening to «No Offending Borders».
It’s hard not to love an album that blows away your expectations, and the latest release from this award winning Norwegian singer/songwriter does just that. His acclaimed eponymous debut was an introspective and wistful acoustic affair, whereas No Offending Borders sees him treading new ground. Often the changes are subtle; the dark lament of ‘The Bottom Of The Well’ wouldn’t sound amiss in a classic western movie and the gorgeous gentle melody of ‘Island Bliss’ really lives up to its name. ‘Among The Low’, the album’s most experimental offering, mixes celtic folk with subtle eastern tinges, interspersed with feedback fuelled southern rock riffs. With these tracks we find a diverse and interesting folk record, and a worthy successor to his debut.
The big talking point of this album however is not in those subtle changes, but in the two big powerhouse tracks. ‘Summer in Toulouse’ and ‘Sylvia (Southern People)’ are both sprawling Americana epics that could have come straight from the golden age of Neil Young. They just don’t make them like this anymore! Both tracks are the perfect template of how it should be done and I’m sure at least one of them will find its way into my list of top ten songs at the end of the year. These hulking behemoths of southern rock splendour would be enough to make this an excellent album just from their own merit. When I factor in the fantastic folk alongside them it seems clear that this is the first truly great album I have heard in 2017.