Spurv - Brefjære

A Closer Listen

Now this is how you make a rock album.  Five years on from Myra, one of our top post-rock albums of 2018, comes Brefjære, which improves on its already-excellent predecessor by pulling out all the stops.  The Norwegian sextet has added a string section, a brass section and a choir, as well as instrumental and vocal soloists.  Furthermore, Brefjære is a concept album, conceived as “a mythical conversation between the wind, a mountain, a birch tree and a butterfly.”  In only four releases, Spurv has achieved greatness.

The orchestral element is apparent from the start; in fact, if the information were withheld, one would not realize that one was listening to a post-rock release.  “Krokete, rettskafen” (“Crooked, upright”) begins as a string duet before blossoming like the birch tree of its subject into 14-piece choir.   The first guitar enters mid-piece, paving a way for the drums.  Ending with a swift dash of the bow across the strings, the melody is then echoed in the electric guitar of the subsequent piece, an all-out rocker that leaves no question of the genre.  The main line is so catchy that it may become a chant in concert, despite being instrumental; strings bring the sub-themes, which weave in and out of a massive bank of drums and guitars.

“Som skyer” (“Like clouds”) bursts with widescreen symphonics, akin to those found on Mono’s Hymn to the Immortal Wind.  This time the melody is sung, the choir adopting the chorus from the guitars, singing wordlessly over brass and drums, one of the album’s perfect moments.  The two-minute “Under himmelhelvingen” (“Under the heavens”) cools it down to singer, brass and drone, preventing the music from collapsing under its own weight.  The loudest is yet to come.

“Til en ny vår” (“To a new spring”) falls like manna on post-rock fans: the set’s longest and most “classic” post-rock track, with a classic gradual build leading to a series of swells.  The track lulls the listener into a false sense of security, because the following piece is both the album’s loudest and its softest, all coming in at under three minutes.  A 17-note blast is followed by stunned stasis, then 33 more such blasts, then a beautiful female voice over ambient acoustics.  The contrast is a metaphor reflecting the simultaneous violence and beauty of the world.  Then the sextet plunges back into the fray, the rocking “Urdråpene” building to a massive conclusion, chased by a choral closer that circles back to the beginning.

In recording Brefjære, Spurv set out to “make music that lasts.”  We suspect that they have.  The concept is solid, the energy never flags, every track is solid and the album as a whole is superb.   (Richard Allen)

Mon Sep 18 00:01:57 GMT 2023