The Last Hurrah!!, “Spiritual Non-Believers”

December 14, 2011
By Nicholas Zettel

Rune Grammofon issues a rollicking folk affair from Norwegian artist and producer HP Gundersen. Apparently inspired by a secret tuning used by Stephen Stills, Gundersen lays down restless, riff-heavy, droning acoustic guitar and subtle coloring parts throughout the disc. Gundersen’s ceaseless picking lays beneath dreamlike female vocals, rustic group vocals, and a gang of guest accompaniments.

The focal point of this set is the half-hour long, “The Ballad of Billy and Lilly.” The “Ballad” is actually a medley, an extended cut of transitions and storytelling that builds around fast-paced, ever-changing acoustic guitar drones, arpeggios, and swells. The guitar-work feels guttural through intricate, repetitive picking and shuffling strums, lending the entire affair this authentic feeling of jumping back in time, free-wheeling in some mythical countryside home to Billy and Lilly. Ramshackle parts jump in and out, the group sounds constantly change, and the whole effort is playful, rowdy, and flat-out fun.

Two short tracks serve as bookends to “The Ballad of Billy and Lilly,” providing more whimsical folk within more recognizable pop structures. “Mother Nature,” a cover of a song by Norwegian band Oriental Sunshine, opens the disc with lush folk featuring layered vocals and guitars. If the first track foreshadows the spirit of the extended medley, the closing of “Melodi Grand Prix 63″ leaps from the last notes of “The Ballad of Billy and Lilly,” eventually winding through rhythmic shifts that slow the pace of the rollicking affair as the disc closes.

It seems rare to review music that is fun — a joyful, unpretentious interaction with a listener. The Last Hurrah!! accomplish that mood on Spiritual Non-Believers, and execute some killer folk instrumentation and group vocals in the process.

Rune Grammofon

7/10

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