Twin Solitude by Leif Vollebekk – Album Review
by Matt Callard
It makes such an obvious, head-down, bee-line for sparse, glacial beauty, this third album from Canada-born multi-instrumentalist, Leif Vollebekk, that it’s somehow inevitable that it ultimately misses. Beauty emerges – it isn’t dug out with a shovel and presented on a platter.
Not that Twin Solitude is without its beautiful moments: the chord progression on key song ‘Into the Ether’, the gentle, discreet string backing from Kendrick Lamar collaborators Chargaux on ‘Elegy’, ‘Vancouver Time’s airy stillness. But its overarching play for swoon, its half-sung fragmentary nature, its lack of sonic depth eventually combine to create a grey wash, when you know that layers of gorgeous pastel hues were the real intention.
Touchstones are obvious. Astral Weeks‘ timeless improv-spontaneity (most songs were written in one sitting), Jeff Buckley during his most impassioned (‘Into the Ether’ basically mimics Buckley’s trademark wordless wailing), Sigur Ros during their quiet, multi-layered lulls-before-the-storms. Elsewhere, there are echoes of Randy Newman, in the phrasing as much as the carefully placed piano chords, and some of The Blue Nile’s atmospheric twilight wonder. But memorable moments are lacking – something none of those touchstone artists ever lack.
“Hallucinatory, dreamlike and somewhat intangible”
There’s a strong emotional core to Twin Solitude – in fact, there’s a sincere, heart-on-sleeve earnestness that permeates every track. So much so that you long for a bit of air – just a pinprick. Call it dynamics or diversity, but by track five you’ll feel like you’re swimming through syrup and in need of The Ramones first album. Maybe, like the album’s creation, you’re better to experience these songs in separate one sittings, where they have their own space and air.
At its best, Twin Solitude is hallucinatory, dreamlike and somewhat intangible. At its worst it’s advert music: indistinct and unmemorable. But there’s great talent here – and it will blossom in to something unique.
But for now, take this in small doses. And let the beauty in drop-by-drop.