“This one goes out to our tenacious patriarchs, thanks for keeping us in line. Though there’s been some minor bumps along the way, these geezers are bent to stay. So when shit hits the fan… Open this can of worms, they said it would be good for you … “
Rising from the ashes of Angelica’s Elegy the resplendently named, Gold Celeste, bring psych-jazz-alt serenity to a new level with their serrated edged album, ‘The Glow’. Don’t be fooled by the laid back stance of the sounds – this album’s lyrical content is “full metal jacket “.
Gold Celeste is Norwegian trio Simen Hallset on keys/vocals, Petter Andersen on percussion, and, multi-instrumentalist Eirik Fidjeland, an original member of Dråpe, who coincidentally re-joined his fellow indie-gazers, earlier this year.
‘The Glow’ is the result of two years of hermetic creativity, and is an album of several interwoven thematic strands including the diversity of human nature, disappearance of “community”, societal apathy, oppression and regression, as well as our scant regard for environmental destruction.
Album opener ‘Can of Worms’, clocks in at just under seven minutes – pretty long for an opening track. A song with an uber slow, mellow vibe, it kicks off with the most fascinating intro made up of what sounds like snippets from TV or Film, together with random snatches of noise, washed over by the most divine pastoral instrumental. Followed by a second extended intro, it is well over two minutes before the “vocal proper” kicks in. Softly nuanced, dreamy vocals are redolent of those sugar coated sweets that only reveal their acridity when bitten through. The lyrics are like bullets of sarcasm being fired through a gauzy haze, the melodious autumnal warmth of which serves to make Hallset’s vocal hook “they said it would be good for you” all the more memorable.
“Our potential is of both being infinitely hateful, and infinitely loving. This is ‘The Glow’”
‘Can of Worms’ is very jazz-blues oriented, lightly interspersed with a few glimpses of pysch, and some sprinklings of synth fairy lights as it dreamily closes out. It gives me the feeling of a song being heard in slow-motion, with its almost dead-stop RS (excepting the odd percussive ripple), sparse synth, and trance-like vocals. Entrancing, undulating, melodious – it is a song whose beauty is somewhat uglified by the darkness of the lyric.
“This is just a friendly wake up call, I’d rather see you dance, than trip and fall”
‘But a Poem’ follows. Just over one minute of lovely Norwegian Simon & Garfunkel acoustic guitar and in sync harmonies layered over a rivulet of synth, flows seamlessly into lazy dazey, ‘Open Your Eyes’. Released as a single earlier this year, sonically this is one of the strongest tracks on the album. It is a blend of effective 60s jazz style drumming from Andersen, wonky spacious synth, and magnetic laid back low lying basslines that draw you down under ethereal harmonies. The intermittent ear-catching synth sequence reminds me somewhat of the Bond-esque string/synth riff in Robbie Williams, ‘Millenium’, albeit of a different tempo and key. If there is a golden celeste and warm glow to any song on this album, it is to this one.
Thematically, ’Open Your Eyes’ is as hard hitting but yet more subtle than, ‘Can of Worms’. Open your eyes fully and focus on what’s around you. Become aware of your prejudices, your preconceptions, stumbling blocks you’ve built or society has built, to impede you, justice, integration, social fluidity. It’s a pretty neat and effective use of imagery to convey the theme.
“We’re all sharing the experience of life. If you can’t picture a world filled with a diversity of societies and cultures getting along, you’ve got to open your eyes and expose the obstacles in our way for what they truly are. Human nature they are not.”
‘The Dreamers’ is the slow-set song without the romance. Random drumming and Manzarek style 60s keyboard sounds flush with some insistent repetitive chord sequences, make up the body. Practically inaudible gently hypnotic cyclical guitar and airy synth riffs play out an enchanting melody. A barely there vocal and gorgeously soft music combine to create a lullaby for ‘the dreamers’.
Contrary to popular opinion, ‘Grand New Spin’ is my favourite track on this album. It’s Thom Yorke and Radiohead jamming with the Beatles after a Norwegian make-over. A rush of Yorke-style harmonies opens, backed only by a gentle acoustic guitar. The song evolves nicely bringing in sounds from this very strong RS unit – subtle but hugely expressive and intuitive bass and percussive lines firmly underpin. But, this is Fidjelands song – without doubt, his interpretative skills are as finely honed as his guitar skills are exceptional.
As a boppy, poppy counterpoint to the placidity of its predecessor, ‘Time of Your Life’ is an up tempo 60s toe-tapping 4 time pop tune – a bit Mommas and Poppas, a bit Beach Boys. With some lush “horn” sections and Fidjeland rocking out and letting rip on electric guitar, this is probably the most mainstream track on the album. Loud bass, lots of cymbals and noisy drums, this track creates a positively happy atmosphere in line with the theme – get on with your life and enjoy it!
Runner up favourite track, ‘Pastures’, is 51 seconds of jazz brilliance, messy keys sounds and exquisite, natty drumming. Think Duke Ellington and Pat Methany jamming after a few beers. Smashed it!
‘Is This What You Could Not Do’, sung by Fidjeland is 100% proof, pure shoegaze. It is a muzzy meld of wonderful fuzzed up and chiming guitars, 60s pysch drumming (very Doors) and Carnaby Street bass. With some groovy instrumentals and immensely lovely vocal harmonies, this is the one for the dream-poppers. The theme of coping with the stresses and strains suffered under the weight of the creative process is obvious from the bluntly honest title. Once again lush sounds swirl around thought provoking lyrics.
Dreamy shoegaze is immediately followed by bonkers wonk, as we find Gold Celeste tripping out in ‘You and I’, with more 60s “far out” keyboard playing mixing it up with layer upon layer of guitar. More imaginative drumming from Andersen helps the track evolve nicely, and with its amazing melody and wide spaces between verse and chorus, this is an hugely imaginative musical composition that closes with a superb long guitar sequence through which wash waves of synth.
The penultimate track on this album is another mini-instrumental. ‘On the Brink’ is literally “on the brink”, with its jazzy drumming and synth loops.
‘The Glow’ ends with what seems to be “the music critics” favourite, ‘The Start of Something Beautiful’; six minutes of gear changing, decadent gorgeousness. It’s a louche track; rhythmic, interchangeable and enigmatic. Thrumming base, layered vocals, whirring synths, grow and evolve whilst muffled talking in the background piques our curiosity, and subtle but effective guitar playing remains faded into the background. It is a mighty fine ending to a very strong album.
Gold Celeste has been touring this album since its release and have just confirmed two London dates on 7th and 9th of December, see their FB page, details below. According to vocalist Simen, they hope to play some alternative and extended versions of some of the songs from ‘The Glow’ and, judging by reports in from their Euro gigs to-date, anyone thinking of going to see them play live, won’t be disappointed.
‘The Glow’ is an album whose sound is of such magnitude and beauty, and whose lyrics are so adroitly penned, that it is more like a soundtrack to life than a shiny vinyl Lp. It exemplifies the trios skilled musicianship and masterful song writing talents and is the embodiment of persistence, determination and a profound desire to publicly vocalise strong held opinions and beliefs.
Self-produced, beautifully polished, this is musicianship as its finest, and music as it should be. 10/10