[record reviews: phanerothyme]
30 November 2001
Review of Phanerothyme taken from the
Oouside of a few psychotic death-metal bands and the creepy falsetto pop stylings of A-ha, Norway has brought little of note to the table of contemporary music. Trondheim's Motorpsycho might change that situation if only they could remain stylistically stable for more than a few minutes: since their inception in 1989, they've released an avalanche of albums ranging from heavy metal through country and western to avant-jazz improvisation, making it difficult to get any kind of handle on them they're the Norwegian Ween, in effect. Phanerothyme (a term coined by Aldous Huxley to denote the more blissful effects of the hallucinogenic experience) is their full-on psychedelic album, a lovingly detailed re-creation of the sound of Los Angeles c1967, with Bacharach-style horns and Forever Changes strings illuminating the piercing guitar lines, Doors-y electric piano solos and rococo flourishes of oboe and harpsichord, and lyrics urging us to "Get up, move to California", where we can straddle the fault line, "Spending all the dreamtime / Waiting on the landslide." The dominant figure hovering over the album is Love's Arthur Lee, whose characteristic mood of acid-fried, sun-baked paranoia lurks behind lines such as "Is it for real, or is it for ever? / Everything is great when you're dead." It's a beautifully judged evocation of the precarious mix of sunlight and shadow that constituted that particular moment in space and time, though whether it has much connection with the present remains to be seen.