Norwegian singer-songwriter-guitarist Torgeir Waldemar will be no stranger to regular readers of RGM as we reviewed his second album ‘No Offending Borders’ back in 2017. An album of sprawling classic rock with more than a passing nod to Neil Young & Crazy Horse ‘No Offending Borders’ was a quality record (if you’ve not heard it I urge you to seek it out). The record exhibited an, often meandering, rough-around-the-edges 70’s rock approach that was in stark contrast to his debut release, which owed more to the California infused sounds of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters of the early 70’s. Bearing this in mind, it should come as no surprise that for his latest release Waldemar has taken a good look at both albums and made a few changes. The more stripped back folky sounds of the debut album have been seriously electrified while ‘No Borders’ material is now laid bare.
This change of approach is perfectly understandable as singer-songwriters such as Waldemar are forced to adapt their songs based on the situation. The vagaries of touring necessitate that if you want to play shows things have to change for convenience in small venues and for radio/web sessions, or due to financial issues which can make touring with a full band an impractical option. Luckily Waldemar seems equally happy plugged in or not and the result is ‘Jamais Vu’. The title of the album refers to a situation which is effectively the opposite of déjà vu where you experience a situation for the first time, even though you know you’ve experienced it before.
The only drawback seems to be that this new “album” is a scant five tracks so we’re really in EP territory here but at 29 mins you still get great value as, in typical Waldermar fashion; songs have time to find their natural length. Waldemar doesn’t strike me as an artist who could be rushed to a denouement. Side A (yep, we’re definitely in vinyl territory here) features the acoustic part of the programme with 'Sylvia (Southern People)’ opening proceedings and the beauty here is in the arrangement as dense electric guitars are replaced by serpentine acoustic sounds and a ragged, but pleasingly real, vocal from Waldemar. This new arrangement is more mannered than the original and you’re not quite sure how things are going to go when suddenly the strings swoop in, at around the three-minute mark, and the listener is treated to a terrific two minutes of instrumentation that draws you in and works quite beautifully.
Is there a Norwegian equivalent of the Appalachian Mountains? There must be as banjo and fiddle usher in ‘Among the Low’ and we're transported to a time and place where men with huge beards and Moonshine jugs are having a good old stomp on the front porch. Stripping away the electric guitars brings the folk influences of the original recording to the fore while ‘Summer In Toulouse’ is anchored by a strangely odd drone and scratchy, squirrelly string parts. I will admit to missing the extended guitar workout that was integral to the original recording but this is a different beast.
For Side B Waldemar and his crew plugin and turn it up for ‘Streets’ and ‘Take Me Home' with the former built on a really solid and thick bottom end, while those extended electric guitar parts are back and especially effective when entangled in twin lead bliss. ‘Take Me Home’ has some very cool percussion going on beneath those trademark guitar lines and impressive harmony vocals. “I’m waiting for my saviour to come, I’m waiting to die” isn’t going to win any awards in the cheerful stakes but this is brilliant stuff. Fans of ‘No Offending Borders’ will lap this up.
‘Jamais Vu’ is an interesting experiment that, although it works on many levels, might on occasion have listeners scratching their heads. Truthfully I prefer Waldemar in full on electric flow but the beauty of it is there are probably equally as many people who are happiest with the acoustic Waldemar. Whichever way you look at it Torgeir Waldemar should be on your radar.