Airbag co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist Bjørn Riis has released fourth album of six tracks clocking in at 50 minutes. Finally someone understands that you don’t need to cram a CD with filler – quality over quantity everytime.
Whilst Bjørn Riis is vocalist, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, a wide variety of instruments, he’s roped in some notable guests: Henrik Bergan Fossum (Airbag), Kristian Hultgren (Wobbler), Simen Valldal Johannessen (Oak), Ole Michael Bjørndal (Caligonaut), Mimmi Tamba, Per Øydir, Vegard Kleftås Sleipnes and Anders Møller. And what quality they provide.
‘Everything to Everyone’ deals with the toll that comes with continuously having to meet the expectations of others, heightened by the fear of losing yourself in the effort to please everyone. Deep.
I’ve not heard Bjørn Riis as a solo artist, and it is always interesting to hear solo albums and help you work out their role and significance in a band sound. Think about that next time you listen to some of your faves….
For me, this comes across a bit like Riverside and Mariusz Duda. The opener ‘Run’ has immediate power and dynamism in its intro before a significant mood change becomes more reflective. Excellent acoustic guitar over dreamy synths. Yes I’ll get the slight Floydiness of it, but as I say, I’m more minded of the above artists with this album and track. With the harsh yet controlled power of the ending, another band come to mind – Porcupine Tree. If that doesn’t sell this album for you, what will?
There is nothing like a good brood, and this album has those dark elements in it, as well as vibrant lighter shades, giving it an enticing and evocative depth and overall beauty. ‘Lay me Down’ is an astonishing 11 minute track of wistful melancholy with heartfelt vocals and a light, languid blues touch. The effect is mesmerising, with gorgeous guitar lines, a tight rhythm section, delicate keys and some muscular track development and layering that makes this such an excellent piece of music. And yes, his guitar soloing is Gilmour-esque at times. Got a problem with that?
‘The Siren’. “Musically the song derives its inspiration from the more mellow side of Roger Waters, Richard Hawley and Tim Bowness, and is told from the perspective of someone observing a dancer. Lyrically it depicts how one can be easily misled by temptation and hurt by the need for approval.“ What a heart-tugging, melancholic opening! Very much along the lines of Tim Bowness, this track explodes with a gloriously understated guitar solo at 3 minutes in, another at 5 minutes and then such an awesome section to close. Yes there are bound to be Floydian comparisons, but honestly just listen to how much emotion there is in the spaces in-between the notes, in the silence in-between the music, in the instrumentation between the vocals.
‘Every Second Every Hour’ launches atmospherically, dreamy, echoey, reverb-laden before the vocals enter over the strummed guitar that has a touch of Animals-era Floyd (or PT’s Time Flies, for the younger among you). This is one of the longer tracks at 13 minutes, taking an excellent turn 4 minutes in as the guitar goes into overdrive and momentum builds. An extended instrumental section is something to wallow in, before he returns 9 minutes in, the association with Tim Bowness reignited, before continuing its mesmerising journey.
‘Descending’ has a simply glorious, languid, evocative beginning. Not even five minutes long, yet so much happens as the hypnotic dreamlike state suddenly erupts with a percussive section and screaming guitar before that nightmare subsides and tranquility returns. ‘Everything to Everyone’ is a sweeping, uplifting, driven, heartfelt closing track and a triumphant close to an excellent album.
The best albums leave you wanting more, not waiting for the 76th minute of the CD to finish. I want more! This is intelligent, powerful, emotive and infectious (am I allowed to use that word or is it too soon?). It is a powerful album, and one of the most outstanding releases of 2022.
- Lay Me Down
- The Siren
- Every Second Every Hour
- Everything to Everyone
Bjørn Riis, Henrik Bergan Fossum, Kristian Hultgren, Simen Valldal Johannessen, Ole Michael Bjørndal, Mimmi Tamba, Per Øydir, Vegard Kleftås Sleipnes, Anders Møller.