RCD 2156CD RCD 2156CD

Who says experimental musicians can't play pop? Norway's Stian Westerhus is best known as one of Northern Europe's most fascinating abstract guitar stylists. His album Didymoi Dreams with vocalist Sidsel Endresen was a fascinating pairing of extreme guitar abuse with gibbering vocal explosions. As well as collaborations with Puma, Terje Isungset, Nils Petter Molvær, Jaga Jazzist, the Britten Sinfonia and others, he has released three acclaimed solo albums on Rune Grammofon since 2009. Stian now admits he's wanted to form a proper "band" for several years, and now he exhibits a totally different side of his musical personality. On Pale Horses, an electronic rock trio formed with keyboardist Øystein Moen and drummer/percussionist Erland Dahlen, songs are given the freedom to ebb, flow, elongate and contract, much like a more improvised set. Breaking out of a verse-chorus mould, debut album Maelstrom is a deluge of fluid and highly emotive tracks that rely on the superb musicianship and unforgettable vocals of the leader, who proves himself capable of expressing pain and joy in equal measure. Perhaps the most obvious similarities -- surprisingly -- are with the experimental side of Radiohead and Coldplay, but you'll also hear traces of Scottish bedroom romantics The Blue Nile and the psychedelic solemnity of late Talk Talk. A track like "Bed on Fire," which rises from subtle digital textures to a full-on guitar solo, fully reveals these players' exploratory backgrounds; while "Chasing Hills" might have sat comfortably on Radiohead's leftfield-swerving Kid A. Arranged around a lush base of guitar, piano, keyboards and drums, the songs on Maelstrom were recorded at Oslo's Klang studio for a deep surround-sound quality. From here to eternity: take the ride of a lifetime with Pale Horses. Stian Westerhus (vocals, guitars, Mellotron, piano, electronics), Øystein Moen (Moog, Mellotron, Prophet, MS20, piano, electronics), and Erland Dahlen (drums and all acoustic and electronic percussion).