Sivert Hoyem Lioness on LP
A nocturnal light shines over Sivert Høyem's new album Lioness. The Norwegian rock artist is still moving through a shadowy landscape, but the shades are cast by a warm light. Høyem is the holder of a voice that should be considered one of Norway's natural resources, he possesses a control of timbre and a command of phrasing reminiscent of a classically trained musician. On this album, his voice is brought forth, not just by the utterly solid band he has assembled, but also by a rich, organic tapestry of strings and acoustic instruments. Lioness is an album pulsating with warmth and life.
Lioness is in many ways a nocturnal album; it evokes moods belonging to the night. Most of the album's ten tracks contain references to sleep, dreams or the night. There's also a playfulness and sense of freedom about this album, not least to be found in Høyem's vocal delivery, spanning from mellow baritone through gritty blues phrases to inspired soul falsetto. Høyem produced the album in collaboration with his long-time guitarist Christer Knutsen, who also contributes keyboards and backing vocals. "We didn't spend too much time with the band in the studio," Høyem says about the recording sessions. "We worked out the arrangements beforehand, and were mostly concerned with getting the right feel on each song when we recorded." Also featured on the album are Øystein Franzvåg on bass and Børge Fjordheim on drums, both from Høyem's regular live band.
Following the more dense darkness of his previous releases, Høyem this time has made an album that breaths and lets the light through. Synthesizers and electronic devices are scarcely to be found here; the scope of expression is all in the hands of the musicians. Høyem's acoustic guitar is a central element throughout the album. Knutsen's electric guitars underline Høyem's voice and melodic details, or paint with broader brush strokes, contrasting the shimmering strings, arranged and conducted by Jan Martin Smørdal. Everything pulls in the same direction.
Lioness was recorded at Oslo Klang with Bjarne Stensli engineering, and mixed by Tchad Blake at Full Mongrel, Wales. The mastering has been done by legendary Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York. Lioness is a classic album in many ways. It draws lines to some important points of reference in the history of popular music. But it is also a release that on the basis of its sheer strength of songs and level of production may easily be reckoned an album classic. Høyem is a dedicated and hardworking artist, and on Lioness his abilities as a singer, songwriter and bandleader come together wonderfully.