Apples & Milk: Master of Disguise

We're not generally inclined to include reviews of folk-oriented singer-songwriters but Apples & Milk's six-song EP Master of Disguise is just too pretty to be denied. Conceived in 2003, Apples & Milk is the brainchild of wunderkind Magnus Reiten, originally from Stavanger, Norway but now residing in Bergen. Though Reiten lists Madonna, Beach Boys, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor among his favourites, his assured debut has more in common with the winsome style of Sufjan Stevens than any of those three.

“Up & Away” instantly appeals with its relaxed acoustic strums and Reiten's crystal clear, pure vocalizing. Peals of electric guitar swoop through the background in “Remembering 06:45 AM” before Reiten's voice, lower this time, enters backed by acoustic picking and bass. A graceful piano line guides a multi-tracked vocal line through the melancholy title song (“One can barely see / See that I'm a master of disguise”) while the carefree mood established by a lightly romping rhythm in “Starry Eyes” is belied by lyrics like “Foolish little dreams make starry eyes” and “Everybody seems to disappear”; ultimately, however, Reiten's acoustic folk-pop songs sound less melancholic than reflective and more summery than wintry. Enhancing Master of Disguise's appeal, Reiten opts for uncluttered arrangements, and exudes confidence without being strident or overbearing.

July 2007