Nicklas Sørensen: Solo
El Paraiso Records

Papir guitarist Nicklas Sørensen makes an excellent impression with his first solo album, an unfussy, forty-seven-minute set that neatly splits six tracks across two vinyl sides. Obviously connections between the album and his work with the Denmark trio can be made, but Solo is very much Sørensen's baby. And don't take the title literally either, as it doesn't feature the guitarist alone: Papir's drummer Christoffer Brøchmann and bassist Christian Becher Clausen take part, as does Causa Sui's own axesmith Jonas Munk. Solo in this case means that the instrument is front and center throughout, and further to that Sørensen coaxes from the guitar all manner of otherworldy sounds.

Engaging from the first moment, “Solo1” lunges from the gate with an indomitable krautrock groove paving the way and the guitarist unleashing no small amount of melodic bliss and Hendrixian fire as he scales the track's seven-minute mountain. Mention must be made of the rhythm section's volcanic power, whose muscular attack spurs Sørensen on to ever-greater heights. As fabulous as such a high-energy display is, the guitarist is wise to shift gears thereafter rather than try to replicate the grandeur of the opener. The focus shifts to something approximating tropical splendour in “Solo2” when Sørensen exchanges roar for lyricism and the tempo slows to a sleepy, floor tom-heavy plod. At such a moment, Solo has as much if not more in common with a Manual setting as it does one by Papir. Things aren't always as they first appear, however, as “Solo2” does eventually grow into a heavier meditation not entirely free of a raw edge or two. “Solo5” also allows the musician's heavier side to come to the fore during seven minutes of bluesy riffing.

With sounds of maracas filling the air, the opening seconds of “Solo3” might be taken for a nod to Steve Reich's Four Organs, though the track quickly charts its own course when Sørensen layers blissed-out picking on top of minimalism-styled patterning. The track builds dynamically in a manner similar to the opener though in this case the style veers in the direction of panoramic micro-minimalism instead of motorik instrumental rock. Lest anyone doubt Sørensen's musical gifts on the instrument, the peaceful reverie “Solo4” makes clear in this largely solo setting of multi-layered guitar parts that he's as artful and sensitive a player as they come.

But as strong as Solo is, it's not perfect: whereas everything else is timed pretty much right, “Solo6” isn't interesting enough to merit its twelve-minute running time, though its raucous second half is certainly more gripping than the first. But, in general, missteps are far and few between on this otherwise stellar outing by the guitarist and fine addition to the El Paraiso catalogue.

March 2016