Váli: Skogslandskap

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Váli: Skogslandskap
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Váli is a one-man Acoustic/Folk instrumental act that hails from Norway. 2004 saw the release of the debut full-length album Forlett, a recording that became an underground sensation as quickly as it arrived. It’s been nine years now and outside of two songs that appeared on the 2010 compilation Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings, there has been only silence. It’s now 2013, and Prophecy Productions has picked up Váli for the long overdue follow-up, Skoglandskap. Has this long stretch of time hurt the group, or is this recording only guaranteed to cement the legacy of this impressive solo piece further?

Skogslandskap is just under forty four minutes, but brings fifteen new compositions of wilderness filled beauty to life. “Nordavindens Klagesang” introduces a rather chilly performance thanks to the acoustic notes that pick up as the slower, simply beautiful violins kick in. The tear jerking performance does eventually become a bit more upbeat towards the end, though the overall emotional environment still remains the same until it fades out, leaving you wanting more. “I Skumringstimen” ignites a truly depressing atmosphere through the violin, as if staring at a broken down carnival in the rain filled with miserable patrons. It’s a cliched representation, but it’s that sort of mental picture you get, eventually finding more nature driven leads in the acoustic guitar later on that does brighten the spirit a but by allowing the sun to break through the dark clouds.

Not every track here is depressing though. “Langt I Det Fjerne” seems like it is at first, but the guitars help pull the deeper piano performance into more of an uplifting world, even treading into upbeat when the pace picks up a little more. Visions of new lovers back in the medieval days having fun in the forest on a bright sunny day immediately fill your imagination. When the flute kicks in, so does the age, giving you the sense that the couple have become explorers, travelling the lands to find sights never before seen. “Stein Og Bark” isn’t quite that visual, but still carries itself with a little more light heartedness than others, such as the downtrodden “Lokkende Lyder.”

While most of the songs on this album are truly captivating, it does have some issues. There are times where loud inhalations come through, which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t so obnoxiously loud compared to the other instruments. There’s also the masked feedback in much of “Gjemt Under Grener,” and the obnoxiously loud bit that hits fifty-one seconds in that nobody bothered to try to remove from the mix. But, that’s not all. There’s one vast problem that looms over much of the album, and it’s how short the songs end up being.

Sure there are tracks like “Et Teppe Av Mose” that leave you with a sense of closure as they fade out, but not all end this way. Even songs like “I Skumringstimen,” which is at the traditional three-and-a-half minute mark, seem like they’re cut short. There are plenty that could easily pass the seven minute point, if not longer, and it’s actually depressing they aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, especially after experiencing the longer closing track “Morgenry.” The additional thirty seconds really allows the song to build into epic levels of inspiration, leaving the listener literally feeling better thanks to the hopeful, almost spiritual connection you can make with the performance.

Skoglandskap is a truly astounding example of what classical instruments and an acoustic guitar can do. It elicits raw emotion, even creates stunning fantastical visuals with the atmospheres the music can weave. But, most of the time, it just sounds natural. If the woods could perform music, this would be what it would sound like. The only downfall is some tracks have a lot to say, but are just cut short for some reason. If Váli could concentrate on expanding the performances, making more the length of “Mergenry,” perhaps even a minute or two longer, listeners would easily be give an opus instead of just short woodland tales. One spin through this album and you’ll know it’s entirely possible, and hopefully will occur on the next full-length, whenever that may be. But, for now, Skoglandskap is an album that simply must be heard despite its shortcomings.