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Lars Horntveth
(Smalltown Supersound)

Lars Horntveth is one of the many members of the group Jaga Jazzist, but from the sound of his debut album Pooka, it seems like he might be the one doing a good portion of the writing and arranging. In fact, this release plays out much like a Jaga Jazzist recording, with a great mixture of both programmed electronics and real instrumentation, including a rather lush amount of horns, woodwinds, and strings.

Now that I've mentioned Horntveth's group ensemble project about 5 times in the first paragraph, I'll try to steer clear of them for a bit and simply say that this is some very nicely created music from an up-and-coming artist. The album-titled "Pooka" opens the disc with quick stabs of strings that blend in over squiggly electronics before warm clarinet layers in as well. Eventually, the whole track sweeps up into a more dense, yet never overwhelming composition. "The Joker" opens with a strum of jangly guitar, but soon gives way to saxophone and clicky programmed beats. The track is one of the more songlike tracks on the release in terms of composition, yet still doesn't hold to any preset notions, bursting forth with more attacking strings towards the end.

Sometimes the more classical-sounding instrumentation gets so dramatic that the release feels more like some sort of film score. On "Tics," clarinet again blends with skittering programming and lush strings before the strings strike out on their own, straining louder and louder while dramatic bass notes give it almost an updated Isaac Hayes feel. As with the releases by Jaga Jazzist, Pooka is both immaculately produced and performed. At times, things feel almost a little too in place, but Horntveth also shows he can completely let loose as on the stuttering, cut-up two-minutes of "1. Lesson In Violin." All in all, Pooka is a solid debut from yet another wildly-talented Scandanavian artist who is doing something slightly different.

Rating: 7.75