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(Smalltown Supersound)

It's really taken until late last year and earlier this year for me to realize that Norway is indeed a musical hotbed. As I mentioned in another recent review of a Norwegian artist, my only real point of reference for the country was that it had the highest per-capita suicide rate in the world, but over the course of the past half-year or so, I've aquired some amazing CDs by artists that call the cold, skinny country home. Monopot is yet another group that I can add to that list, and amazingly enough they sound nothing at all like the other bands and artists I've heard from the same country.

I read somewhere that the best way to imagine them is a mixture of Bedhead and Codeine with a slight skimming of electronics. After hearing Optipess, I can say that's a fairly accurate description. It would probably be easiest to shove them off into the 'slow core' genre, but they add enough slight wrinkles to the formula that it doesn't sit stale with them. The release opens with "Diamant," a slow shuffle of reverbed guitars and brushed drums that sounds like grunge at a near-comatose pace. "Aloft" changes things up a little bit, adding somewhat hesitant baritone vocals into the mix and sprinkling some shifting layers of electronics over it all. Towards the end, an accordian (or at least what sounds like one) slightly breaks though the haze, but not for long.

"Erlingvik" brings the electronic element into play a little bit more as warm synth pulses bellow out over pitter-patter programming. It reminds one of the eerie atmosphere of a Labradford track, while "Bomb Of Bliss" follows it up with a weary ode that sounds like a cross between the aforementioned Bedhead and Codeine. As with most artists of this nature, individual mileage will vary, but despite an overlong mis-step in the middle of the album ("Sebastian"), I find Optipess quite an enjoyable album of lazy day tracks that never rock too loudly or to quickly.

"The Arc And The Beagle" is one of those tracks that shows off what the group does so well. Although the repeated guitar lines and slow rises and falls may simply be boring for some, it mirrors some of the recent work that Mogwai has been exploring in softer dynamics and slow releases of sound. By the time the subtle drones of feedback come in at the end of the track, it's like a small epiphany. Somewhat surprisingly, the album runs through 9 tracks in 40 minutes, and it's one of those releases that feels slightly longer than that. It's not because it's bad or a chore, but simply because the music seems to slow time down ever-so-slightly and pull it out like taffy. I probably won't find myself listening to is as much during these summer months, but I know I'll break it out again when the days start getting colder.

Rating: 6.75