Torgeir Waldemar’s second solo album is a simply stunning offering – a beautifully balanced combination of visionary acoustic songs, full of strong and vivid imagery, and more strident West Coast rock songs, sweetly melodic but shot through with bursts of fuzzed up guitar adding depth to lyrics of loss and despairing pain. It’s a pure delight from the hypnotically circular finger-picked opener Falling Rain (Link Wray) to the closer I see the end which sounds like a nineteenth century hymnal reshaped as a devotional love song. Between these exquisite acoustic bookends there are deeply melancholic songs such as Island Bliss which pictures a move from joy to despair : “what happened to the music? To the songs that we found in the hills?” Waldemar asks before answering his own questions “now that you’re gone I will lay my head down / now that you’re gone I will put my body under the ground”. With just the lightest touch of string-like keyboards behind his finger picked guitar and painfully drained vocal it’s an emotionally affecting song that could sit alongside the likes of Who knows where the time goes?.
Amongst a clutch of great songs the outstanding track is the eight minute epic Summer in Toulouse which crunches like a Steve Earle country-rock song before sliding seamlessly into Crosby Stills & Nash territory. Torgeir Waldemar lashes out at easy political promises and as equally easy betrayals of hope before declaring that “all I need is a summer in Toulouse / All I need is a place where I can choose” as his guitar soars ever higher, before descending to a long gentle coda that flits as if from shadow to shadow in the labyrinthine streets of that city in Southern France. Sylvia (Southern People) is a similarly intense rock song, tie-dyed in the musical colours of a late sixties Laurel Canyon era Neil Young, with lyrical references that are mined from, amongst others, Southern man and Alabama, as Torgeir Waldemar turns his ire on the unchanging human nature driven by greed and self interest.
The twists and turns of the album can appear confusing at first – is this guy Neil Young, Phil Ochs or Dylan ? Give No Offending Borders a few listens though and its sombre majesty is revealed. Anyone who is grooving on the likes of Phosphorescent, Father John Misty or Josh T. Pearson will likely fall on this like J. Wellington Wimpy on a free hamburger.