Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 203 - 03/27/13

Set The House On Fire
Propeller Recordings

Moddi a.k.a. Pål Moddi Knutsen hails from the isle of Senja (the second largest island in Norway, population as of 2012: 7,729) in Northern-Norway. Moddi's debut record was Rubato EP (2008 Playground Music), which was a split 12" with Einar Stray (a musical companion - who's added his tangential skills to all of Moddi's recordings - nick-named 'the love-child of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Sufjan Stevens'). In 2009 Moddi put out Live Parkteateret - a 6-song, homemade, self-released live EP (with sober instrumentation counting violin, bass, cello, piano, and drums), of which all the tracks ended up on his first studio album, Floriography (Impeller Records 2010). Moddi received acclamation for his live appearances ("...quietly intense acoustic guitar, smoldering strings, and a haunting Norwegian-accented voice caught my ear like a tractor beam..." - Pitchfork).

After the release of Floriography (recorded in Greenhouse Studio, Reykjavik, Iceland), Moddi was one of the four artists/bands who received a-ha's grant of NOK 1,000,000 in prior to a-ha's final farewell tour in 2010. This stipend was meant to help young, up-and-coming artists to boost and to pursue an international career. After some touring to promote his album, he decided to take a break. He turned into being a University College student in a small Norwegian town. To quote his statement on his web site: "I never really intended to make a second album. Secretly I considered my mission to be over after Floriography, and didn't want to dig as deep ever again. The words were spent, the melodies just an echo, every concert a routine. I needed a break. A long one." He apparently re-found his excitement and most of all he evoked his song-writing ability.

Set The House On Fire is a trip through folky, chamber pop, guided by a most talented singer/songwriter Moddi. He's got this somewhat shy expression, and of course he roams the fields were you find low-voiced romantics such as Swedish (of Argentinean descent) José González, He's also musically related (of course) to his musical buddy Einar Stray. He can even be compared to one of the last years fave indie-rock bands, Kråkesølv, who also hail from Northern Norway. This might have something to do with Moddi's opening track and second last track, "Heim" (Home) and "Heim igjen" (Home again), which both are sung in Norwegian and of course in the Northern dialect. Like Kråkesølv do. He's also got this charmingly, boyish attitude; Nordic style woolly sweater and spiky-curly hairdo. Imagine a blonde Nordic troll. His (mother's) old accordion on his lap, or stretched across his chest. Pitchfork's correspondent had a point when he used the phrase 'Norwegian-accented', but this adds even more to Moddi's charm account.

The musical content on Set The House On Fire for sure gives a good impression. Moddi is a fine song-writer, and he knows to find a fine balance between an up-beat and a down-beat mood. The overall mode is optimism, even though there's sadness (loss, or longing) to be found in many of the lyrics. The album is impressive, and shows a creative mind and a gifted songwriter/musician. Of highlights I'd like to mention the very fine (first single) "House By The Sea", "Heim" (maybe he should've stuck to his mother's tongue some more, or totally?), "Let The Spider Run Alive", the electronica-tinged "The Architect", and "Silhouette". To me the album is a couple of songs too long. It should've been trimmed. That said, Set The House On Fire could be a fine addition to see the winter disappear. Finally, at last.

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