Review Summary: The best tasting leftovers in recent memory.
Releasing a B-sides collection from a previous recording session for an earlier album is not necessarily considered to be a career-boosting move. Sometimes B-sides are B-sides for a reason. However, artists have ignored this guideline before to startlingly brilliant or horrific effect. Porcupine Tree’s Recordings
, B-sides from the Lightbulb Sun
and Stupid Dream
sessions, went on to be highly priced and praised collection in 2001. Contrarily, Cake's B-Sides and Rarities
, a 35-minute collection of rare music and five, different, scratch-and-sniff album covers, might have been better left in obscurity.
Kim Larsen chose a similar path with his 2003 release, Lucifer
. The album is comprised of extra material recorded a few years prior, during the :Emptiness:Emptiness:Emptiness:
sessions. It is fortunate this music has come to light. Most of it is either on par with or surpasses what made it onto the official album. The music is cohesive and clearly follows a red thread passed along by :Emptiness:Emptiness:Emptiness:
opens with a song of sympathy for the horned one himself. This title track and its reprise at the end of the album are both bare-bones examples of Kim Larsen’s potent songwriting style. The song opens with sparse echoing electronics before Larsen enters alone, accompanied only by a lonely acoustic guitar. His low, mournful voice and six, warm strings are all that perform this ballad for the devil. Its reprise, the album's closer, is the same song sans guitar. An echo effect morphs Larsen's unaccompanied voice giving it a vast, empty feel. In this way, the album closes on the same dark notes that opened it.
The songs presented here center on themes established by the instruments at the beginning of each song. Half of the album's tracks align their instrumentation behind the interplay between two guitars. 'Time, Time, Time' finds a clean electric guitar plucking the broken arpeggio of a decaying melody while the acoustic rhythm quietly strums on, spare and well-timed. Larsen’s words are filled with remorse, lamenting all that is lost and destroyed in the ever passing days.
'Follow Thy Faire Sunne Unhappy Shadowwe' quotes the saddening poem by Thomas Campion before a pair of airy, wistful acoustic guitars, while the lyrics of 'Naer Skog Naer Fjollum' weave in and out of a walking-pace chord progression. The music of the latter is beautiful, like a walk in the high mountains. Larsen’s voice sounds as if he were separated from the listener, obscured a grove of trees. All is clarified later, however, by a poignant flute solo.
A couple songs break through the twin guitar instrumentation barrier. The backbone of 'Megin Runar' is formed by a somber piano line. “Let It Be Ever Thus” boasts the heavy presence of a bass guitar and the weeping voices of both cello and flute. The acoustic guitar sprints behind the low, droning melody, maintaining a driving chord progression throughout the song. Larsen’s last verse here would have served as a perfect closer. “May the raven guard and wand protect.”
Unfortunately, 'Reficul II', a 9-minute sequence of voice loops and swirling, droning keyboards, brings about an unnecessarily prolonged conclusion to an otherwise great album. The idea itself is not bad, but the track's length carries it out into monotony and the atmosphere feels all but lost.
In spite of one misstep, Lucifer
is hardly deserving of the B-side's bad rep. Of the eight songs presented here, seven of them are astoundingly atmospheric and moving. These songs paint pictures in the mind. Larsen has found a way, with a small plate of leftovers, to build a fire within his signature darkness. The fire gives off no light, but its warmth is still felt somehow.