Album Reviews

Magnet – The Tourniquet

(Atlantic) UK release date: 22 August 2005

In the unlikely event you were suffering Bergen withdrawal symptoms; here is the second album from one of the Norwegian town’s many pop exports. Even Johansen’s opus comes off the back of critically welcomed albums from neighbours Annie and Royksopp, and where his first album was an intimate treat, The Tourniquet takes those qualities and opens them up a little.

Hold On is the album’s uplifting opener, seemingly glimpsing an end to the Bergen rain. “You’ll get through this if you hold on,” sings Johansen, cinematic strings sweeping to his aid. After such a bold statement of thematic intent, it’s to his great credit that the album doesn’t fall flat on its face afterwards.

On the contrary, Duracellia ambles into view, once again dressed with exquisite touches of electronic orchestration; a glockenspiel line here and a heavier kettle drum there. Johansen’s softly resigned line “don’t matter if you leave or stay, I’m gonna love you anyway” acknowledges past failings but in a circumspect way.

What makes this record so easy to relate to is Johansen’s way of singing, unaffected, clearly heard and yet managing to project his emotions in a subtle, thought provoking manner. The touches of orchestration are characteristic of his style, as are the use of direct, life-centred lyrics. A couple of songs – Deadlock and Miss Her So – deal with the down side of a relationship in a curiously uplifting way, Deadlock exhibiting musical properties similar to Radiohead‘s No Surprises with the refrain “it’s over”, borne away on another intricate arrangement.

Meanwhile Magnet celebrates self confidence of a sort, with Believe a statement of intent, the singer sounding uncannily like one of the Finn Brothers. More resolute, too, is the big screen sound of Blow By Blow, despite its mysterious choral harmonies, while The Pacemaker, a slow-burner of a track, declares “only you can hold me like a tourniquet”. Most joyous is Fall At Your Feet, again inviting Finn comparisons as it exalts in a deeper love.

The artwork sums this album up perfectly – dark around the edges but with a core of light that burns resolutely throughout, drawing inevitable parallels with the Arctic midnight sun. Magnet’s second album uses this light at the end of the tunnel to build on his first, and his talent for song writing and instrumentation looks set to keep him well in touch with his fellow townsfolk.

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Magnet – The Tourniquet
Magnet @ 93 Feet East, London