Album Reviews

Stórsveit Nix Noltes – Royal Family: Divorce

(FatCat) UK release date: 13 April 2009

Stórsveit Nix Noltes is what happens when 11 Icelandic musicians, including founding members of múm, get together and put out an album of Bulgarianfolk music. We should all be happy that they did; it proves that theuniverse is still joyfully spontaneous at times.

The only possible harbinger of grumpiness could be if you find yourself writing their and their parent bands’ names, as this will leave you endlessly inserting symbols or special characters (or replacing special characters with hex codes if you’re an editor, but enough whining. – ed.).

And so on with the show. Stórsveit Nix Noltes apparentlyloosely translates as ‘The Nick Nolte Big Band’ (though that isaccording to the internet, and everyone knows the internet lies morethan your most twisted ex). They sound like nothing you’ve heardbefore, unless you are the champion of Eastern Bloc Folk Rock. Althoughtheir first album was pretty much lost somewhere in the ether (they only had eight members then), FatCat recordswere smart enough to pick up on the adoring live following the bandhave and release Royal Family: Divorce.

This is an album that is purely instrumental and all the morecompelling because of it. Lyrics probably would have been anunwelcome distraction. The brass section duals with the guitars, attimes giving the impression that compositions are about to be tornapart, particularly on the wonderful Atmadga Duma Strachilu(Revolution Song). These are tracks that shift gears, mid-track,resetting the goal posts as habitually as you and I breathe.

You can see, from the album, why Stórsveit Nix Noltes areconsidered to be so good live. If they can even come close toreproducing the technical display on Royal Family on the stage thenthey must put on one hell of a show. That, though, is the source ofone small, and probably illogical, quibble: the album lacks thekinetic intensity of a live performance, and, while that is hardly thefault of Stórsveit Nix Noltes, the feeling that the music is meant tobe heard live is like an unwelcome guest to this listening experiencethat can’t quite be made to leave.

But this isn’t enough to dampen the beautifullychaotic Winding Horo, in which the brass becomes ever more persistentto the point of pleasurable frustration. Nevestinko Horo undercutsthis immediately, offering relief in the form of a comparativelysparse and winding musical narrative that brings Royal Family; Divorce to a contemplative close.

There’s a good chance thatStórsveit Nix Noltes are already hitting your radar as massivelyoverhyped post-rock. There are times when hype and the genuine articledo miraculously coincide, however, and Royal Family: Divorce is anexcellent album to be open-minded about. It might take a good fewlistens, but you might just grow to love it.

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Stórsveit Nix Noltes – Royal Family: Divorce