Like previous years, December proved to be yet another strong month for new music, with several releases banging on the door as late runners for of our Top 50 Albums of 2022.
One of them included Björn Magnusson’s Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith.
The Zürich-based artist followed up his 2017 debut, Almost Transparent Blue, with a series of experimental rock ’n’ roll wanderings that hit the spot from the off.
Including drummer Danny Hole (Nikki Sudden, Kid Congo Powers), guitarist Sean Eden (Dean & Britta, Luna) and Swiss-Zimbabwean free-jazz saxophonist Tapiwa Svosve, Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith is a cacophonous din from someone boasting a record collection peppered with sounds from both past and present.
Magnusson is a throwback of sorts, whispering to the ghost of Lou Reed and proto-punk with a dash of Dylan homage thrown in for good measure. On New York Weather, Magnusson parts with the kind of poetic power that leads the songwriter’s finest set of recordings yet.
From the wonky instrumental of Ethereal Faith, a misty saxophone-led piece with gentle strumming bubbling beneath the mix, it sets the tone for second track, Hospital Dreams. “Hospital dreams on the radio / Hospital dreams that make me want to go, so let me go now,” sings Magnusson through the burning-eyes of a possible hangover. An effortless piece that echoes Reed and Richard Hell.
On Just Like Lightning, Magnusson’s voice finds space between more skewed riffs and fractured pianos (“If you’ve got a locker full of dreams, just put ’em in a corner”).
Chinatown and Masquerade, The Eternal Jive are snapshots through the lens of a someone purely resistant to routine. A hippified notion that kicks against a world obsessed with the needless things in it. The Stones-inspired Apocalypse Boogie evokes similar impulses, while Hope Lights mixes Reed’s sharp observations of the mundane with Keith Richards’ natural blues swagger.
On the Suicide cover of Ghost Rider, Magnusson slows it down with riffs getting seared by the campfire flames. Not in a generic way, though; Magnusson and his merry band add the same inflections which dominate Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith.
While the excellent Separation Blues contains all the hallmarks you would expect from a song with such a title (“She leaves no trace”), the album’s second instrumental, Amsterdam Ave, also captures the lonely undercurrents that prove vital throughout these recordings.
Having said that, Magnusson lifts us up on closing track, Everybody’s Got Something. As Svosve’s whining saxophone and Magnusson’s bouncing piano line provide the track’s backbone, Everybody’s Got Something is the kind of closing encounter that turns good albums into memorable ones.
Magnusson maintains a clear love for the past, however by adding new layers and dimensions in abstract ways, he creates something truly accessible. For this reason alone, Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith may just travel beyond the grotty nightclub basements that have been Magnusson’s inspiration.
While those in the constant sphere of new music will find something gratifying here, those stuck in the past (should they dare to explore) will be pleasantly surprised, too.
Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith is out now via Specter Fix Press. Purchase from Bandcamp.