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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 85 - 09/10/03

Ai Phoenix
I've been gone - Letter one
Racing Junior

Fourth (check our archive for earlier releases) album from the Bergen threesome Ai Phoenix, with more of their slow-floating rock melancholia, Velvet Uunderground/Galaxie 500 style. Mona Mørk, Patrick Lundberg and Bosse Litzheim, plus a number of musical guests (Pedro Carmona-Alvarez of Sister Sonny and Kristian Stockhaus to name a couple). The tristessed mood is maybe not as "down" as earlier, but it still sounds quite...Ai Phoenix.

Their second longplayer, The Driver is Dead, was a swaying and cooling, but, yet, dark beauty. It seems like they've lightened up a bit. A bit. Beacause this is far off from rock'n'roll paths, even though they rock more than ever this time. "A Country Life in the Autumn" is great, with its sonar guitar minimalism, along with a slightly country-ish steel guitar, plus lines of ghostly, gloomy woodwinds (oboe, bassoon? or simply some organ gimmick?). A fine travel into mysticism. Then comes the more up-tempo and indeed catchy "Call me in, Piccard". "The Pilot and the Pilgrim" has got this touch of uplifting merry happiness behind its sad drapiers, but the real gem on I've been gone - Letter one is called "Autobahn", with its soothing melody and magic guitar picks. So simple, yet incredibly efficient. Like smartness always is. A shiny star of a song.

I get this strong feeling of I've been gone - Letter one being a global tour, geographical as well as a travel in time. The songs appear like small adventures from out of some book of history. Telling odd tales holding charm and wit, with a layer of spookyness underneath. The double vocals of Patrick and Mona is a pleasant combiation. They don't sing like angels but their voices have got something special that fits their songs most excellent. Besides the songs already mentioned "Sing Ghost Sing", on which Mona singing lead, is one of the finer moments. Then there's "Small, Red, Heartshaped Pillow" - a song that really fits its title. Plus the rocky "Held Into the Fire", which is sort of Ai Phoenix go Lou Reed. Even if I hold The Driver is Dead high, finding a great deal of comfort in it --- I've been gone - Letter one could be Ai Phoenix' best album so far.

I've been gone - Letter one will be realesed by Glitterhouse in Europe in November. The Driver is Dead should be available in the US through the San Diego based label Autonomy.

Copyright © 2003 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Ai Phoenix articles/reviews: Happy To Get Her, Hey Now / Being Here Is Everything, Lean That Way Forever, The Driver is Dead.

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