Anders Buaas is a Norwegian guitar player, and evidently a multi-instrumentalist since he plays all instruments on the album Tarot, including electric and acoustic guitars, bass, mandolin, banjo, drums, percussion, glockenspiel, keyboards, and theremin. The short biography tells that he was born 1974 in Larvik, which is a nice little town in the southern part of Norway and place of perhaps the best curry restaurant of the country, so do check it out when you are in the neighbourhood.
I have not consciously heard anything by Anders before, but he has already released a series of instrumental albums around the concept of prosecution of witches in Finnmark (which is at the other end of the country) in the 16th and 17th century. Before that, he worked and played with numerous bands in Norway. He also was a touring guitarist for Paul DiAnno (Iron Maiden) and Tim Ripper Owens (Judas Priest) for many years. These last references may sound as if his own music is heavy metal, but little of that to be found on this new album.
The album Tarot contains 22 musical pieces describing the 22 cards in Tarots Major Arcana. While it is a solo recording, the album is a collaboration with artist Verena Waddell, who has made 22 paintings to accompany Buaas' songs and the Tarot cards. Now I must say that I do not have a positive stance regarding so-called concepts about the zodiac, tarot, and occult stuff like that. Sorry Anders, that is minus one star from me. Bummer, because the music is quite worthwhile. Let's have a quick run-through.
The Fool starts with folky acoustic guitar and there is even accordion. Bit of a corny start, although the fluent electric guitar is excellent. Sounds a bit like Steve Morse and that is a reference as good as it can get.
Anders' electric guitar is clearly the stand-out instrument on the album. Check the sometimes threatening, sometimes soaring parts of The High Priestess which is one of five pieces that make it across the five-minute mark. Most other pieces are around two to three minutes, several are even shorter than that.
The Emperor again has a folky/medieval touch through the percussion and rhythm, although quickly the electric guitar along with some fine keyboard establish themselves as main instruments.
The longest track on the album, The Hierophant, is also one of the most symphonic. It starts with floating synths, then turns towards folk influences. Nearing five minutes, things then turn heavier with organ and electric guitars.
The Lovers is a very light-hearted piece with banjo, reminding of Mike Oldfield's folky singles. At this point I should perhaps remark that I sense in many tracks a touch of sea shanty influences which one also finds in some of the instrumental music of for example Eroc (Wolkenreise). But that is perhaps not entirely surprising with Buaas hailing from a seafaring place. Very nice short guitar solo in there, by the way. Also The Chariot reminds of Mike Oldfield, especially towards the end.
Strength sounds a bit different from most other tracks. It is very rhythmic and almost in an industrial sense. The rhythm base is almost as a pulsating machine. Wonderful fluent guitar. More of that in the forward-driving, upbeat Fortune.
I had expected something dark and heavy, but Death is surprisingly light-hearted and eerie. Vague hints of Oldfield in there again (it's the banjo, I guess). After this comes a string of five short pieces between just over one minute (the acoustic guitar piece Temperance) and just over two minutes. Unsurprisingly, The Devil is perhaps the album's darkest and most threatening piece based on a march rhythm. This transits in the album's most experimental piece, The Tower, which is mostly guitar feedback. A minute and a half to skip into the next acoustic piece, The Star. Just lovely. Reminds a bit of Steve Howe acoustic. Well, not entirely, I think Howe would put many more arpeggios in there.
Judgement brings country/folk with speedy banjo (not Oldfield-like, this time) before The World provides an end to the album which ends a bit sudden.
A fine album, and a varied album. Clearly, Anders Buaas is a talented guy. Now I just hope that he doesn't choose a lame concept as this for his next album. Don't forget to add a star if you do not mind about the concept. My verdict is:
*** Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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