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Oliver Hohlbrugger (Norway) – Velveteen (single/future album track)

Reading between the lines of the various press releases I received about Oliver Hohlbrugger and his single ‘Velveteen’, he is a little unusual, in a nice way of course.

Oliver sounds like he could own a trucking company, in the way of Eddie Stobart, plying his trade up and down the autobahnen, but is really a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer who inhabits his own unique sonic space. 

Even the recording process for the song and the forthcoming album it is from was out of the ordinary, shifting between an abandoned villa in the small village of Jæren near Stavanger and the New York borough of Brooklyn, one that hums with music day and night.

It seems the song, named for the lush velvet substitute, is about dancing on long-stemmed roses on the edge of a cliff and the desire to be reborn as a tree. Peter Gabriel was a lawnmower but at least that moved. You’ll spend a long time going nowhere as a tree mate, and hugging them is going out of fashion. Then later he opts to be the sea instead, a wish carried on a wave of uncertainty.

He says the album “is about the search for something real in a world that seems increasingly numb and indifferent.” Real World. Hm, we’re back at Gabriel again. And there’s something Gabriel-like in the portentous lyrics, too.

“The sun is blue and the sky is black

The TV’s having a heart attack

Signs are all over, it’s coming undone

You always did say that this day would come

Feels like the end of the world”

Don’t focus solely on those opening lines. Lyrically this song is a little gem, well thought through and presented from beginning to end.

There’s no sign of old Pete in the music though, which is 1960s/70s punkish rock, reminiscent of Lou Reed, early Bowie, perhaps a hint of The Stranglers in the refrain too, and with an attention grabbing guitar riff from the very opening bars. Sounds that Gen Z hasn’t heard but needs to. Pronto.

Then, just when you think it can’t get any better, a brass band chimes in at the end, one made up of musos who have only played with the likes of Talking Heads, Beyoncé and Prince, I’ll have you know. And they have a blast with an outro that could have gone on much longer for me.

The black & white video that goes with it is so ridiculously cool that I did consider making it a ‘Video of the Week’ post but then that would have detracted from the music. There’s minimalism and then there’s this (minimalism having flourished of course in the 1960s and 70s), as Oliver switches his record player on, puts on the vinyl and then retires to listen to it. That’s it. Tracey Emin would hate it; that and the fact that it might be her bed he’s lying on.

And note how it is ‘overseen’ by Belgian actor and singer Jacques Brel, who would have appreciated the theatricality of it all.

‘Velveteen’ is out now. The album ’Nothing’s Changed, Everything Is New’ is out on 19th April via REVIR / MoonFlowerMusic. I notice the album also features a guest appearance from Anne Lise Frøkedal, who weirdly has never been in NMC although I must have written about her dozens of times in the past.

The band on ‘Velveteen’:

Oliver Hohlbrugger – Vocals, guitars

Pål Jackman – Vocal

Børge Fjordheim – Drums, Bass, Glockenspiel

Morgan Price – Saxophone

Billy Aukstik – Trumpet

Clark Gayton – Trombone

Andrea Sødal Aasmoe – Tambourine

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