Norwegian composer and guitarist Kim Myhr’s 2014 release “All Your Limbs Singing” is a deceptively simple yet brilliant homage to the acoustic 12-string guitar, with ingenious techniques rendering rich harmonies and complex, driving rhythms without the need for overdubs. His new album “Bloom” is almost the mirror image of the previous record, the reverse side of the coin: electric guitars, effects, and overdubs are all piled on liberally and with gusto. It soon becomes apparent, however, that many of the inventions that made “All Your Limbs” so magical are equally present on “Bloom”, albeit transformed in sometimes unexpected ways.
“Sort sol” straight away announces the album’s intention to distance itself from its predecessor, its grungy electric guitar strumming soon giving way to a huge shimmering cloud and ricocheting clatter. The weighty, muscular wall of sound built up when the grungy strumming returns couldn’t seem further away from the hazy harmonics of “All Your Limbs”, and yet those thumping rhythms are an unmistakable family trait — as I realise for the first time just how much they sound like a rapidly beating heart. It’s not the last time such a resemblance is heard, either: the thud-thud pounding beneath the distorted phaser guitar of ‘Peel Me’ has the measured urgency of a distance runner’s pulse. ‘Swales fell’ paints a quieter, calmer picture, with broken chords ringing like a wind chime and solid bass thrumming.
Final track ‘Milk Run Sky’ takes a classic Myhr acoustic guitar strum and builds an elaborate chamber of sound on top of it, adding shimmering, scratching and clipping electricity, rattling alien tones, graceful, gently reverberating blues, infinitely echoing reds, and bass double-thump sunsets. I think what remains consistent about Myhr’s solo music, despite experimentation with different orchestrations, is the impression of huge distances and grand vistas created by that rhythmic strumming, the miles of road and rail and ocean and air, rumours of elsewheres. The harmonic structures help here too, the sevenths and diminished chords that don’t quite arrive back at the root note, leaving a yearning gap, a skip in the rhythm. Using such means, Myhr takes an instrument as familiar as the guitar and and moves it towards becoming something new and unexpected, a vehicle for travel and for measuring distance. The distance between one ventricle and the other.