In journalism outlets up and down the country, one common rule is applied to every news story to judge whether or not it is fit for print. If a story is 'dog bites man' then it is another unremarkable instance of a day-to-day occurrence. If a story is 'man bites dog' then it will be an extraordinary incident, able to pique a reader’s attention by virtue of its headline alone.
Now let’s try this one on for size:
'Norwegian singer songwriter records emotionally wrought debut album.'
Hardly “man bites dog” is it? It would undoubtedly take less time to write a list of debut albums in which singer songwriters haven’t wrenched their hearts out over reams of sheet music than to run through the sub-genre’s multiple alumni.
So lets forget about Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Laura Marling and every other solo troubadour under the sun and concentrate on Moddi for a moment.
As you’ll have gathered by now, Floriography is his first full-length studio communiqué and his first album to be released outside Norway.
Back in his home nation, Moddi is a critical success having garnered two Norwegian Grammy nominations, Best Male and Best Newcomer in case you were wondering, for his pseudo-acoustic fare. Yet it seems unlikely such success will follow him around the globe.
For starters Floriography is not a record that holds the attention for long at all. Opener ‘Rubbles’ takes a full minute to develop from silence to ambient noise, setting a sluggish tone for a record that takes 48 minutes to run through its meagre nine track total.
Unsurprisingly there’s little variety in pace either. ‘Smoke’ proves a typical example of not much happening before a brief rally of unguarded emotion rouses against tranquillity, only to slump back into the familiar abyss of subdued ramblings.
Instrumentation is Moddi’s key strength, by which I mean his opines distinguish themselves mostly by whether accordion (‘Poetry’), violin (‘A Sense Of Grey’) or acoustic guitar (‘Stuck On The Waltz’) is the driving force to nowhere in particular.
Ironically, when the Norwegian warbler does run for more immediate ground with the softly plucked piano chords of ‘Krokstavemne’ he reverts from the English language to his native tongue making a pleasant tune all the more inaccessible to his new target audience.
It’s a shame because, when Moddi does let loose of all eccentricity and just sing, as on ‘Magpie Eggs’, his coarsely accented voice reveals itself to be quite enchanting. For once the listener is invited to live in the moment with our protagonist, writhing in time with the tortured grace of a stabbing string section rather than hanging off its coattails waiting for something of note to happen.
The sad truth of a world cluttered with a wealth of talented artists all vying for your attention however, is simply no-one has the attention span to sit around in anticipation of such a 'man bites dog' moment. They have to grab you by the throat and compel your unmitigated concentration. When the albums of 2011 roundup comes to be printed, Floriography will be lucky to make the news in brief.
3Robert Leedham's Score