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Pristine – Detoxing
9 tracks / 54:02
Until recently I had never realized that there was such an active Norwegian music scene, but in the past three months I came across three blues CDs that were recorded in Norway and I have been impressed with all of them. But one of them really blew my mind: Detoxing, the debut album from Pristine.
Pristine is from Tromso in the northern artic region of Norway, and what they offer is a hard-core psychedelic blues rock sound (think Led Zeppelin I). This is a serious album, with eight original tunes written by singer Heidi Solheim, and only one cover: the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post”. Detoxing would not be the same without Solheim’s solid writing and passionate vocals, but this album is a group effort and each of the other musicians had essential roles in its successful construction.
Detoxing does not kick off with a bang, but rather with “Damned if I Do” which is a slowly grinding blues offering with a touch of jazz influence. This track lays a solid foundation of blues for the album, and provides a starting point for the evolution of other blues genres and sounds that will be introduced later on. Besides Solheim’s throaty vocals, Espen Elverum Jakobsen’s smoking guitar contributes to the mix like another vocalist, while Ander Oskal provides a 1970s vibe with a Hammond B3. Hammond organs give me the shivers -- in a good way. Another thing that this song does is throw away any notions that there is any pop music on Detoxing. This is a nine-plus minute AOR track that made me reach for my headphones and an adult beverage.
This is followed up by “You Don’t Know”, which picks the tempo up and brings a bit of Detroit funk into the mix. Jakobsen shows off his chops but keeps things classy as he goes off on an extended solo. The steamroller beat is held down by Asmund Wiltern Eriksson Ericsson on bass and Kim Karlsen on the drum kit.
“Breaking Bad” comes next, and is one of the more notable tracks on this CD. This Texas-style blues song is not overly complicated, which is a good thing, and the band clicks right off while Solheim’s voice works in perfectly with the mix. Of all of the tracks on the album I think this is the one that is the most radio-friendly, with the Stevie Ray sound and a running time a little under four minutes.
The choice of “Whipping Post” as the only cover seems odd at first, but this version is quite a bit different than the Allman Brothers’ standard. This one is slowed down and stripped down to one distorted guitar and Heidi’s killer voice. She has a lot of soul and energy, which really shines when she is singing with just the guitar or keys, which you will also find on the short funk track “Damage is Done”.
“The Last Day” starts as a slow ballad, and Solheim’s smooth vocal prowess helps the listener hear what have to be the best lyrics on the album. This song builds in tempo and intensity over its eight minutes until she is bellowing over a respectable Jimmy Page imitation; I am not sure if this is Jakobsen or Norse musical legend Knut Reiersrud, who also appears on this track. This ends up being a powerful song and is an example of really solid songwriting.
But, my favorite song on this album is the title track, which is saved for next to last. “Detoxing” is probably how this band got classified into the psychedelic blues rock genre. It starts out with a Karlsen tapping out a Zeppelin cymbal ride over Ericsson wearing out his left hand with an ostinato on the bass, and builds from there. This track is an eleven-minute journey which turns into a driving rock anthem with Hendrix guitars all over it. This is an ambitious song and the band pulled it off.
Detoxing is a well-produced album with good musicianship and solid songwriting. The band keeps changing the mood so the content does not have the chance to get tedious, but the listener never forgets that this is a blues album at its core. I enjoyed it a lot, and look forward to seeing their live show, which is rumored to be a real barnburner.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at www.rexbass.blogspot.com.