The Smell of Incense - "A Curious Miscellany"
(September Gurls 2010, SGCD36)
From Aural Innovations #41 (October 2010)
This is a really cool release, spanning the Norwegian group's existence years '91 through '05, including singles, demos, album tracks and a slew of '60's covers. The album starts sublimely with their signature tune The Smell of Incense and a more heavenly chorus (sung by an actual chorus) you will not hear... and not surprisingly, the sound of sitar also fills the room. As for much of the lead vocals on this album, hopefully you don't mind the somewhat Euro-inflected accent of the male singer. It's a tad too nasal for my taste on (I Wanna Live In the) Golden State... the music here is a bit on the cloying side as well. The musical aspect of the collection, covers and otherwise, generally taps into the West Coast psyche sound. And as for those covers, I'm not sure to whom some of these tunes belong, though I do recognize a couple: given the band's leanings towards '60's sounds, it shouldn't be surprising that their version of Fifty Foot Hose's If Not This Time manages to sound damn near the same as it was originally recorded by the Hose back in '67. This extended version of the United States of America's Coming Down is notable more for the mellow spacey sweetness of its addendum than the song proper. Naturally these tunes are sung by the lady of the group... as is the solid medieval folk-psyche of Witch's Hat. Swami is another neat tune... seems the guitar here is tuned to sound somewhat like sitar. I hear the Hammond as well, and the jangly interweavings of the West Coast guitar stylings. Due to the triteness of the verses, I didn't care for Christopher's Journey initially, but the pleasing guitar breaks have begun to catch on. Varulv is another traditional folk song, but again it's a bit hackneyed. The fantastical spirit of Lewis Carroll rears its head at times. I'm sure I heard some non-sense speak somewhere, a reference to a rabbit down a hole, and the swami did disappear with a "pop!" sound. The album closes with I'm Allergic to Flowers, which tells the ironic tale of a flower-child who's... yes, allergic to flowers.
For more information you can visit the September Gurls Records web site at: http://www.septembergurlsrecords.com
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg