Alexander Von Mehren

Aéropop

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The Norwegian arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Alexander Von Mehren began recording his 2013 debut album, Aéropop, in 2005 and finished it up in 2010. The time was well spent, as the finished product is an exquisitely crafted, richly arranged modern pop gem. Taking influence from bossa nova, cocktail jazz, lounge music, and Burt Bacharach-ian complicated pop, the music is also heavily inspired by the High Llamas and their interpretation of all those elements. Indeed, large chunks of Aéropop sound like they could have been lifted from a Llamas album or a Sean O'Hagan-produced chunk of a Stereolab album. He even titles a song "Switched On." Still, it seems like a stretch to say Von Mehren is flat-out stealing from O'Hagan, though more likely they came to similar conclusions -- lots of sweeping strings, gently crooning horns, layered vocal harmonies, and Von Mehren's piano in the center of it all -- when mixing up and pouring out their influences. Plus, there is far more jazz in the mix here, in Von Mehren's piano style and especially on the seven-part suite that closes the album in relaxed and soothing style. Even if the overall impression is that Aéropop does come pretty close to the Llamas sound, there's enough artful arranging, subtle performance, and melodic invention going on to make it a worthwhile listening experience regardless. It's music tailor-made for easy listening, created by a musician with full control over his craft and imbued with a tender grace that makes the album simple to appreciate. There's certainly room for another musician who can do that as well as Von Mehren does on Aéropop.

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