The Beauty of Fake is the second full-length by Norwegian producer HP Gundersen's recording project The Last Hurrah!! Its eight songs are contained in a single 35-minute track. Gundersen is a musical sponge. Having grown up at the end of the 1960s and in the early '70s, he simply collected sounds and began to master them on the guitar and behind a mixing desk. Some of his many productions (over 50 albums) showcase his diversity -- Sondre Lerche, Madrugada, Tim Rose. Likewise, his own radical reading of Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" on a Mojo tribute sampler drew raves from readers. The Beauty of Fake follows 2011's Spiritual Non-Believers, regarded by at least one Norwegian newspaper as the album of the year. Here, only vocalist Heidi Goodbye and recording engineer Daniel Birkeland (who also guests on bass and guitars) remain, but that's part of Gundersen's m.o.: he recruits players based on the needs of his compositions. Some here include saxophonist Jon Irabagon, drummer Ivor Thormodsæter, guzheng player Yuyua Zheng, and Silje Solberg on flute and hardanger fiddle. Taken together, The Beauty of Fake is like a musical travelogue through different time periods, where both geography and era blur. According to the artist, an encounter with a Gambian kora player a couple of years back altered his musical reality. He began playing simple guitar chords over and over again for hours to hear all the places their tones met one another and opened into others. Here, on any given track, Norwegian, American, and Asian folk music meet the various sounds of '60s Southern California (psychedelic pop, singer/songwriter, Van Dyke Parks, etc.), Indian modal music, late-era Beatles, classical post-minimalism, and more, in an airy, expertly woven blanket of bliss. Select subtitles here would include the dreamy "Lonely Whistle Call," the spaced-out lyricism of "The Trip," and the bubbly sunshine pop meets Eastern drone of "High in Hawaii." Despite the ambition at work here, and the incredible amalgam of sounds, Gundersen not only pulls this all off on The Beauty of Fake, he offers something that, despite its many references, is clearly his own; he uses his many inspirations not only to execute a vision, but to explore the many connections between sources and forge new ones in their wake.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek