Kim Hiorthoy's artistic output relies on both the off-kilter and the elegant, be it his visual work (graphic design, illustration, film making) or his musical output. His previous releases on albums, singles, and 12"s featured organic chamber music that straddled jazz and classical with electronica and dance elements mixed in. Most of it sounded as if a Satie CD or some meditative ECM release was playing tennis with the tasteful house or techno 12" they sat next to on the shelf. Joy and beauty always emerged out of a musical landscape that could still be called "angular" and "brittle," and while all those descriptors apply to this 2014 album, the landscape here is less bumpy and otherworldly, suggesting this talented Norwegian actually does walk among us on Earth. Dogs could remind a Keith Jarrett fan of when that revered and mysterious jazz pianist pulls back the curtains, letting listeners know he's "real" through one of his process-exposing collections of demos. Nothing here is too "showy" as Hirothoy's sampler sits on the shelf this time, with piano and drum machines running the show, although the spirit of sampling is everywhere, as little riffs repeat and twist, like Francesco Tristano just fell in love with the sustain pedal and decided it's best not to wake the neighbors. Connectable and comfortable melodies travel through, as the easy rolling "Klockan" could help sell insurance on television commercials if the right 30 seconds were pulled out, while "Hands" and "The Woods" sound like club cuts for butterflies or hummingbirds, both them full of life and yet tempered so as to not startle. Add the strictly, or mostly, piano numbers scattered about and Dogs is a well-crafted album with emotional peaks and valleys, and while it's revelatory in relation to the man's process, it's not exactly representative of his work since everything else hits a bit harder. The newcomer can still revel in this sweet and rich release, but it's the Hiorthoy regular who will cherish it, gaining a deeper understanding of his alluring music by way of its reduction.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries