Fra Lippo Lippi

Fra Lippo Lippi

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Fra Lippo Lippi Review

by Thom Jurek

Given their acclaim during the post-punk years, it was unthinkable that the Norwegian duo known as Fra Lippo Lippi (Per Oystein Sorensen and Rune Kristoffersen) had allowed their catalog of six studio albums to vanish from circulation for 22 years. That changed in 2003 when Kristoffersen, of Rune Grammofon, reissued the band's first two albums, In Silence (1981) and Small Mercies (1983), as a beautifully remastered and wonderfully packaged double CD entitled The Early Years on his new imprint called Rune Arkiv. In 2005 their third album, Songs (1985), appeared as a very limited-edition CD, but soon sold out of its pressing. This four-disc eponymously titled box compiles Songs as well the group's three remaining studio efforts, Light & Shade (1987), The Colour Album (1989), and Dreams (1992). What's striking about the box of these final four albums is the development of the band's sound. While In Silence was certainly influenced by Joy Division, the sound of Small Mercies shifted somewhat, adding an acoustic piano to its mix. When Fra Lippo Lippi released Songs, they made the piano a prominent ingredient in their sound. When it came to releasing the self-financed and recorded album, its original version (included here) contained no guitars in its mix -- they were added later by Virgin International when they licensed the recording and signed the band. Songs also reflected a further development to more formal and conventional structures, even as the album's sound was sparser and spacier. The final three albums all built on that formula, incorporating elements in further defining a unique pop sound that transformed Fra Lippo Lippi's version of European gothic into a more celebratory -- though no less satisfying -- jazzy indie pop. This box includes those final four albums, all packaged artfully thanks to a stellar design by Magnus Voll Mathiassen, and with painstakingly remastered sound. Further, each album contains a liner essay and annotations by Kristoffersen in his liner notes. Between this and The Early Years, the entire catalog of the original band's oeuvre is finally available for fans -- and who else would consider this but fans? [This set is also available as part of an obsessively gorgeous six-LP box set that contains In Silence and Small Mercies as well.]

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