Although actually his debut album, ‘Mainly Mute’ is the second album to be released in the UK by Norwegian post-prog-popper Bellman, also known to his parents as Arne-Johan Rauan. Following tours right across the world and support from many within the blogosphere, he has also received acclaim from many influential radio stations. The video for lead single ‘Spaceship, Move Slow’ has already had over 40,000 views and you get the impression this is just the start…
The otherworldly introduction of ‘This is Life’ feels like Bellman is in a spaceship, ready to launch into the stratosphere. And he’s taking you along for the ride… Delicate keyboards come to the fore in a Sigur Ros vein while echoed vocals sing ‘All in time, we’ll be sleeping’. These vocals become clearer as the song forms into a fully-fledged soundscape, complete with gentle glockenspiel to add a dreamlike and childish quality that brings to mind ‘Deserter’s Songs’-era Mercury Rev. The concept of space continues on ‘Spaceship, Move Slow’, a song hard not to fall for from the moment it opens in forceful fashion. As the album moves on, so does the instrumentation and ideas. ‘Lost My Way’ sounds for all the world like a great lost Mansun song, bringing the eerie uncomfortability of that band into the present day as Bellman sings ‘I’m dying in your arms, baby I’ve lost my way’.
Although the subject matter appears to be dark and desperate many times throughout this record, there is the feeling of hope running throughout, especially when complemented by such exquisitely timed organ and violin. A solo piano opens the seven and a half minute album centrepiece ‘Swimsuit in May’ and remains prominent throughout. It takes over a minute for the vocals to kick in but when they do, they discuss all manner of things from dreaming to kissing in moonlight and how soon there will be no colours and sounds. The violin expertly complements the vocals and there is a gradual build in momentum until the 3-minute mark when it really builds up pace with the military drumming building up to a surprisingly gentile climax and not the big crescendo you may have expected.
The self-depreciation continues throughout the rest of the album with ‘Requiem’ proving an especially unsettling listen, although there are lighter hints throughout with ‘I’m not afraid of the scarecrows’ becoming a key line in the gently touching ‘Celestine’, while ‘Sculpt Me a Dream’s ‘Paint me a picture, but leave out the white, the colour’s too bright for me’ gives listeners a vivid insight into the state of Arne’s mind. ‘Sleep Forever’ is probably the most intense song on the album, with an opening that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to a gothic film. The tribal drumming adds a curious but appealing element to it and Arne’s more gentle vocals confirm this is actually a genuinely touching love song. Although you might end up drifting off to some of the songs towards the end of the album, there’s enough interesting quirks to make this a cohesive set of dream-pop songs. At one point Arne sings ‘I need to make you stay’ and it would be foolish to let him down. This is an album worth keeping with for a long time to come.