2023 sees the return of multi-talented Norwegian producer Espen Horne to Wah Wah 45s, after a 24 year hiatus. The man behind the label’s very first release, the now seminal Magnetica, never lost his connection with the imprint and has remained very much part of the Wah Wah family, making a comeback this year with his first solo material under his own name since that club classic from 1999.
Back in the spring, the first single from the project, the gorgeous soul-jazz beauty Bakeren, featuring the stunning vocals of Resonators’ Faye Houston, quickly found a home on Gilles Peterson’s internationally renowned BBC Radio 6 show as well as that of Jazz FM legend Robbie Vincent, Bandcamp Weekly and the Fresh Finds Jazz Spotify playlist.
Following that, Bergen Sunrays, became a weekly fixture on the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show on BBC 6 Music, with the limited 7-inch of both singles selling out within hours of release.
Next up was the wistful Den Franske Gitaren, a lugubrious soul-jazz piece with drum & bass leanings featuring Bergen based MC and vocalist Aich, which found favour with legends Laurent Garnier and Jazzanova as well as hot Japanese production outfit Dazzle Drums.
This was closely followed by the final single to be taken from the album, the stunning and outspoken vocal jazz waltzer Nada Pode Me Calar (which roughly translates to Nothing Can Shut Me Up!) featuring the sublime talent of Olav Wöllo on vocals and Juno – anotherr big one with Gilles Peterson on Worldwide FM and Deb Grant on BBC 6 Music.
And now the full album, entitled The Anatomy Of Serene Eloquence is available for your aural delectation. Recorded largely during lockdown, the LP is a sophisticated and composed piece of work that sees the Norwegian producer make connections with musicians from across Europe, and some closer to home, to collaborate on this sedate and peaceful collection of songs.
The aforementioned Faye Houston also appears on the soulful, dub flavoured Don’t Fall Asleep, a piece of music that explores the feeling of being isolated whilst sharing a mutual love and drive to explore new sonic possibilities.
Elsewhere, Olav Wöllo pops up again too, this time on O Mar E A Lua and once again singing in Portuguese to give this track a certain Tropicalia feel, as Espen explains:
“Olav Wöllo is a close friend, an excellent musician and vocalist, and a capoeira professor here in Bergen. He has spent much of his life living in Brazil and speaks Portuguese fluently. He wrote the lyrics for this tune years ago and had just been waiting for the right collaboration to come along.
We went to his lovely studio out on this remote island, made a massive gyoza meal, had some serious good wine and stayed the whole night to record his vocal harmonies and outspoken lyrics.”
The single Bergen Sunrays also appears on the album in instrumental form with featured keys courtesy of London based player Rory More – here entitled Rory’s Sunrays. His Lowrey organ adds a more melancholic feel to the track, as it does on the stunning Belle Époque, alongside the ivory work of Eirik Blåsternes – an emotional, contemplative and atmospheric track that was tested and shaped in the eclipse of Covid.
As with Belle Époque, La Psychosomnie is a playful yet explorative cut that examines insomnia, paralysis and hypnosis courtesy of some enigmatic French spoken word spinning around a framework of drums, bass and swirling keys.
And finally, the album offers up an alternative version of the single Den Franske Gitaren, this time featuring Martin Halla, a vocalist out of the Bergen Grieg Jazz Academy and winner of the Norwegian version of The Voice back in 2012! The perfect flip to Aich’s more mournful interpretation of this bass and drum future classic.
Radio Play & Reactions
Radio play from Gilles Peterson (BBC 6 Music / Worldwide FM), Cerys Matthews (BBC 6 Music), Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2), Deb Grant (BBC 6 Music), Robbie Vincent (Jazz FM), Fip Radio (Playlisted, France), Andrew Jervis & Aly Gillani (Bandcamp Weekly), Kev Beadle (Totally Wired Radio), Mark GV Taylor (Totally Wired Radio), Jazzcat (Ness Radio, Italy), Michael Rütten (Soul Searching, Radio X, Germany), Robert Luis (Tru Thoughts / Unfold Radio, UK), Bob Hill (Illicit Grooves, Blue In Green Radio, UK), Mark GV Taylor (Reference Point Radio Show, Totally Wired Radio, UK); Fresh Finds Jazz Spotify Playlist; Sven Thomschke (Radio Z 95.8, Germany), DJ Bunel (Yle Radio, Finland), Dave Bassin (KXSF FM, USA)
“Inventive, atmospheric, haunting!” Robbie Vincent (Jazz FM, UK)
“A wonderful producer.” Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2, UK)
“A great album for Wah Wah 45s. High on the soulful and the spiritual.” Andrew Jervis (Bandcamp Weekly)
“STUNNING album. Absolutely loooove it!” Laurent Garnier (Legend / PBB Radio, France)
“Super cool bhizniz.” Chris Philips (Jazz FM, UK)
“So smoove and groovy .. oui Oui!!” DJ Soulist (Souleance, France)
“Full support.” Robert Luis (Tru Thoughts, UK)
“Ooohhhh, yessssssssss. finally. the mighty return of.” Michael Ruetten (Soul Searching, Germany)
“The reason I so seldom give five stars is that I wait for albums like this.” Mans Stromberg (Radio Helsinki, Finland)
“Some beautiful moments!” DJ Kengo (Cuban Brothers, UK)
“Fantastic release!” Russ Dewbury (Jazz Bop, UK)
“What an album. What an artist. This may well have to join my list of albums of the year This is from the top draw.” DJ Osric (RTR FM, Australia)
“Thanks for this, i love Espen’s music since his release on early Hospital Recs, this sounds beautiful!” Jonny Miller (Threesixty, UK)
“Fantastic album! Sounda a bit like David Axelrod (and Verocai too) but with a modern twist and updated sound. Love it, will support it and i’m gonna listen to it a lot for sure. Pure joy.” Marcin Harper (Czwórka Polskie Radio, Poland)
“Absolutely fantastic! Really an essential album.” Sven Thomschke (Radio Z, Germany)
“LOOve this!” Llorca (Various, France)
“Absolutely killer LP from start to finish. Fresh sounds with a classic feel!” Jason Palma (Footprints, Canada)
“I love it- great LP!” DJ Angola (Wonderwheel, USA)
“Some lovely bits here… a welcome return indeed!” Steve KIW (Balearic Assassins, UK)
“Pure quality.” Lorenzo al Dino (Jockey Club, Ibiza)
“A gorgeous set … lovely drum eq.” Chris Greenwood (Mi-Soul, UK)
“A successful, diverse, sensitive album. A pleasant stroll to meet excellent guests.” Veronique Prebolin (Radio Krimi, France)
“Wow, amazing album, soooooooooo deep. One to put on repeat play and immerse oneself into.” DJ Pete Isaac (Jelly Jazz, UK)
“What a sonic world!” Electric Brother (Retro Electro, Roumania)
“Serious cross the board selection ! Very nice indeed.” Raj Selli (Solar Radio, UK)
“This is amazing. Such a treat for my ears. 11 out of 10. So glad that Espen is delivering an aural delight after a long break.” DJ Kappa (Radio Reverb, UK)
“On air a must! Brilliant.” Olgierd (Sofa Surfing, Poland)
“Big up Espen! Please don’t let us wait too long for the next opus ;-)” Olivier Cavaller (De La Bonne Musique, France)
“Beautiful LP.” Simon Harrison (Basic Soul, UK)
“Cool ones.” Tjerk Coers (Armada Music, Netherlands)
“Awesome.” Robert Lochmann (Radio X, Germany)
“Nice one!” DJ Junior (Record Breakin’, USA)
“Just sublime. Huge fan of Espen’s music and this is wonderful.” Bean Noodler (Soul Buggin’, UK)
“Absolutely brilliant album, with plenty of musical influences and styles. Beautiful.” Amar Kabouche (Fauve Radio, Hong Kong)
“Some nice psychedelic vibes on here.” DJ Snuff (Universal Magnetic B Boy, UK)
“What a beautiful album, the mood and grooves are bouyant and much needed in these crazy times.” DJ Mr Lob (Melbourne, Australia)
“Awesome.” Alex Ruder (KEXP FM, USA)
“Great LP.” Jon Brent (Dusk Dubs, UK)
“Brilliant work!” Erik Tchaikovsky (Night Light Radio, Ukraine)
“Sublime album!!!” Markus Milz (Radio Corax, Germany)
“Sounds lovely.” Ben Smith (Late Night Tales, UK)
“Really cool stuff on this album. Very chilled beats and vibes. Looking forward to supporting. Rory’s Sunrays is great and O Mar e a Lua are my two favourites. Thanks for the release.” DJ Nelito (Power FM, USA)
“Vibes….will be playing on the radio and out…” Cal Gibson (Various, UK)
“Oh this is just great, love it. Every track would be on my playlists.” Bob Hill (Illicit Grooves, UK)
“Top drawer. Oozes class and warming like a mulled wine on a cold day.. beautiful.” DJ Expression (What’s Hot Radio, UK)
“Very cool!” Ed Deep South Sounds (DSS, UK)
“Love this – it will be in our next show.” Peter from The After Eight Show (After Eight, UK)
“You’ll have noticed from SM postings that Wah Wah 45s head honcho has been smoching around various northern European locations with Norway’s finest, Espen Horne. Little wonder as these two go back a long way and the label is releasing Horne’s first solo album for yonks. As you might guess from the cover, it’s very much in the northern folky landscape of his roots together with the soul-jazz-Latin-hip-hop influences that he’s lived with for decades. We loved the single that came out, ‘Bergen Sunrays’ featuring Selim Mutic, but you’re not going to get stuck in a genre groove here. Not sure that you can put a track like ‘Belle Époque’ into any one ‘bag’ but I’m thinking mark the bag up as ‘brilliant’. And then ‘Den Franske Gitaren’ (featuring Aich) is in English on a jazzy post-dn’b jazz tip that’s followed by ‘Don’t Fall Asleep’ as a soul-reggae track as it features Faye Houston. But if there is a stand out track(s), it’s the tracks that feature Olav Wöllo’s ‘tropicallia’ that’s kinda 60s Jazzanova but totally intoxicating atmospheric jazz-folk? Long time fans like Gilles Peterson, Craig Charles and Robbie Vincent as now joined by the next generation of influencers like Cerys Matthews, Deb Grant/Tom Ravenscroft as it’s definitely, the best time to investigate ‘The Anatomy Of Serene Eloquence’; don’t fall asleep on this one!” Gerry Hectic (You And The Music, UK)