Norwegian-born troubadour Sondre Lerche’s reputation as an exceptional singer/songwriter is well established, but his latest offering, a sprawling set of songs spread across two discs, equates to his most ambitious effort yet. Spawned from pure unfettered emotion, it’s a vivid example of what occurs when instinct and inspiration find a common cause.
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In less capable hands, that could result in an unfortunate overreach, but in Lerche’s case, there’s never a false note or unintended consequence. The sensual opening track “Guarantee That I’d Be Loved” sets the tone, a wistful expression of pure sentiment encased in an ethereal melody. The shifting samba-like rhythm found in ”Dead of the Night” and “My Love Still Awaits,” maintains the captivating allure that continues unabated throughout a ninety-minute timeframe. Certain songs—“Will We Ever Comprehend” in particular—take on a nocturnal nightclub-like feel, given a swoon and sway that is decidedly sensual and seductive. Leonard Cohen seems an obvious influence; “Now She Sleeps Beside Me” actually sounds like “Suzanne” redux.
In a real sense, Avatars of Love is a conceptual effort, one that’s measured in terms of pure feeling and finesse. Lerche seems content to let his muse take him where it will, allowing for an unbounded expression of pure passion. Granted these aren’t songs of a hummable variety. The melodies tend to meander—“What Makes Me Tick” and the title track being prime examples—and several find a shift in sound, leading to extended passages that integrate symphonic arrangements with a soulful savvy and jazzy motif. In addition, a variety of guest vocalists add to the verve and variety while also embellishing the mood and mystique. Even a song that starts with a seemingly simple premise, as is the case with “Turns Out I’m Sentimental After All,” finds its footing through ambiance and atmosphere. So too, “The Other Side of Ecstasy” is as engaging as its title implies.
An impressive accomplishment, Avatars of Love probes the depths of desire to extraordinary effect.