Andres Buaas - Tarot

Anders Buaas – Tarot

Tarot, the latest album from Norway’s Anders Buaas, is a must for all fans of instrumental guitar-led music, with a range of acoustic and electric guitar styles ranging from delicate, folk-influenced pieces all the way through to full-on electric guitar shredding – and everything in between!

The first time I came across the multi-instrumentalist from Larvik was back in 2017 with The Witches of Finnmark and its beautifully atmospheric title track (and an album cover that I am sure gave me the odd nightmare!). He continued his instrumental journey through stories of the prosecution of medieval witches in Finnmark with two subsequent well-received releases, which increasingly showed his full range of guitar styles in both shorter pieces and more expanded prog-orientated epics. Two albums of Larvik Improvisions have been released during the current periods of lockdown, but Tarot is his new major release, a work of ambition, dedication and undoubted skill.

Anders has brought together twenty-two musical pieces, which describe the cards of Tarot’s Major Arcana, and produced a musical landscape as diverse as the meanings of this set of mystical cards. He plays all the instruments, including keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, mandolin – and even a touch of theremin – and this really enhances the guitar-orientated soundscapes, often creating a lovely Oldfield-style experience that is more homage than imitation. However, the folk influences are there in abundance, along with progressive themes and soaring electric guitar solos with dense and well-pitched guitar riffs and arpeggios that would not be out of place on a prog metal recording (Anders was a touring guitarist with Tim Owens and Paul DiAnno in the past, amongst others).

The album kicks off with The Fool, a short, light-hearted canter, which moves to the chiming guitar runs of The Magician before The High Priestess introduces a darker and heavier feel. From then on, the tracks range from shorter themes to more developed and extended pieces, full of variety and melody. No track outstays its welcome and as a result you can either appreciate them individually or as parts of the multi-layered concept.

I don’t intend to go through the whole album track-by-track, as listeners will undoubtedly find their own favourites. One minute you are enjoying the fresh, vibrant melodies of The Lovers, but then you are relaxing to the smooth guitar notes at the conclusion of The Chariot, on top of an evocative keyboard background, following Giltrap-like acoustic rhythms. Just when you think The Hermit has Hackett-style melodic overtones, a hillbilly acoustic theme provides an immediate contrast. Tracks like Death and The Devil, not surprisingly, have a more brooding, contemplative presence. I was often reminded of the eclectic style of Anthony Phillips throughout most of the album.

The shorter tracks are great fun and stop the album from staying in a particular style, but it is the longer tracks, where the themes are allowed to develop more gradually, which show Anders at his best, both compositionally and instrumentally. The Hierophant is a highlight, with a soft, elegant acoustic guitar and keyboard repetition at the start which steadily opens up to a haunting keyboard theme, and then some real electric guitar power after the half-way point. The Hanged Man starts almost like a modern Western movie theme, before hopeful, uplifting guitar and keyboard passages take flight into the sky.

The album ends strongly with The World – which is probably the track that best sums up what Anders has been able to fashion on this release, and is the one I would recommend you listen to before deciding to explore further. Anders is a master of restraint and clean, melodic guitar playing and does not always need to show his wonderful virtuosity and dexterity for the sake of it.

Twenty-two instrumental pieces spread over a full-length CD or double vinyl album is quite a marathon, though. I found that whilst listening to it all in one sitting was an enjoyably immersive experience, I found I actually got more from Tarot by dipping in and out of the album at different times and enjoying the variety, atmosphere and intricacy exhibited across it. If you buy the CD or vinyl you will have the delightful artwork of Verena Waddell to accompany the tracks (you can even buy a full set of her illustrated tarot cards on Bandcamp). Hopefully, Tarot will provide lots of good fortune to Anders and will continue to increase his fanbase even further.

01. The Fool (2:05)
02. The Magician (3:27)
03. The High Priestess (5:10)
04. The Empress (2:28)
05. The Emperor (1:51)
06. The Hierophant (7:34)
07. The Lovers (3:38)
08. The Chariot (5:09)
09. Strength (3:52)
10. The Hermit (4:05)
11. Fortune (3:13)
12. Justice (3:16)
13. The Hanged Man (6:28)
14. Death (5:05)
15. Temperance (1:19)
16. The Devil (2:02)
17. The Tower (1:28)
18. The Star (2:19)
19. The Moon (1:29)
20. The Sun (4:16)
21. Judgement (1:25)

Total Time – 76:40

Anders Buaas – All Instrumentation (Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Mandolin, Banjo, Drums, Percussion, Glockenspiel, Keyboards, Theremin)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 25th June 2021 (CD, Digital) | 9th July 2021 (Vinyl)

Anders Buaas – Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube