Paths to the Foss – Tissø Lake (5 stars)

Paths to the Foss -- Tisso Lake

An ethereal fourth album from Ian Humberstone

Plenty of writers have had their heads turned by imagined pastoral paradises, places which only exist in the mind's eye for the duration of a song, but fewer have attempted to make Arcadias of known locations.

Paths to the Foss, the melancholy fourth studio album by Tissø Lake, pays homage to the harsh beauty of the Ovsthusfossen, a waterfall in western Norway, near which songwriter Ian Humberstone worked as a farmhand in 2013.

For Humberstone the thundering falls of the Ovsthusfossen, one of Norway's most visited tourist attractions, becomes the otherworldly Foss, a place with a life and voice all its own. As well as providing a locus for the lyrical content of each track, the Foss prefaces the record itself, with a field recording of thawing icicles plummeting into the waters of the falls from the cliffs above.

Three years in the making and recorded on a recovered reel-to-reel machine, Paths features a revolving cast of familiar names from Scotland's DIY scene, including performances from Malcolm Benzie, Eva Klemensen, Rob St John and others.

All of this might suggest that Paths to the Foss is a dreary concept album, an example of taking yourself – and the poetry of the fjords – too seriously. But there's a lightness of touch to Tisso Lake's take on high-fidelity chamber folk, felt most keenly on the eerie instrumentals 'The Mist on the Lake' and 'Adrift in Dream'. The album plays as if it has a current, a flow which sets Humberstone's drip-fed lyrics and crisp, soulful voice on tracks like 'When Work is Done', against a deluge of choir, organ and guitar on 'Paths to the Foss' and the gorgeous harmonies of 'Let Us Go'.

As escapist fantasies go, Paths to the Foss is perhaps a too humble, and too beloved of the Norwegian climate, to appeal as a mental sanctuary for the masses. But this record, like the cliffs and pine forests of the falls which it idealises, rewards exploration.

Paths to the Foss is out Sat 17 Dec; self-released.

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