They say that you can't keep a good man down, and Nod Arvefel is out to prove the point by releasing Guilt Trip, his seventh full-length album of original songs in three years. Fourteen songs totaling about 45 minutes this time around, an estimated five hours of finished music in the past three years. Axl Rose, are you taking notes?As on past albums Nod drafts a MIDI army to flesh out his music, but never has his music sounded so, um, un-keyboardy. Drums sound punchy and real, brass instruments don't bear that "I'm a CASIO" sound and strings are quite lush. Yep, it sounds like Mr. Arvefel invested in some new sound modules, and it has paid off in spades. For instance, "Greater Is He" has a horn section that refuses to sound like it came out of a box, adding just the right oomph to the richly textured organ and Nod's vocals as he sings "Greater is He that lives in me / Than he that is in the world."
A number of songs take advantage of the new gear by going orchestral. The peaceful "Begins With Love" opens with a dark, pulsing tone and flourishes of timpani, while "Come To Me, My Beloved," with its harp and dramatic string opening, sounds like it was pulled right out of a movie.
While Nod is known for his light, humorous touch and refusing to force-feed his faith, he rises to a new level with the title track, a peppy techno reworking of "Jingle Bells" packed with lots of novelty sounds that underscore the silliness of modern Christmas-season commercialism, encouraging the listener to instead focus on Jesus, the true reason for the season.
Also nice is Arvefel's willingness to step out into new musical territory. "If You Abide in Me" is a jazzy foot-tapper full of organs and hand claps, paving the way to "No Other Name," which begins with a regal announcement of horns and snare drums before turning things over to a bouncy, playful beat that has its roots in Jewish folk music. Arvefel takes on the Amy Grant classic "Thy Word Is A Lamp," though in his hands it's nearly unrecognizable with all the vocal sounds and slap bass, almost a kind of variation on the "Seinfeld" theme. And speaking of slap bass, there's "I Will Exalt Thee, My God" which is overflowing with funky organs and burpy horns, forming a brief but unique song that sounds as though it should fall into pieces but amazingly holds right and cuts quite an impressive groove.
One would think that with such a musical outpouring as seven albums in three years that Arvefel would be repeating himself, but Guilt Trip shows that if anything the man is just getting warmed up. Kudos to Nod Arvefel, if that is his real name, for his best album yet. (Jason Hoffman)
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