The Opium Cartel is songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jacob Holm-Lupo’s vehicle for songs that exist somewhere between sophisti-pop, art-rock and synth pop. Holm-Lupo is otherwise known for his progressive rock band White Willow and more recently his instrumental giallo-rock project Telepath.
The Opium Cartel’s 3rd album,Valor, is a record about naïve but brave dreams. These are songs about the hubris and optimism of childhood and youth. That period of life where everything seems sure to happen just the way you imagine: You will fall in love with the most beautiful girl in the world and she will love you back. You will become a pilot or an astronaut or defy gravity in some other way. You will explode into a world of color and wonder. You will never be disappointed or let down. You will take every risk without fear of failure.
These are also songs about that bittersweet moment when you start to realize that things may be a little different than you imagined. Not all things, but some.
Musically Valor takes inspiration from a variety of predominantly 1980s sources, from The Blue Nile and Shriekback, via late Roxy Music to the prog-pop of 80s Alan Parsons Project and Camel. The period feel is amplified by Holm-Lupo’s use of exclusively hardware synthesizers iconic to the era, like the Oberheim Matrix-6 and Yamaha DX7.
These people helped realize the songs: Silje Huleboer, a vocalist known from the audiophile acoustic duo Ole & Silje Huleboer. While her main inspiration is Mariah Carey, her tastes are way more eclectic, and she is known for her collaborations with noise musician Sten Ove Toft as well as pop/hiphop comet Emile the Duke.
Her collaborator in Ole & Silje Huleboer, Ole Øvstedal, also contributes on the album, with bass and guitar. He is best known from his psychedelic hard rock band Spirits of the Dead, as well as countless collaborations on the Oslo scene.
Lead guitar on the instrumental tunes comes courtesy of Norwegian guitar hero Bjørn Riis, of Airbag fame.
Drums are provided by Lars Fredrik Frøislie, better known as keyboardist in prog kings Wobbler and Holm-Lupo’s own band White Willow. That he is also a formidable drummer is a well-known fact to anyone who has heard his avant-metal band In Lingua Mortua.
Jacob Holm-Lupo’s daughter, Ina A, provides lead vocals on the synth-heavy Nightwings – the recording debut for the 13 year old singer and musician.
Israeli singer Leah Marcu, from prog metallers Tillian, sings lead on The Curfew Bell, where Russian violinist/viola player Maria Grigoryeva has arranged and performed the strings.
Russian-Israeli saxophonist Ilia Skibinsky, whose credits are a who’s who of jazz including everyone from Randy Brecker to Larry Graham, plays saxophone on In the Streets.
The CD comes with a bonus track, a cover of Ratt’s 1988 song What’s It Gonna Be, where Alexander Stenerud of Zuma, who also sang on the previous The Opium Cartel album, provides vocals.
The cover photograph was taken by legendary rock photographer Glen Wexler, who has made covers for Van Halen, Rush and countless others. The photoshoot, which took place in Wexler’s studio in Los Angeles, was assisted by members of Cirque du Soleil.
- In the Streets
- Slow Run
- A Question of Re-entry
- Fairground Sunday
- Under Thunder
- The Curfew Bell
- A Maelstrom of Stars
- What’s It Gonna Be (CD bonus track)