Arthur Kay Piene’s fingers have touched many remarkable albums in recent years, including a fair few written up in these columns. An Oslo-based keyboardist and pianist, Arthur has been a prominent session musician for various bands and solo artists as well as being a permanent member of the band The Switch, who incidentally also released their latest LP just last month too. He’s a Mutual Intentions associate, contributing to albums from Jazz Cats, Ivan Ave and Fredfades & Jawn Rice over the last few years, and it’s hard to believe that it’s only now that he’s making his debut as a solo artist with an eponymously titled record.
From the “sophistso-pop” he creates as part of The Switch to the franken-Jazz he helped Kristoffer Eikrem and Fredfades bring to life, Arthur Kay’s musical scope is broad and inclusive with an affable charm underpinning these various projects, and that extends to his first solo album. It’s only fair to assume that on his debut solo effort, we would find Arthur at his most personal, and on an album that goes from the gentle crooning to bouncing drum machines, we find an LP imbued with the personality of the artist behind the music.
Like a lounge pianist with a drum machine, Arthur Kay channels elements of Funk, eighties Synth Pop, Jazz and Disco through the six tracks that make up an EP, but we’re calling an album for the sake of the article. From the upbeat dance entry, “Holiday Pay,” to the more solemn ballad “Higher Ground,” the record upholds a kind of ’80s pop dialect, retrofitted through a space disco portal. At times you pick up echoes from the likes of Bill Withers’ “A Lovely Day” or Steely Dan’s “Aja”, but where Arthur Kay makes it his own is bringing that precision Funk to the record.
This album exists somewhere between Todd Terje and A-HA and all it does is put an inexhaustible smile on our face. It’s just an incredible pop record with an infectious charm and an inescapable groove that leads along its six tracks to the ultimate pay-off that is “Holiday Pay.” It’s a record that keeps calling you back for more, with every track hiding some incredibly subtle nuances that engage at a level with the listener that goes way beyond it’s original pop design.