Savk — Savk (VK Records)

For his self-titled debut, former Beija Flor singer Stephen A. van Kampen (or, more briefly, Savk), has built a sound by stripping down. Without his previous band’s kaleidoscope of noise to distract, the spotlight is squarely on van Kampen’s pleasantly strained falsetto and his intricate guitar work. Opening track “I Can’t Wait” sets the pattern that most of the album follows — its insistent acoustic rhythms and infectious energy belie the unadorned arrangement.

Unadorned doesn’t mean uncomplicated, though — none of van Kampen’s songs are anything less than intricate. His guitar weaves effortlessly around the beautifully constructed vocal melodies, exploring the middle ground between Nick Drake’s more sombre moments and the restless indie blues of fellow Albertans Ghostkeeper. Local uber-producer Arran Fisher adds just the right amount of background texture to keep things from becoming monotonous — a hint of trilling piano here, a bit of banjo twang there — while still ensuring that van Kampen remains crisp and clear in the foreground. It’s a position he’d better get used to.

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