The Tor Guides: Backwards In Reverse

The Tor Guides’ “Backwards In Reverse” is a Futureman Records release and is available from Big Stir Records .

The Tor Guides is the brainchild of Östersund, Sweden’s Torbjorn Pettersson. Albums traditionally fall into one of several categories…a collection of songs which may or may not be related in some form, a “concept” album which utilizes the songs to tell a bigger story, or an album that’s all about establishing a consistent vibe. This is a “vibe” album.

The best point of entry for understanding that vibe comes from the Big Stir Website’s take on the album’s two cover songs, Roy Wood & Wizard’s “See My Baby Jive” and Pilot’s “Just A Smile”:

“…both a bit twisted around, in homage to the ’70s that in many ways formed Tobbe’s musical taste.”

“See My Baby Jive” was a full-frontal, Spectorish assault on the senses, while on “Backwards In Reverse” it’s closer to a waltz…think Johnny Rivers’ line about “slow dancing, swaying to the music.” It’s a radical reworking of the original, but plays perfectly into the overall mission of the album…to convey a vibe. We all hear music differently. We all take away something from songs that others might not, and we also miss what others see and feel. This is a collection of fragments that culminate in one man’s view. one man’s vision, and maximum enjoyment comes from sitting back and letting that vision permeate your senses.

The touchstones for the album’s inspiration are firmly rooted in the deeper nuances of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney. Virtually no one pens “California Girls” epics…they’d sound somewhat out of step in the modern era, unless an artist deliberately intends to position themselves as a Beach Boys cover band. The deeper and more lasting influence among artists is the Pet Sounds and the more abstract, rich, complex soundscapes of Surf’s Up. That’s what’s in play here.

In terms of McCartney, Torbjorn employs a key element of Paul’s technique that is well-known among musicians, but not often discussed…he was a bassist, but he was far from a simple “timekeeper.” He had one arrow in his quiver that was very specific to his style…he’d often slide into a note and sustain it over a line of melody. He didn’t always play a lot of notes…he used them economically, and his playing was fluid and elastic, and the melodies would follow him just as frequently as he’d follow the melodies. The bass plays a major melodic role in this album, and it’s Macca bass.

That’s what’s waiting for you on “Backwards In Reverse.” It’s an album you put on when you want something tuneful, pleasant, with a melancholy cheer in the face of the modern world. On Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson sang that he “just wasn’t made for these times.” Torbjorn Pettersson is also living in modern times, but he’s determined to make them fit his vision, his worldview. He wasn’t made for these times…these times were made for him.