26 April 2009

Review: Hanne Hukkelberg – Blood from a Stone

Originally published at TLOBF

To say that ‘Blood From a Stone’ conjures soundscapes where Bat For Lashes’ moody beats meets Grouper’s ethereal swathe coated in the glow of Beach House’s sexy haze makes it sound like a much more exciting proposition than it really is. All these similarities are hugely palpable in Norwegian Hukkelberg’s third album, but the problem is that they’re executed with such minimal panache and effort that it’s a chore to make yourself listen all the way through.

The majority of songs have exactly the same structure – verses based around a facile programmed drumbeat, cheeping synths that sounds as though they were made on Brian Eno’s iPhone application, Bloom, some incoherent mewing and inconsequential choruses so dull that even her backing singers sound like they’re falling asleep (case in point – ‘No Mascara Tears’). It’s a baffling concept, but ‘Seventeen’ sounds exactly like Kelly Rowland’s ‘Stole’ (remember, the one about teenage suicide?) put through Tegan and Sara’s synthesizers. Don’t believe me? Try Rowland’s lyrics for size – “the brightest kid in school / He’s not a fool / Reading books about science and smart stuff” – and then Hukkelberg’s – “He didn’t fit in at school / The stupid rules / Made him a fool”, later singing about taking “the easy way out”. It’s unwittingly funny, and a perversely welcome lift halfway through a largely dull record.

The frustrating thing is that there are a few good songs on here, and condensed thus it’d make a promising EP. Opener ‘Midnight Sun Dreams’ does TLOBF the very kind job of reviewing itself in its title – it’s every bit as sensual as you’d imagine, with her voice flaring gently amidst an ebb and flow of the disquieted sleep patterns a Norwegian summer must bring. The way she sings, “I’m no temptress” makes for a reaction of lust at odds with aching beauty that makes you realize what The National were on about when they sang of a “feathery woman” on the incredible ‘Mistaken for Strangers’, so it’s a shame she can’t maintain the allure throughout. ‘Bandy Riddles’ builds to a climax where Grizzly Bear’s rhythm section meets the cathartic yells of Camille, and in the celestial closing number, ‘Bygd Til By’, the only song here in her mother tongue, she lets the mysterious (to us at least) lyrics roll deliciously from her lips. Less than a month after the release of Bat For Lashes’ ‘Two Suns’, however, you probably don’t need this in your record collection.


1 comment:

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