Ólafur Arnalds – ‘Some Kind Of Peace’

Sounds like … an intimate journey through the past and the future.

It has always been Ólafur Arnalds‘ trademark to connect classic and electronic music in a way that differs from other musicians who operate in the same musical cosmos. He exactly knows how to put the pieces of both worlds together – in the end, his songs are always beautiful in such a melancholic manner that it almost hurts the listener. With his new album some kind of peace, the Icelandic composer goes one step further: for the first time, he tells his own, autobiographical story and manages to create even more intimate moments than on his former records. some kind of peace is a melancholic and haunting journey through the experiences Ólafur Arnalds made in his life so far. But it also feels like an anchor in the uncertain times we momentary live in.

In the end, the album leaves the listener with an inner quiet and a slightly positive feeling about the future which is quite an important thing to achieve, especially following this week. On some kind of peace the Icelandic composer doesn’t tell his intimate stories all alone by himself, but rather invited some of his musical friends to support him. Loom – the album’s opener – is a cooperation with popular producer Bonobo, for the single Back To The Sky he invited the Icelandic singer JFDR to record her vocals and The Bottom Line features the German songwriter Josin. Besides, there is one feature which is not obvious at the beginning: on Woven Song, an Icaro from the area around the Amazonas sings a quiet shaman healing song. Ólafur Arnalds newest work is a beautiful ode to life – to the experiences we make, the thoughts we have and our approaches to the future. It haunting and melancholic with a hint of positivity – just the perfect mixture for a more hopeful day during the current lockdown. (Miriam Wallbaum)

Stream It:Spotify / ► Apple Music

Tunng – ‘Tunng presents… Dead Club’

Sounds like … a solemn celebration of terminal matters.

The thing about concept albums is that they easily tend to get overloaded, with the music supposed to carry the weight of a bigger notion of some kind. Maybe that is exactly why British alt-folk act Tunng didn’t even try to solely rely on the power of sound for their new album Dead Club – or should I rather say collaborative project? Dealing with themes as broad and grave as death, loss, grief and the very conditions of human existence, the group around Sam Genders and Mike Lindsay not only poured their hearts into twelve consuming songs, but also initiated a series of podcasts, collaborating with writers, philosophers and scientists, just to name a few fields that try to shed light onto the subject. In its boundless conception, Dead Club wants a bit more than you might expect of an album. It is a hybrid of songs, conversations, poetry and research, „a meditation on loss and a riotous trip through life in all its goodness, oddness and wonder“.

Soundwise, Tunng do their best to live up to their reputation of extending the realm of the folk genre. There is an atmospheric feel flowing down, shifting from mellow, meditative moments, mostly piano-based, to progressive multi-layered electronic peaks. Soft piano chords and subdued synthesisers lead the way to the premier Eating The Dead, an eerie and yet profound introduction into the shady world about to be entered. Death Is The New Sex and also the following SDC (referring to the ritual of „Swedish Death Cleaning“, a process where one organises and de-clutters personal belongings before one’s own death) are sonically more upbeat, kind of electronic and instantly powerful, as they draw you into a haunting and sublime realm that is hard to escape from. Amidst all this, there is a strong prosaic element running through Dead Club: Aside from the narrative manner, in which all these cultural musings on death are presented, there are various instances of recorded monologues, permeating the very core of the sound and turning our ears to the gripping stories told. „We wanted the album to be colourful and we wanted it to be kind of uplifting. Although some of it’s a lot darker than I was imagining it originally, I think it’s a thought-provoking and emotional journey; it doesn’t make me feel sad“, Mike Lindsay of Tunng notes. And while Dead Club might not be the set of songs you’d pick for an easy listen on a Sunday afternoon, it is a complex affair, confronting a substantial taboo of our Western society. (Andreas Peters)

Stream It:Spotify / ► Apple Music / ► Bandcamp

Pale Honey – ‘Some Time, Alone’

Sounds like … all of your teenage angst, re-awoken and played out for everyone to see.

Some Time, Alone is the third studio album from Swedish minimalist rock duo Pale Honey, and, beyond being appropriately titled for current times, offers a suitably morose soundtrack that provides inspiration to anyone feeling somewhat despondent at the moment. Oozing cool indifference here, as they did on 2015’s self-titled debut album and the 2017 follow-up Devotion, the Gothenburg pair of Nelly Daltrey and Tuva Lodmar demonstrate their fervour for contrasting deadpan lyrics against a lively backdrop. That much is evident right from the start on Some Time, Alone, with the opening track of the same name, bouncing and swaggering with determination. As it progresses, Some Time, Alone takes you on a journey involving isolation, angst and occasional despair, with very brief flashes of optimism. Pale Honey use their tried-and-tested method of keeping things simple: The instrumentation never runs away with itself, but the duo layer firmly defined sounds to provide a rich and lustrous atmosphere. And Daltrey’s voice lends itself so perfectly to this, drenched in anguish and bittersweet regret. This is the desired effect, as the pair themselves explain. “We´ve been working on this album for several years and weve never dared to be this sincere and bold before. We feel the album is raw, filled with energy and confidence and our frustrated feelings channeled into the songs the way we want it.”

Musically, it’s a step-up from Pale Honey’s previous efforts. Treat You Good is underscored by throbbing bass set amidst uplifting synths and the lo-fi, softly sung vibe on Beat Me reveals a slightly more passive side of the usually head-strong duo. With Heaven Knows, we hear Lodmark’s sultry vocals carried along on a wave of whurlitzer-themed sounds, interspersed with stabs of percussion from Daltrey, and Killer Scene is almost apocalyptic, with the distortion turned up high and Lodmark breathily declaring “There’s a sickness in me / I just wanted something I could feel / I needed this so I could breathe.” That’s not to say it’s all different to the sound that’s garnered them such acclaim to date, however. Set Me Free is a powerful grunge track, and Bad Thing sounds like you reached into a box and pulled out a cassette from your old collection in the 80’s.  Closing the album beautifully is the somewhat more solemn 3AM, which is perfect listening for when all the fun is done. Overall, Some Time, Alone is set to be another success story for Pale Honey and will demand attention from fans of fellow Swede Linn Koch-Emmery, or the dynamic Dream Wife. For now, there’s also the anticipation of seeing the band perform these new songs live. As Daltrey puts it, “life feels good because we have a new album to look forward to and share with you all…we’re dying to get back on tour, drink beer, meet our friends and play our music to the audience.” (Dan Cromb)

Stream It:Spotify / ► Apple Music / ► Bandcamp

Rosa Anschütz – ‘Votive’

Sounds like … a whole universe in nine songs.

Votive is like diving into a virtual reality world crafted by multi-media artist Rosa Anschütz. The somber Out of True rings in the record. Stripped back and minimalistic, the singer’s vocal echo over the sparse synth instrumentation. Rosa Anschütz assembles her tracks in a cohesive way building tension with each song. Soft Resource blends into its predecessor with its quiet beginning but turns into a beat driven electronic track.

The artist manages to touch more senses than just the hearing. Each song is a little journey in itself. From cool spoken word to all-encompassing vocals echoing as if sung under the majestic roof of a gothic church, Rosa Anschütz narrates her tales in loose prose. The lyrics, similar to the title, are open to interpretation. Often times repeated like mantras, they are applicable to a multitude of experiences and emotions. Rausch der Sinne – one of the two tracks on which the artist sings in German – presents the lyrical versatility and willingness to experiment. Rosa Anschütz is molding sounds but instead of creating static sculptures they take on a life of their own filling and bending the space the artist gives them. It builds up slowly, but each note is placed with care to make Votive the type of record that you can sink into for hours. (Liv Toerkell)

Stream It:Spotify / ► Apple Music / ► Bandcamp

BRTHR – ‘High Times For Loners’

Sounds like … a laidback call for love and sanity.

“When it’s hard times for lovers, it’s high times for loners” … that message is as simple as it appears to be timeless and universal at the same time. On the other hand it also perfectly fits into the year 2020 that forced us to socially distance from our loved ones, avoid big gatherings and partly even made us question the understanding of relationships in general. In many ways German folk duo BRTHR picked a good timing for the release of their third longplayer. In the fragile environment of the current Covid crisis and the heated situation following the US elections their album High Times For Loners feels like a much needed attempt to catch your breath and stay calm and sane. And as the whole world continues to keep spinning faster and faster, Philipp Eissler and Joscha Brettschneider decided to hit the ‘pause’ button and provide a relaxed alternative against the screaming and shouting. The album’s opening line “Madman preaching hate like it’s 1933” is delivered in the most possible laidback way despite its message. Speak Loud (When You Speak Love) really feels like an anthem against 2020, a soothering call to cut the hate and spread love, maybe even louder and more persistent than ever. And while a band like IDLES wants to kill the haters with kindness and loud music, BRTHR picked a more subtle and less noisy way. The goal remains the same.

The duo’s Americana folk really feels like it’s origins are in Nashville rather than Stuttgart. A song like the mellow and intimate If That’s What You Want Me To could have also come from a person like Bill Callahan. On the grooving Right Before Our Eyes the two musicians deliver a Neil Young-like groove, warm and subtle while the lyrical content heads for an entirely different direction since it deals with the questionable treatment of refugees by the European Union. It’s not that BRTHR deliver pure Americana-folk infected escapism here, they just tell these urgent stories in a different way. Freed from all hectic, social media feeds and the acceleration of fear, BRTHR invite the listener to sit next to them on an imaginary porch, drink a glass of whiskey or tea and take a deep breath before returning to the daily struggles we’re all facing. High Times For Loners is not a very exciting and surprising record, some might even call it monotonous but that’s just what these two are aiming for. They tell their tales by their own pace and kindly invite you to do it over and over again. This is a real hidden treasure one might tend to miss in the everyday noise. I honestly hope you won’t. Trust me, you will not regret it. (Norman Fleischer)

Stream ItSpotify / ► Apple Music