HANNE HUKKELBERG: Featherbrain (Propeller Recordings)

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Posted on May 1st 2012 01:27 am

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Hanne Hukkelberg: Featherbrain

HANNE HUKKELBERG
Featherbrain
PRR51
Propeller Recordings 2012
10 Tracks. 40mins38secs

Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: CD | DLD iTunes: DLD

Norwegian-born songstress Hanne Hukkelberg keeps the boundaries of her work purposely blurred, drawing inspiration from pop, jazz or scandinavian folk to create highly individual and intimate miniature songs upon which she casts her bitter-sweet voice. Her first album, Little Things, published on Norwegian imprint Propeller Recordings in 2004 and later on Leaf, revealed a wonderfully nuanced and poetic universe, which was further developed on its follow up, Rykestraße 68, published two years later. Although more ambitious and exploratory than Little Things, Rykestraße 68 retained much of its predecessor’s dreamy tone. Hukkelberg’s third album, Blood From A Stone, published in 2009, denoted a strong shift away from the polished ambiances and refined folk of her previous records to investigate more rugged sonic spaces and less straightforward song structures. On Featherbrain though, she takes a much more experimental approach, at times stripping her sound bare (Noah, The Bigger Me), at others drenching it in electricity (Featherbrain, My Devils) or resolutely keeping it lo-fi and rough (Too Good To Be Good, SMS).

Vocally, Hukkelberg has developed quite considerably for this record, balancing her usually soft approach with much more caustic and raw outbursts. It is at times as if she was channelling the spirit of Liz Fraser or Siouxie Sioux through her own vocal interpretation. The gothic chorus on My Devils is almost as gritty and raw as what Fraser served with the Cocteau Twins in the early to mid eighties, whilst Too Good To Be Good is not without recalling early Creatures. Hukkelberg seems more exposed on this record, yet this gives her, for the most part, a much stronger presence. Elsewhere though, she appears more fragile and isolated, never more so than on The Bigger Me where she is surrounded by little more than a handful of percussions, calimba and whistling.

Songs such as Noah, I Sing You or The Time And I And What We Make may be gentler, less contrasted that some of the more extreme moments on here, but Hukkelberg’s performance proves here, again, undeniably more assured and confident. This also transpires in the music itself. Melodies are more daring, less obvious than on previous records, yet Hukkelberg retains much of the exquisite cinematic touches which made them so delightful.

For Featherbrain, Hukkelberg surrounded herself with a couple of regular collaborators – Kåre Vestrheim (Motorpsycho, Jaga Jazzist, Shining) and Ivar Grydeland (Huntsville, No Spaghetti Edition) – as well as new contributors Mai Elise Solberg and Hukkelberg’s own dad, Sigurd. On closing piece Erik, sung in her native tongue, Hukkelberg teams up with 88 years old Norwegian singer Erik Vister. As their voices combine, Hukkelberg’s light and airy, Vister’s earthy and clear, they create a fittingly emotional and intense finale to a truly enchanting and challenging record.

4.5/5

Hanne Hukkelberg | Propeller Recordings
Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: CD | DLD iTunes: DLD

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