Heyerdahl - Øen
Inferior only to innovative, I believe the word 'atmospheric' makes a great case to be awarded the most overused term in the world of music blogs. I recently saw it used in a review of Will.I.Am's latest cataclysm of shit - Britney Spears supposedly adding an 'atmospheric edge' to the proceedings. Seriously? Just stop. If any one album does involuntarily force my hand to use it though, it would have to be Heyerdahl with their debut album Øen. On first listen, I thought that the only reason for me wanting to classify it as 'cold', was the conscious knowledge that this album came from a monsoon beaten lighthouse in Norway. It isn't a conscious knowledge though… Heyerdahl have in fact produced an entirely glacial piece of work - shiver inducing almost. Having placed microphones around the space to pick up the surrounding gales, there are tales of storms at sea weaved in between supernatural hurricanes and post shipwreck shelters. After numerous playbacks, it becomes apparent that this is actually a carefully constructed concept album, executed with a finesse rarely witnessed in the world of debut albums.
'Enkebukten' opens with a pulsating drum beat, the tribal undertones instantly highlighting the bands Scandinavian roots. Initially, the lead singers lyrics seem quite light and loose, almost in a similar vein to that of Passion Pit or Foster the People - yet music to soundtrack your picnic this is not. Upon further investigation, it's obvious that these comparisons have no grounding whatsoever - the songwriting is wholly dark. There are some heartbreaking peaks, which at times are in direct contrast to the vocal. These little contrasts seem to pop up quite frequently on the LP, and rather than jarring, it is these that keep Øen fresh throughout. Seductive riffs go alongside lyrics profiling ocean tragedies, plummeting base drones being spliced with delicate keys.
There's a slight structural lull after the first track, until the album hits 'Archipelago' and its captivating hook. Everything ascends from thereon; the pace picks up, as does the strength of the delivery. It just seems that little bit more immediate. Although the opening lyrics on 'Beast' threaten the authenticity of the record somewhat, "She's so shy, I know I seen her naked a hundred times. No more, all is fair in love," the overall soundscape here is sublime. The baseline feels instant, and the whole track feels perfectly spaced out. It culminates in a graceful Xylophone/Koll drum-esque breakdown, of which I'm sure has an identical twin sitting somewhere in Bombay Bicycle Club's debut. (Hours of searching/skipping have yet to prove me right).
The album continue's its climb, travelling through 2012 release 'Mirage' to reach personal favourite; the penultimate 'Blood'. It's simplistic and stripped back, starting with a simple drum pattern alongside an echoey base. That'd be a harsh injustice to that base though - it's one of those breezily gentle + smoking hot crossbreeds that cause most red blooded males to drown in a pool of their own saliva. Slowly brooding vocals fade in and out simultaneously as a descending set of chords loop over the top. The track stretches out and sprawls to its end, rolling straight into a set of warped vocals which crop up again and again on the LP. Although personally welcomed, they're altogether very strange. They compare to a mixture of backward spinning vinyl, the lead accent in District 9 and that Nichiren Bhuddist chant in Xzibit's 2006 mid-hit, 'Concentrate'. Finale 'Emerald the Killer' is a terrific ending, reuniting all the parts that worked and rearranging them in a way unseen elsewhere on the record. It's the only track which suggests any sort of warmth, in an eighties LA film soundtrack sort of way.
As far as debut albums go, this shows as much potential as any recent effort. Whilst it grows in strength chronologically, it also grows the more you play it. There are many subtle intricacies and layers feathered from beginning to end which don't leap out straight away, but when detected make all the difference. It's an altogether quite epic sound, and quite different from the majority of what's out there too. More-so than the previously mentioned, the worst term being sloshed heartily over every other breast, blog and bollock is 'One to Watch'. It's an inescapable thing though - there is a definite modern human need to rate, rank, list and repeat. In that sense, it won't be long 'til you have no problems spelling their name - Heyerdahl are definitely going places.