Label: Dead Oceans Release date: 08/03/10 Website: Offical Website If Feist, Joni Mitchell and Nina Persson from The Cardigans were to have some kind of miracle child (stick with me), that child would be White Hinterland vocalist Casey Dienel. And in my opinion that is a wonderful thing. With a distinctly Scandinavian sound yet hailing from (surprise, surprise) Portland, Oregan via Boston and Brooklyn, White Hinterland’s second album Kairos (Out March 8th) is a refreshing injection of ambient shoe-gazing loveliness in a current musical landscape busting at the seams with nu-folk, alt. country, electro indie and various other ‘nu’ genres that seem to be jostling for position at the top of the ‘alternative’ tree right now. With Shaun Creeden’s bass hooks and loops that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Nightmares On Wax record, and the charming, ambling and angelic vocals of Dienel, it’s hard when listening to Kairos not to stop what you are doing, shut your eyes and sway with your arms out like a blissed out hippy in the Glastonbury Green Fields at 5 in the morning. This is intelligent and delicate trip hop, filled with world drums, echoes and sustain, ethereal bells, soft guitars and electronic bumps & bleeps. Album opener and lead single 'Icaru's' may sound a little too much like Enigma in places, but it is a lovely and satisfying way to start an album that grows and grows, offering up more and more surprises as the songs play out. Stand out track 'Bows And Arrows' begins with a tinny toy piano followed by an a’capella vocal over distant marimbas and a faint heartbeat but then kicks into a tribal funk chorus that is so unexpected it’s like having a bolt of electricity being shot up your back. Epic Massive Attack-esque 'Cataract' is another high point with a more powerful vocal than on the rest of the album, a multi layered and powerful chorus and admittedly perhaps more conventional chord sequences and harmonies throughout. It is a beautiful, spacious and heart rending track which had me grinning from ear to ear and wishing I was lying in a field in the sunshine rather than sitting in a café in Hackney. Clocking in at a whisker over a standard forty minutes in length, the worst thing about this album is that there isn’t more of it – it seems to be over all too quickly. It is a well crafted, cerebral and impressively restrained record that lifts the spirits and should also lift White Hinterland just a little higher than the crowd of other Portland exports that are coming thick and fast at the moment. Photobucket