Svankropp - 'Svankropp'
We only review music and albums we like at Nordic Music Review, so whilst it might seem we are constantly positive and upbeat about what we write about, you seriously need to understand how much we listen to in order to find those things we like. And although we've enjoyed Select Captain and Case Conrad over the last week, the last couple of days have been harder work, listening to close to around 50 different submissions and discoveries that we just couldn’t relate to for one reason or another. So I thought I'd treat myself to a few listens of an album I'd been looking forward to getting my teeth into from a really personal perspective - given that I know that often I have an acquired taste for the offbeat and unusual (I refer you to the entire Cardiacs back catalogue to back up this point).
And in Norwegian / Swedish Svankropp there is a band who delight in offering a complex, unusual blend of sounds - they call themselves 'Cyberpunk', but their influences are so diverse from Noise Pop to Post and Progressive Rock to Gothic Rock too. And whilst some of their musical outputs are undeniably difficult to comprehend at first listen, there is certainly method in the madness, as the album switches from the almost undecipherable to the beautiful in a half beat - like a moment in the midst of Autumn when you might drive along the coast through thick fog before suddenly breaking out into bright sunlight and an idyllic tropical bay. Anyway.... the album opens with 'Lifecries' and what appears to be a distorted bagpipes and symbols bashing out the national anthem of a small republic dictatorship before we're launched into guitar noise and dreamy hypnotic vocals are introduced above the offbeat rhythms. It is relatively conventional in comparison with 'Blush', which is more difficult as the guitars, drums and bass appear to open in conflict before the vocals (almost) bring everything together. 'Super Power Girl' however is simply extraordinary, and I almost instantly fell in love with the track, opening with staccato offbeat guitar and drums before intermittently switching into a conventional noise pop song - and with such euphoric moments to it too. I absolutely have to see this track performed live, if it’s physically possible to play live.
'So It's Made of Fire' is a total surprise, a dreamy and almost conventional shoegaze influenced indie track, which doesn't leap off in a different direction and which has a huge sweeping vocal melody at its core - its a really lovely song and you feel they could make all tracks like that if they wanted. But they clearly don’t want to, which is why we're then offered 'Reality of Dysfunction', which is harsher and currently more difficult to fathom. And the album finishes with the glorious 'Symphony No._ _' which I loved when I first heard it a few weeks ago, and is a perfect introduction to the world of 'Svankropp' - mostly complex offbeat guitar and drum noise that opens up into the glorious passages of vocals where everything suddenly seems in harmony.
So about 90% of me is convinced that this album is utter genius, the other 10% remains concerned that I probably shouldn’t be allowed access to the worldwide web in charge of a music website. But this album fascinates me, it reaches out to be explored and appeals to my sense of musical adventure. OK so a couple of tracks are still far too complex for my mind to comprehend yet, but I will get there and when it works for me, such as 'Super Power Girl' the results are spectacular, uplifting and hugely enjoyable. And 'So It's Made of Fire' is a genuinely lovely track, the eye in a hurricane storm of an album. ‘Svankropp’ by Svankropp is brilliantly conceived, totally absurd and hugely rewarding - and I'm convinced that someone somewhere will agree with me, so please give it a try.
Nordic Music Review 9/10