Ane Bjerkan - 'Nothing But Cherry Blossoms from Now On'
There are so many album releases hitting in October and November that we did consider trying to review an 'album a day' over both months to try and cover them all. But, along with all the new music submissions, it would just be way too ambitious. So, short concise reviews on the most lovely releases is the order for the next month, and Ane Bjerkan is a great place to start, as her album 'Nothing But Cherry Blossoms from Now On' has grown very quickly on me after just a few days of listening.
Ane Bjerkan may be a new name to most of you as a solo artist, but she might be known to you as the lead singer in the the lovely Norwegian band Østfrost. Her debut album follows a couple of singles which received some nice words and attention on music sites and the charm in her music to me comes not just from her expressive and tranquil voice, but from the beautiful way that each instrument is used in the creation of the album.
'Nothing But Cherry Blossoms from Now On' opens with 'Cold', and immediately there's a darkness noticeable in the piano chords that precedes the lyrics 'There are mornings when I thought this could be the last of mornings'. This is clearly not going to be an album full of sweetness and light, as Ane Bjerkan is not afraid to delve deep into personal emotions to express herself. 'Lie' demonstrates the beauty in her vocals, but then we also get a hint of what's to come in latter tracks when a forceful cello drives the track forward. 'Storms' opens with that same cello offering an offbeat motive, and here the atmosphere of the track is created by clever musical textures - sudden crescendos followed by flowing lyrical melodic passages, and it's really effective.
In some ways 'Red Dragonflies' is less appealing to me lyrically and melodically, but I love the conclusion of the track, with the intricate piano part and the powerful intervention of synths, which suddenly cut out to reveal the piano and vocals. The real highlight for me is the spellbinding and totally beautiful 'Rainy Railway', where piano accompanies Ane Bjerkan's startling lyrics 'It's raining poems in my street, it's all these fragments of memories', and i just love the vocal delivery and the melancholy and expressive contemplation. 'Cherry Blossoms' is an unusual sounding track due to the use of an Indian harmonium and I really like it, whilst the album concludes with 'Wheel of Fortune', a thoughtful climax led by a simple but soulful piano theme, before a glissando cello adds to the rich musical texture.
I was planning to try and write a 'short and sweet' review, but actually the appeal of this album is in the detail, and the more I've listened, the more I've really appreciated the finer points of Ane Bjerkan's writing. Although relatively short at 7 tracks (plus Interlude), there is enough substance lyrically to draw the listener in emotionally, whilst instrumentally there is so much thoughtful musical expression, which cleverly manages to add to the emotional power of those lyrics. This album does take a few listens, and is not the style of album to have obvious 'hits', but Ane Bjerkan's 'Nothing But Cherry Blossoms from Now On' is a real album to treasure, full of intelligent, creative and subtle musical character, and we really recommend it.