Stina Stjern - 'Kap Herschell' (album)
I've been carrying a few albums around with me for the last 2 weeks, one of which (Catch the Breeze) we've already covered briefly, but the album that I've listened to most is Norwegian singer songwriter Stina Stjern's release 'Kap Herschell', which has undoubtedly taken me a fair time to really get into, but is certainly one of the more rewarding albums I've listened to in quite a time. There is a depth and a complexity that to me is very appealing, and there is a real individuality too in the sound of the album, the songwriting and the range of vocal expression.
We did actually cover a Stina Stjern track not too long ago, when she released 'Nusuuq', and I was fascinated by her sound as well as her musical and lyrical references - with an obvious love and deep connection to Greenland too. She's a musician with a vast amount of experience, with an album released in 2011, time spent with rock bands such as Supervixen, and live performances at festivals such as Trondheim Calling. She trained as a jazz singer, so hopefully this gives a view on the varied musical background which has contributed to her latest release.
'Kap Herschell' is just 8 tracks long, and that seems to work really well - it doesn't feel like a random collection of tracks recorded over a 2 or 3 year period (although it might be...) but a cohesive selection of songs, from which I've developed an attachment to each. It opens with 'New Explorers' and the first thing you'll notice is the percussion and curious mix of sounds that pulsate away in the background, it seems to create a musical texture that I haven't quite experienced before - this exploratory feel seems to suit the song title rather well, and Stjern's unusual vocals, beautiful but slightly eerie, add to that curious mix too - along with the strings utilised in a way I haven't quite heard before either. 'Taste of Spring' has a more conventional feel to the song structure at least, and 'April 2013' really allows the vocals to open up, it's one of my favourite tracks with a lilting melody, and I love the intensity of the last 2 minutes, where a rhythmic blend of percussion and guitars carries the track relentlessly towards the end - I'm not sure I've ever heard anything quite like it.
My favourite track on the album though is definitely 'The Hider / The Watcher', with a beautiful melody and sound to the vocals, and its seems so perfect at 1 minutes 40 second, it just makes the lyrical point and ends - with a fragment of melody that's left sitting in my mind. We wrote about 'Nuussuaq' previously, the vocals have a lovely warmth to them, and the track still reminds me of 'hidden gems' of UK bands such as North Sea Radio Orchestra and the even more hidden 'Lake of Puppies'. 'Cold Endless Ice' has a catchy melody and more intense throbbing background instrumentation, whilst the album ends with the understated 'There is an Eagle' which soars up to the most beautiful climax, with an elegance and style that I love, and a spine tingling violin contribution.
One of my biggest irritations in the world, and I have way too many to list, is people's lack of patience, and I think you do need time and a bit of dedication before you'll all really appreciate Stina Stjern's album. And I try not to say this very often, but I've discovered that to appreciate the depth in the instrumentation you do need to listen through a decent pair of speakers or headphones - maybe due to the complexity of the sounds. But there's such a lovely mix of styles and influences apparent in the album from conventional indie rock to folk to shoegaze (a hint of Lush / Cocteuas every now and then..), and all constructed using this fascinating blend of instruments, sounds and rhythms. Stina Stjern feels like the free sprit of indie rock, and 'Kap Herschell' is a real success.