- David Bentley
Down Memory Lane (Denmark): Choir of Young Believers – ‘Hollow Talk’
This song is from Choir of Young Believers’ 2008 debut album (of three to date) ‘This is for the White in Your Eyes’ but it might not be known at all by many people were it not for the fact it became the theme tune to the Scandi-Noir police drama The Bridge, filmed in Copenhagen and Malmö, which concluded its fourth and final series last year. Or did it conclude? We’ll never see the olive Porsche again – it was sold for charity. But Saga Norén and her infamous leather trousers? Time will tell.
But for now it has suddenly, unexpectedly, (and welcomely) reappeared on BBC4 in the UK with the first series being shown again over three Saturday nights.
Legend has it that the song was commissioned for The Bridge but the three-year gap between the filming of the first series and the release of the album does not support the supposition. It is truer to say that while Choir of Young Believers is not a one-hit wonder by any means this is probably their best song and without doubt their most famous.
The band’s mover and shaker is Jannis Noya Makrigiannis who, despite his Greek-sounding name, is described as from Copenhagen. However, writing credits for ‘Hollow Talk’ are also given to Anders Rhedin, who is no longer with the band, in fact he left after the first album. Makrigiannis had moved to the Greek island of Samos after his previous band Lake Placid broke up in order to get his solo project going and formed the COYB on his return. It was, and is, a fluid entity, with many supporting players; there are currently eight.
From the off, Makrigiannis/COYB have been writing and performing what is often described as “haunting” music and ‘Hollow Talk’ is an excellent example. He uses strings, his own voice, multi-tracked, and percussion played on the off-beat to produce a chamber pop sound that is unique.
Many have commented that they did not know for a long time that the lyrics are sung in English.Perhaps Makrigiannis does that deliberately to add a bit of mystery, along with the way he lets vocal notes hang in the air.
The lyrics are, frankly, mostly nonsensical. The first verse is copied below.
“Echoes start as a cross in you Trembling noises that come too soon Spatial movement which seems to you Resonating your mask or feud Hollow talking and hollow girl Force it up from the root of pain”
But they undeniably contribute to the atmosphere which builds progressively to the instrumental finale.
The critical lyrics meanwhile appear twice, to the plaintive notes of a cello:
“And then you cut You cut it out And everything Goes back to the beginning”
I’d be willing to bet that it was those words in particular that sold the song to the drama’s writers, Hans Rosenfeldt and Camilla Ahlgren as its theme tune. It was just so appropriate, so right, on so many occasions as the entire four series were about that – going back to the beginning. For example,at the end of the final episode of Series 2, when lovable Danish detective Martin is shopped by Sagafor murdering his son’s killer on a prison visit, and is driven away under arrest, his eyes locked on hers, filled with confusion, questioning "Why?" as the mid-section of the song plays out to its climax (1:30 to 3:05 on the video below).
Incidentally, though it is off-topic I have to say the last 20 minutes of that episode, which includes Detective Pernille’s suicide, were the best television drama I have ever seen, anywhere. Rivalled only by Amber’s death in ‘House’. Or more pertinently still, at the end of the final series, when Saga, having gone back to her own beginning by accepting that it is her guilt over her younger sister’s suicide that prompted her to become a “Polis” woman in the first place, throws her police badge off the bridge, where it all started, into the churning Øresund strait below then drives away into her future, and to the same musical passage.
It is a little sad that in years to come, this song will be known as the theme to The Bridge, rather than by its title, but the fact it will act as a consistent reminder of one of the best TV dramas ever made more than makes up for that.
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