If anyone in the music business merits the adjective ‘enigmatic’ it is Lydmor. Her previous album ranged over her inscrutable affairs and dealings during a lengthy stay in Shanghai. In this one she might have decamped to the State of Washington and in particular the fictional town of Twin Peaks, population 5,120. Replete with David Lynch-ism from start to finish it really is every bit as bizarre and surreal as the TV series. ‘Lydmor: Fire Walk with Me’ might be an alternative title. It is also very alluring.
Jenny Rossander is a complex character. She leaves a venue stage like she’s running to catch the last helicopter out of Saigon – something to do with expending so much energy on stage (and she does) that she’s a spent force afterwards and has nothing more to give. She can be taciturn if you catch her at the wrong moment but she once turned around an email interview from me in nine hours from Vietnam (probably Saigon, the last helicopter left in ‘75) answering 30 questions in such detail and so smartly that it could have been a dissertation for an Honours Degree in philosophy. And she treats her fans like royalty and equals, serving up regular soc-med posts detailing exactly what she is doing and thinking, and even inviting them to co-write songs and make videos with her.
That complexity is abundantly clear in her lyrics and music. I can’t yet decide if this is a concept album with one or more central, recurring lyrical lines and themes throughout (self awareness and discovery [the ‘capacity’ bit], or the 21st Century sexual revolution for example), or just a collection of random songs, like a series of dreams and nightmares, one after another, that she has written over the last couple of years and populated with weird situations and characters every bit as arcane as a dwarf and a giant. It is likely neither and both. It’s just Lydmor. She pushes the envelope further every time she writes an album, she’s as predictable as a mutant COVID outbreak and she’s one of the most creative and explorative artists on the planet.
The album kicks off with ‘Amanda’s Lullaby’. Amanda is every bit as shadowy as the ‘Claudia’ character who inhabited her last album and who remains a mystery to this day. For good measure she turns up also in track #10, ‘Amanda’s Dream’. One is tempted to surmise that, as with ‘Claudia’, she is perhaps singing about herself, an alter ego.
So who is she otherwise? An actual person or just a metaphor for something? She comes across as a sort of Greta Thunberg figure; someone who has put herself on the line for a belief, but this is no ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’, her beef is emancipation and she’s prepared to pay the ultimate price for it as the controlling males rampage around with guns seeking to silence her and anyone else who steps out of line:
“My friends dream of running through forests/Escaping bad men shooting guns/’Cause the image is easier to win/Than to try to explain to these men that/The world they have built needs to end.”
But, the capacity will kick in. “The more that we open the less space they’ll get and…You’ll laugh when they break in the end!”
Chanted rather than sung it’s a mantra for #Me-too. You listenin’ Harvey?
‘Amanda’s Dream’ is fascinating. I’ve never heard anything quite like this spoken piece on recordwith the exception of Holly Herndon’s ‘Lonely at the Top’ and the only contemporary band I can think of who are doing anything like it is Arc Iris. Lydmor has acknowledged theatre writing, acting and production skills and they are evident here in a work that needs to be seen as well as heard. Ranging across imagery that suggests the Baticlan terror attack in Paris, The Hunger Games and Rael’s symbolic journey through the underworld in Genesis’ ‘The Lamb lies down on Broadway’ withmultiple voices and sound oscillations, it takes the lullaby dramatically on to its final destination.
“One of the bad men breaks in and he points his gun at us and everything disappears everything pours out of me like water/And I’m dead for a while (and in death nothing is here just pure nothingness)/ (Then I wake up). Then I wake up.”
And who is Emma in ‘Emma Spins’? A song so different it could be by another artist altogether, one of her lovely little ballads in the way of ‘Seven and Four’ and ‘Lamppost Light’ from previous albums.
I’d read that this song is supposed to be a celebration of mutual female love.
But something doesn’t stack up. Something has gone wrong somewhere. Emma cuts an isolated figure, banished to the wilderness.
“Say that to Emma/Who's not laughing anymore/Go home with Emma/With the always open door/Take care of Emma/She's not laughing anymore/So take those daddy issues far away from Emma/You're not worthy of her always open/open/open door.”
And there are some wonderfully evocative lines earlier:
“At the sink/She's falling in/her crystal skin is dipping into half expensive gin/Emma thinks/Of what she's been/A mandolin is playing out of tune in west Berlin”.
Something has gone wrong for sure in ‘Nevada’ a song with a hint of R&B in it, which features a significant cameo from Faroese legend Eivør, one of several high profile collaborations on the album and who brings the necessary soul factor to the party. At its heart is the mysterious Leopold Hotel, an amalgam of The Eagles’ Hotel California, the Overlook Hotel in The Shining and the infamous Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles. There has been an event, matters have spiralled out of proportion between two women, but we don’t know what or why.
One thing we know for sure is that again it is all a metaphor, an allegorical representation of human frailties such as prejudice, humiliation and sexism.
She returns to issues of sexism in ‘LSD Heart’. Ostensibly, this song is about patriarchy in modern art and her distaste for it. “Guys get away with so much bullshit in art.” But it’s an aversion she keeps at arm’s length:
I know nothing/I know nothing about them/Got my own problems…I got my own hobbies…”
It amounts to much more than that though. In this almost satirically coquettish live performance of the song from the last-but-one Reeperbahn Festival she added several lines at the end, quite conceivably off the top of her head, spitting out the final one with a venom that left the audience stunned:
“Guys get away with so much undeserved authority/Guys get away with so much criminal offence/…with so much financial bullshit/…with so much bad fashion sense/…guys always seem to have some kind of excuse/…to get away with so much sexual abuse.” How do you like them apples, Jeffrey?
Back in 2018 she appeared naked apart from a body stocking at a Danish prize ceremony show and has had numerous forthright encounters with the music and general press on the subject of sexism in the business in the last 12 months.
More Lynchian characters appear as the album progresses. Who is the ‘Labyrinth-Faced Man’ in the track which is an instrumental and which therefore offers no clue? Meanwhile, like Jason Bourne, she doesn’t even know her own identity in the Caribbean-flavoured and danceable ‘Diamond Breeze’, which is so catchy it could be an advert for the almond drink.
'Someone We Used to Love', the best-known track she has released since the previous album, is the closest to a regular pop song on this one and deals with the brittleness we can experience when confronted by a former lover. Even then it is tinged with literary allusion, in this case to Oscar Wilde’s classic novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', which quotes: “There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love".
‘Guilty (Kill Me) could be her nemesis for the above. “When I come home/You text a snakebite grenade/Please answer my call I’ll talk whenever”.
There are a couple of tracks, which while of the same high lyrical standard seem slightly out of kilter musically with the unpredictable, dangerous nature of the album, namely ‘The Gadget Song’ and ‘If you want capacity’ even though it is effectively the title track and one in which that mysterious Hotel Leopold makes a return.
They aren’t ‘filler’ – Lydmor doesn’t do filler and her interpretation of its meaning is probably closer to that of Danish pastries – but they don’t quite seem to fit the mood of the album.
Much more in sync with it is ‘Go Slow but Go’, for my money the top track on the album with its dramatically explosive choruses and atmospheric conclusion. And then suddenly we’re back in ‘Amanda’s Dream’ again – “(I die, and nothing is there, just pure nothingness. I’m dead for a while).”
There is more than a hint of Highasakite on this track as indeed there is in ‘Nevada’. Highasakite’s Trond Bersu is credited with producing some of ‘Capacity’ and I reckon these are two of the tracks.
That just leaves ‘Heavier in Life’, a co-operation with Danish guitarist Lasse Ziegler, and the ultimate track ‘Hotel Ads’.
It is unusual to hear a guitar in a Lydmor song but the instrument makes ‘Heavier in Life’, helping to paint a picture of what could be a casual and seedy meeting possibly in some earthy backstreet off the sleazy end of Sunset Boulevard.
“I see it all the time/You give me lies/I give you chemicals/But when the drugs are through/And I have left your mind/Go to your car/Go make somebody else heavier in life”.
‘Hotel Ads’ brings it all together, as the catalyst for this adventure, the Leopold Hotel, comes around once more just as the Lamb did on the aforementioned Genesis album.
Apart from being a wonderful song, structured in a similar way to Peter Gabriel’s ‘San Jacinto’ it genuinely merits academic analysis. There are numerous lines in it which invite detailed scrutiny. For example she sings,
“My body turned to glass last April/Now a lot of people carry little shards around...”
It was in April 2020, at the height of the first Danish lockdown, with all her theatrical and musical plans for the year in tatters, that Lydmor’s partner suddenly left her. She disappeared from social media, on which she is usually profuse, for over a week, generating some considerable concern for her wellbeing.
The song appears to reflect that time.
“Such an unexciting and plain goodbye/So don’t call tonight/Don’t call tonight”, then
“So we wrapped all your dreams in wine/And shipped them off/You shipped me off”…
“Guess I could have seen warning signs/But I closed my eyes”…
“You really didn’t care last Tuesday/Now a lot of glass is littering over town/’Cause nobody sticks around/And You!/You gave me a silence full of sound” (cleverly alluding to her own artist name, which means ‘sound mother’).
And the $64,000 dollar question:
“Are these red flags/Or hotel ads/Or manic curtain falls/they’re tearing up the walls/You goddamn know it all”. There is no easy interpretation of those powerfully sung lines but they could mean are we to interpret external events over which we have no control as warnings or as a spur to stamping our own identity on them, in other words to attain that capacity we have within us as human beings?
In Lydmor’s case the answer is clear and unequivocal. The final line of the album is,
“And I guess…The circus is back in town”.
I’ve exceeded 2,000 words already and I’ve come nowhere near portraying the depth of this album. Jenny Rossander spent much of last year, once she’d picked up the pieces, writing a philosophical treatise and you could argue that she merits one of her own. There are very few artists around at the moment who are examining the human condition in this sort of detail, let alone presenting the findings in such an enjoyably listenable fashion.
She said on social media recently that she’s delighted to be in her 30s now as she feels creativity comes easier to her having offloaded some baggage from her younger years. As she measures her own ‘capacity’ this could be seen as an artistically coming of age album.
It isn’t always an easy listen but profound work like this never is. I’d love to discuss it with her in greater detail. You know I reckon she’d make a fabulous date for anyone, even if she shipped you off straight afterwards.