• David Bentley

Marianne Sveen (Norway): ‘Elephant’ (Single from forthcoming album)


There is now a release date for Marianne Sveen’s album but it isn’t until October so I’m delighted to see another single from it although at the same time I’m hoping this will be the last one as I wouldn’t like the anticipation to be halted by too many drip releases, as good as they are.


I’m sure everyone suspected that lurking beneath the surface of the supremely entertaining collective that was Katzenjammer were individual members with the talent for a more restrained musical approach as well and nothing that Sol Heilo and Marianne Sveen have done, as the two who have tackled solo material so far, has prompted me personally to reconsider that position.


Marianne’s first song, ‘Look Away’, was one of relational incompatibility while the second one, ‘How Come’ drew on her psychiatric nursing experience and tackled the thorny subject of bullying and its consequences and in a compassionate manner without ever being cloying. Introducing the third one, ‘Elephant’, she explains that one of the experiences that made her reflect on the term ‘Next of kin’ (the album’s title) was meeting with those who have been let down as children by their closest family. She says, “This should be the safest place in the world. I have always associated my closest relatives with security, predictability, and care, but many people experience the opposite. Your loved ones are the most dangerous. And where do you hide then? How to escape? One dreamed of an elephant...”


Musically, ‘Elephant’ has more instrumentation than its predecessors with synthesisers, violins, horns, acouple of tasty Pink Floyd-like guitar breaks and accompanying empathetic bass line, together with what sounds like some traditional devices thrown in for good measure. Instrumentation and its employment which prompts comparison with the Beatles on their later albums and which complements the powerful melody line seamlessly.


But it is the compelling lyrics which really hit home. Marianne has revealed the deeper meaning of the song but it is a distressing one and one that can be tied directly to that of ‘How Come’ which asks how no-one intervened to end the bullying. In this instance what was not stopped, and by a mother who could have, is far worse. Moreover, as she says, it is not a unique story by any means.


“No climbing the palisades/Keeping me from my hiding place/ Were you not supposed to be/ The safest hiding place for me?

On Noah’s ark, a matriarch/To keep me unscathed in the dark

All I want is an elephant/To climb up on and trample my way out...

And never come down again/ I’ll never come down again.”


And then, coincidentally – I’m sure it was not intended – a line which will resonate around the world just now, albeit that it evokes a different incident altogether:


“Oh mama, Oh mama/Please make them stop.”


This is profound, thoughtful, considered song writing out of another era.

All three songs made available so far have been quite different and she channels absolutely no-one. She’s just Marianne Sveen. Is she the elephant in the room for the Norwegian music industry? Perhaps that’s stretching the idiom a little too far, but she’s going to be noticed, for sure, and not only in the Nordics.


When I sit back and weigh up what Marianne and Sol Heilo are doing these days I reckon they really should think about forming a band. (He says, tongue in cheek).


‘Elephant’ is available now on streaming services.


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