Moyka – Spaces (EP)
Moyka (Monika Engeseth) is an artist I missed at the Øya Festival last year but shortly afterwards reviewed a single, ‘Bones’ which is excellent. I was particularly taken with the maturity of her vocal on that song.
Sometimes you know you’ve come across an artist who is going on to big things, and on the basis of ‘Bones’ I reckoned the young Norwegian would be, quickly.
Her music is synth-driven (with a Jean Michel Jarre vibe at times), uniformly melodic and, according to her PR, nods to Norwegian artists Røyksopp and Susanne Sundfør. That is high praise indeed but I’d add more as I detected hints of AURORA and Highasakite (the new version) as well, and since Øya she’s opened for Sigrid. In fact she’s a fusion of much that’s good in Norway right now. On one of the tracks on the EP, Violet, not only could it be an AURORA song, she actually sounds just like her, as indeed she does whenever she sings “oh”. Is that a good or bad thing? Your call.
She’s also a trained producer, having immersed herself in synth-based sounds for the full period of her course.
She was nominated for the prestigious Anchor Awards at the Reeperbahn festival last year, too and that’s a meteoric rise by anyone’s standards and especially by someone who looks so young, although she is 21. (In some photos she looks more like 12).
So, I was mildly disappointed by the ‘Spaces’ EP, but only because none of the songs on it are quite up to the mark of ‘Bones’.
The title track seems to suggest that as much space as she can put between her and her ex-beau (or belle) it is never going to be enough. There’s a classic Ingrid Helene Håvik (Highasakite) line in it early on, “can you tell that I can’t forget that you’re in my mind like a bad habit”. Fast, looping synth runs and a booming snare drum that are common to most of her songs dominate it but she doesn’t quite succeed in differentiating it from similar songs from a myriad of other young Norwegian wannabes.
‘Backwards’ could be the second half of the story of ‘Spaces’ as she appears to say she might go back in time like Dr Who or Marty McFly to reconstruct the love she left behind. The musical format is much the same, only slower. This one though is pepped up by a rapid-fire vocal chorus which is quite effective.
The intriguingly titled ‘Kanazawa (Maybe we don’t have to go there)’ is referenced on her Facebook page when she talks of a video that is “a collage of memories from a trip that never happened, which is what Kanazawa is all about”.
There is a place called Kanazawa, a middling city in Japan famous for its landscaped gardens. There’s evidently a story behind this, perhaps it was on a tour itinerary, and possibly one her fans know well, but there is little than can be gleaned from the heavily repetitive lyrics other than “Maybe we don't have to go there/'Cause we've been so many times/Inside our minds” and “being blinded is my greatest crime”. Her lyrics are typically a little vague but I don’t have any problem with that.
Musically there is a little variety in this track, it’s a full minute before the big synth wave gets going and it is also the most melodic of the first three tracks.
Quite what ‘Intro’, a 35-second experimental musical piece, is doing at position #4 on the EP is baffling except that it stands as the intro to the final track, ‘Violet’ , into which it merges abruptly. Putting aside the previous remark about her sounding just like AURORA here, ‘Violet’ is probably the most compelling track on the album (and the closest to ‘Bones’). It follows a pop standard Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus format and the chorus sticks in the mind. It’s the sort of song which could pick up UK airplay.
Overall, I think Moyka would benefit from varying her repertoire a little. She does what she does, and does it very well, and she will be able to acquire and retain a worldwide audience. But some passages in the songs here could be interchangeable. I still believe she has real quality but the acid test will come from how she mixes things up in the future, or doesn’t. She could do worse than listen to how Frida Sundemo does it. Every track on her recently released EP sounds completely different.
Nordic Music Review 7/10