We’ve covered some impressive album releases in 2021, and whilst comparisons are somewhat vulgar given the diversity of styles we feature in NMR, it’s fair to say that ‘A History of Silence’ by Sibille Attar is up with the best of them, with a release that sits happily between alternative (almost psych) rock and electro pop, without even making you consider for a moment how that actually might be quite a difficult thing to pull off.
I’ve seen her described as the ‘Queen of Swedish Indie’, which sounds somewhat grand, but her debut 2013 album ‘Sleepyhead’ was so authoritative, mature and respected by everyone, that it simply catapulted her into being given that title – as well as more formally being nominated for a Swedish Grammy for ‘Best Newcomer.’
But it’s not easy being Indie royalty, such is the attention and clamour around heralded musicians, I suspect because so many people in the industry quite frankly, want a ‘slice’. And so it was 5 years before Sibille Attar was able to release a follow up, courtesy of a substantial 6 track EP entitled ‘Paloma’s Hand’. Now releasing an album she’s clearly come to terms with what she’s been through.
As she explains herself, “For a long time in my life, I tried to sit in certain constellations to please other people. And it didn’t work, because I could only do it for a little while before I’d get frustrated and want to do things my own way. There was a time when I felt like I couldn’t trust the business, and it was draining me of my love for the music. Eventually, I realised you can’t live your life trying to fit into somebody else’s mould all the time.”
As for the writing, recording and mixing process, she’s clearly realised that there’s ‘her way’ or ‘no way’: “I just felt fuck it - I can’t be bothered dealing with other people and their opinions.”
All of that is important for context, as well for introductory purposes, because it’s those shackles of the past and that single mindedness which has led to ‘A History of Silence’, a release that feels so dynamic, so full of purpose and so individual, that I’m almost struggling for comparisons. Or certainly wouldn’t want to try.
Take opening track ‘Hurt Me, with an explosive drumbeat, driving strings, echoing vocals, phases that flow effortlessly into each other and lyrical content which switches between French and English, there’s certainly plenty to get stuck into. And if some of that sounds a bit odd, well it’s not at all, and the ending reminds me a little of that early Divine Comedy album ‘Promenade’, which was similarly French influenced – check out ‘When The Lights Go Out’ and you’ll see what I mean.
So already Sibille Attar has set a framework here, where clearly she’s going to do pretty much whatever she wants, but in ‘Somebody’s Watching’, although the melody is attractive, it’s actually the lyrical content which makes the point pretty clearly – ‘Someone’s watching me… fall from the sky, face down on the pavement, fumble around in the dark, BANG my head against the wall...”, with a big musical emphasis on the word ‘bang’.
The two album highlights for me come next, because ‘Hard 2 Love’ opens out in the middle of the track where the almost monotonous phrase ‘maybe I’m hard 2 love’ suddenly develops with the most inspired musical theme, firstly vocally and then instrumentally, and it’s just stuck in my head ever since I heard it. ‘Dream State’ is even more memorable, a transfixing atmospheric song which builds with the most gorgeous string section – mostly cello, which of course gives it that brooding, melancholy feel. Undoubtedly a contender for song of the year for me, it’s just sensationally put together.
As for the rest, well the catchy ‘Why u looking’ seems be Sibille Attar giving herself a good old talking too ‘Why u looking at the past, it’s never coming back?’, before releasing all the frustration with a big old saxophone solo, which somewhat ironically could have come directly from the past. And after the rockier and powerful drumbeats of ‘Go Hard or Go Home’, plus a Madonna cover, the album concludes with the expansive life affirming and life challenging ‘Life Is Happening Now’, a huge organ led anthem concluding with a chattering baby. The point it makes is very clear indeed.
It’s obvious that the last few years have been pretty challenging for Sibille Attar musically, for a variety of reasons. And whilst I don’t like resorting to swearing, she probably summed it up best when she talked about the recording of her album, because this is her ‘fuck it’ album, the restraints of the music industry cast aside, complete control over the creative process, and a fluid, genre-bending album, accompanied by engaging and interesting instrumentation throughout, and where she pretty much does whatever she damn well chooses. I hope she doesn’t stop, because it’s pretty marvellous stuff from start to finish.
Nordic Music Review 8.5 / 10