When Siv Jakobsen last found herself in these pages she was wandering, lost, and even looking a little the worse for wear around a small Japanese town in a video. She seems to have a thing about alliteration with the letter F. An earlier single from her forthcoming (sorry…) album, ‘A Temporary Soothing’ was ‘Fear the Fear’ (about negative thoughts in her head) and the last (Japanese video) onewas ‘Fight or Flight’ (the commitment to undying love and what it entails). This time it is ‘A Feeling Felt or a Feeling Made’, about the struggle Siv faced between being “healthy” and “productive.” In fact, I think we may have been down this road before.
What this dichotomy refers to is that she started to fear that she wouldn’t be able to create if she was happy. Almost a case of cherophobia - an irrational aversion to being happy. This resulted in Siv questioning whether she purposely created friction and loneliness in order to create her music or whether it just happens. It’s a feeling best summed up in the single’s most striking line, “A hollow in my insides, I’m keeping it clear / For the flicker, the flame, the friction that I need”. Indeed, it is a recurrent theme of the entire album.
You can’t blame her for being in a state, poor thing. Bad things happen to her. Last year, that Japanese trip had to be postponed after she got stuck in Iceland. Then a North American tour was cancelled within a couple of days of her arriving there, forcing her to return to Oslo and into quarantine. No ‘temporary soothing’ for her but ironically the album took on a new meaning as she played streamed shows from home.
She says that following her debut LP ‘The Nordic Mellow’ (2017), "I wrote ‘A Feeling Felt or a Feeling Made’ in the first months after getting off that album campaign. I was feeling increasingly insecure about my work and also an increasing dread about my own possible destructiveness in relation to my creative process. I kept asking myself if I am the creator or enabler of the friction that allows and helps me to write songs because I feel such a strong need to write, perform and release music.”
Well, that’s the background to it, what about the song? It’s best investigated by reference to the (again) intriguing video, in which rather than staggering around a deserted town thousands of miles from home this time Siv is taking a (clothed) swim in a lake, after wading into it. For a moment I was reminded of Katzenjammer’s ‘Wading in Deeper’, about Virginia Woolf’s suicide. No, Siv, don’t do it!
But she safely swims away, like an Olympic champion in fact, and then casually floats before appearing at least to sit on water if not actually to walk on it. Then right at the end she does sink passively into it, as if giving up.
That’s about the measure of it but the video is riddled with imagery and allegory. The depth of the lake; her strength (and vulnerability); the symmetry of her movements, contrasting with the asymmetry of her thoughts. At one stage she even appears to hold her head in her hands (unless it’s a Google ad for Head and Shoulders which somehow snuck in).
I might be talking rubbish here, but there’s a hell of a lot you can read into this simple video.
Musically and lyrically it is more upbeat than most of her previous material. Siv is uniformly dark, but this song is unusually atmospheric and soothing if anything and much of that is down to the choice of instrumentation. I’m not absolutely certain what instruments are in play – there seems to be acoustic guitar, possibly a mandolin (which coincidentally features in ‘Wading in Deeper’) and one or more pitched percussion instruments like a xylophone, vibraphone or marimba as well as strings. Whatever they are they come together beautifully, especially at the end.
If this is a taste of the album then bring it on.
‘A Temporary Soothing’ will be released on August 21st on the aptly-named UOK? Records and features collaborations with producer Chris Bond (Ben Howard, Nick Mulvey) and mixing engineer Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth, Waxahatchee). It will be reviewed in NMR, but maybe not straight away as we'll be on our 'vacation break' at the time.
Her UK/EU release tour will now take place in Feb/March, as below:
22 Feb - Berlin, Privatclub
24 Feb - Hamburg, Mojo Jazz Cafe
26 Feb - Utrecht, TivoliVredenburg
27 Feb - Antwerp, Rock Lobster
01 Mar - Glasgow, Hug & Pint
02 Mar - Leeds, Hyde Park Book Club
03 Mar - Birmingham, Dead Wax
04 Mar - London, Courtyard Theatre
06 Mar - Salford, Greater Manchester, Eagle Inn