- David Bentley
Siv Jakobsen – A Temporary Soothing (album)
In contrast to the creation of her debut album ‘The Nordic Mellow’, which was recorded in mere weeks, ’A Temporary Soothing’ is the fruit of almost a year of writing and recording for Siv Jakobsen. “It's a way for me to look back and see what I have been going through, both the good and the bad,” Siv says. “What I hope for is that people can take it and understand what they have been going through personally, too.” Interestingly, that statement was made before a pandemic was called. Things have a way of coming around and albums of becoming even more meaningful.
The first track, ‘Fear the Fear’, was reviewed as a single in January and we commented on her unwaveringly captivating vocals – both melancholy and uplifting at the same time.
I’ve also said previously that there’s something about Siv Jakobsen’s album titles that suggest an afternoon of meditation, followed by a massage, followed by an hour in a Radox bath. The previous one was ‘The Nordic Mellow’ of course and this new one, which was originally scheduled for an April 24th release, is ‘A Temporary Soothing’.
In contrast, this opening track concerns Siv’s acknowledged propensity to over-think, worry, and create problems where none exist. No mention of soothing. There’s a wonderful line. "I fear the ness in happiness". I guess “I fear the happy…” would have been too obvious.
The song is an intimate exploration of fear, anxiety, change, and the struggle between being healthy and being productive. And it sets the tone for the album.
And it’s played out to her favourite acoustic guitar, supported by a veritable orchestra of instrumentation. If only it could be replicated live.
Three other tracks have had single reviews too, as we follow Siv closely at NMR, including the second one on the album, ‘Fight or Flight’. Pardon me for mentioning again the alliteration on the letter F which seems to have obsessed her on this album (there’s more to come!) I even started calling her Fiv Fakobsen. With grim lyrics it concerns the decision to stay with someone until ‘the end’; how giving yourself to someone so absolutely can be terrifying. It could be called ‘Fear the Love’. Having said that, with a hypnotic percussive beat taking the lead, it is more upbeat than the material suggests.
One of the other pre-released tracks is ‘Island’, which is lighter still and which concerns her need for creative freedom versus the need to keep personal space personal. There’s a melancholy undertone to the song – there nearly always is with Siv – but there is a strong, snappy melody with a beat to match. ‘Dancing in the aisles’ doesn’t seem to fit with Siv but some folk might be tempted to by this one.
The last pre-released one is ‘A feeling felt or a feeling made’ which was reviewed at the beginning of August and which again concerns Siv’s emoting about her inability to create if she is happy.
Again, both musically and lyrically it is more upbeat than most of her previous material, atmospheric and relaxing and with a wide variety of instrumentation including possibly a mandolin 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.
In ‘Shine’ Siv reaches the top of her vocal range and stays there, to a persistent, unyielding military beat. “The dark will keep on coming…” she intones, then moves up to cheerleader range with a supporting heavenly choir. It’s the sort of track which plays out a romantic film where one of the partners succumbs to a freakish ‘Final Destination’ – type road accident having just beaten a killer disease. Sad but brave.
The intriguingly titled ‘Fraud, failure’ opens like the soundtrack to a Bond movie. There are Peter Gabriel-like musical arrangement in parts on what could be African or Middle Eastern instruments (is that a doudouk I hear?), and it builds up to a crescendo on several different occasions, which is unlike Siv. It is something of a head banging rocker by her standards and with a slightly psych/New Age bent right at the end to finish it off. An intriguing track all round, a sound I’d like to hear more of from her, one you’re likely to put on replay and one that could conceivably pick up substantial airplay even from those ‘Scandinavian specialist’ radio DJs in the UK that haven’t even heard of Siv Jakobsen. The highlight of the album so far.
‘A Temporary Soothing’, the title track, is only one minute and 30 seconds long and it lives up to its name. Soothing as well as temporary the instrumental piece could have been lifted off an episode of‘Coast’ as Neil Oliver scampers around the wor-old in search of the residue of Scottish Vikings, or the loincloth of Robert the Bruce. It sounds slightly out of place without Siv’s voice in there somewhere but is very pleasant to chill to, even if it’s over before you’ve settled into your chair.
‘Anywhere Else’ returns to traditional, melancholic, emoting, self-obsessed Siv, with turmoil and angst raging in her head, which after the previous tracks actually comes as something of a disappointment.
The opening lines could bring you to contemplate suicide. “I’ve got my license, but I’m scared of driving/so I keep walking everywhere”. “Scared of dying, scared of [baking?], scared of killing someone else along my way”. Oh dear, and there’s more of that sort of thing. It moves up-tempo towards the end and there’s a visitation from that heavenly choir again but I get the feeling this one is a cut from ‘The Nordic Mellow’ that found its way back into favour.
Where most tracks have a great deal of instrumentation that isn’t the case with ‘Only Life’, which is just acoustic guitar, supported by a powerful vocal from Siv. What it lacks in a strong melody is more than made up by its charm.
There are several features to the suggestively-titled ‘From Morning Made to Evening Laid,’ in which Siv is battling her demons again. “I need escape from the space I’ve made inside my brain” she sings, in a manner ever so slightly reminiscent of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop.’ Firstly, there’s the plucked and picked acoustic guitar at the expense of strumming. Secondly, there are two spoken bridges which are very effective around another military beat. But most notable is the mother of all instrumental outros. I mentioned Peter Gabriel earlier. I’m sure Genesis, or Yes, would have been proud of it in their pomp. Again, can it be replicated live, because it would make for a grand finale? Let’s hope so.
‘Mothecombe’, another short instrumental piece, of just one minute and 36 seconds, could be a resort on the English south coast and it makes for a huge contrast with the rest of the album. It starts out like M83’s ‘Outro’ before quickly changing into what could be the eerie background music to a TV thriller like Broadchurch (set on the English south coast of course), or one of the Scandi Noirs. Then it suddenly cuts out. No doubt all will be revealed in due course.
Closing track ‘I call it love’ channels Fiona Apple in its early arrangement with a slow drum beat that is just so Charlie Drayton. This gorgeous lament saves the best until last as Siv finds her most seductive voice, which is in the Judith Durham class here, riding on a wonderful instrumental arrangement that seems even to include a theremin and ending on a breathtaking note. And the lyrics. “When you’re caught in the undertow /and the sea is a beast you’ll never know…” Fabulous.
Let’s deal briefly with the negatives, for they are few. Melodies on a handful of the songs could be more fully formed and sometimes Siv’s words are a little indistinct; she seems to sing from the back of her throat too often and at inappropriate moments. That’s it.
The plusses are many. There is a very wide range of instrumentation, not something I’d previously associated with Siv, and the songs are brilliantly arranged. There is a surprising amount of variety, too, with no individual song sounding like another. There are times when you wonder if it is Siv or if you’ve accidentally shuffled on to another artist.
And above all there are Siv’s alluring, siren-like vocals, which could calm a raging Conor McGregor.
If this album doesn’t turn Siv Jakobsen into the international star she should be I’ll swim a fjord, in winter, naked.
‘A Temporary Soothing’ was released on 21st August on U OK? Records.
Fun fact. When you look at the graphical representation of each song, they all look alike, with a restrained opening gaining momentum and culminating in a big bang. In fact they look like spermatozoa. What could it all mean?
Nordic Music Review 8/10
ICYMI previously, Siv Jakobsen’s UK/EU release tour will now take place in Feb/March 2020, 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
All dates subject to change obviously. For more details visit Facebook or Instagram.