Silje Nes | Ames Room (FatCat)

cd_silje-nes.jpgWhat you get here is a sweet, melodic sound vapor that clears your system of all things negative and cynical every time you inhale the Silje Nes secret brew.





I’m fond of the country called Norway,
For I view it as kind of a doorway
To things sparkling and clear,
And great art without peer,
Like the music they keep sending
your way!

Ah, Norway. The nation that made me fall madly in love with all things Scandinavian. The country that gave us Royksopp, Kings of Convenience and Sondre Lerche, as well as luminous but lesser known artists like Bol, Anja Garbarek and Ephemera. It’s no secret that I’ve got a thing for Norway that won’t quit, and every time a stellar new release lands on our shores from that country, I’m reminded once again that there’s magic beyond those fjords. What the heck’s in the glacier-fed water over there, anyway?

Silje Nes is the latest female musician to beg the question, and her debut album Ames Room is another twinkly, mood-conjuring delight. It just wouldn’t hold (ice)water to say that there’s no correlation between the area and the way its music sounds. Not that Norway is limited to one style, of course—the death metal crowd and the electronica aficionados would have plenty to say about that. But rarely outside Norway, Sweden and Finland do you hear the kind of fragile vocals and floaty, dream-influenced music that Nes showcases here. A home-recorded collection of disparate ditties and sometimes spacious soundscapes, Ames Room weds Nes’ breathy, girlish voice to a percolating, unpredictable mix of instruments that includes keyboards, glockenspiel, xylophone, guitar, cello, melodica and percussion that’s just as apt to be from found objects as real drums.

You don’t get verse-chorus-verse songs on this record; in fact, sometimes you don’t get clearly audible lyrics at all. What you get here is a sweet, melodic sound vapor that clears your system of all things negative and cynical every time you inhale the Silje Nes secret brew. You get childlike compositions like "Shapes, Electric," which finds Nes wordlessly intoning at a high register, accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar and an odd, squeaky synth sound that almost melds with her voice at times. The title track is so airy and open, it could be the soundtrack to watching children fly kites at a neighborhood park. "Giant Disguise" features a mechanized rhythm track and a simple three-chord figure, with the vocals mixed so low they’re little more than a hum. But the languid drift is irresistible.

So is "Dizzy Street," a piece of incandescent and yet almost throwaway beauty that features a loping rhythm with curiously placed pauses. The arrangement evokes the feeling of wondering whether to spend a few extra moments taking some scenic side road that beckons, even though you’re on a tight schedule; once you do so, you’re rewarded with unique, breathtaking vistas. It’s truly lovely music.

"Bright Night Morning" is another well-named gem: Nes sings initially as though she’s still in a dreamstate, with this otherly vibe permeating the proceedings underscored by a steady, hypnotic drumbeat. Suddenly it’s as though a soft light is switched on, as the vocals become clearer (but are still just one element in the soundmix) and the acoustic guitar and drums "wake up" the arrangement and ask for some coffee.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Still, you get the idea. Track after track deepens the mood: the music box, Vespertine-like beauty of "Escape," the weird typewriter keys and large wind instrument (can’t tell which) of "No Bird Can." What a spellbinding listen this record is! Silje Nes has created another life-affirming gem, from a country that practically specializes in things that sparkle. A | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Hanne Hukkelberg, Cake on Cake, glowing lights on a seashore

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