After a week’s sabbatical, Spillin’ The Beans is back and in fine listening fettle. I am looking at a forthcoming album by Norwegian experimental musician Hanne Hukkelberg called “Trust” which is due for release on the 20th October. As this is not yet available, I cannot post any links to the music, apart from one track, IRL which is on YouTube, but The ‘Spill does have a review-only preview.
The press release says that “the new album explores the duality of human life in the digital age – largely inspired by writers, scientists and philosophers including George Orwell, Zygmunt Bauman, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Yuval Noah Harari and Simon Sinek, alongside the more pop-cultured forecasts of sci-fi series Westworld and Black Mirror.”, which is all well and good, but for me the question is always “What does it actually sound like?”. This is Ms Hukkelberg’s first album in five years, so she has clearly had a lot of time to ponder these bigs questions. let’s see how she treats them in musical terms.
On a first listening, the first point of reference is R ‘n’ B-influenced electronica, which I have to admit isn’t my first choice as Go To listening. However, the music is a lot more than that. It has a quirky, insistent quality that takes it away from the mundane. I suppose it (sort of) occupies a similar space as the likes of Lorde, Little Boots, FKA Twigs and others working with dance and electronica. In the past, Hukkelberg has sounded pretty different to this, experimental in different ways. I think that this music is most interesting when it moves away from the more “poppy” sound and goes to less definable places, which is what happens as the album progresses. I think that from the sixth track, Raindrops, onwards, the music becomes very interesting and unpredictable. I especially like the following track, Silverhaired, which introduces a male voice to good effect. Having said that, none of the music is dull or predictable.
On subsequent hearings, I found more things to listen to that were adding interesting and sometimes unsettling textures to the music, like the sound of howling wolves or dogs in IRL. In fact, the more you listen, the less like electronic pop the music becomes. You end up concentrating on the weird, which is not to suggest that the music is dominated by weirdness, because it isn’t. It is more the case that your ears stop holding on to the familiar and start finding what is the essentially eccentric and imaginative core of the songs. There are themes of alienation here, but also, I think of spurned love and a fear and distrust of the way that technology swamps us and divides us from human contact. She sings “I don’t wanna be perfect, I wanna be me” in The Whip, which in many ways is a curse of the digital age, where perfection is served up everywhere and us mortals are made to feel inferior. The monetisation of the internet and the howling mobs of armchair warriors on social media are deeply alienating aspects of modern life and I think that this is a major concern for Hanne. It is certainly what I am taking away from this music.
Musically, I suppose that some people might try and make Björk comparisons, but they would be wide of the mark, because she doesn’t really sound like her at all.