Hannae Kolsto – Stillness and Panic (Album Review)

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An eclectic array of synths, acoustic and thundering bass lines. Are the main takeaway from the third album of Norwegian pop artist Hanne Kolsto.

Starting with the rumble of car engine opening track ‘Vertical Split’ immediately invokes the spirit of Kavinsky and Drive. The sound is slightly softer than any of his music but it’s a slow builder that becomes progressively anthemic, a combination of echo vocals, distant guitar lines and sweeping synth strings. Track two ‘The Clinch’ brings to mind mid-90s Bjork, as DIY-drums mix with another pounding bass line. Again it builds to a cathedral-like height before seguing comfortably into ‘One Plus One Makes One Out of Two’, which weirdly sounds like a modernised version of Abba’s ‘Happy New Year’. For the third time in a row the song slowly builds to a stadium rock chant. It’s very much the Simon Cowell style of producing. Keep things quiet, just one instrument, then bring in another instrument, maybe a guitar then slowly build until we’re transported from a dingy basement to the top of a mountain sound. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just a noticeable formula.

‘Shiftswitch’ wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on an Ikea or John Lewis advert. With its light piano melody has an almost nursery rhyme quality to it. Once again mixing seamlessly into ‘Our Time Is Up’, our darker dance song. Invoking memoires of Glass Candy, Hanne Kolsto’s detached vocals added with the constant tribal like drums and eerie electronic backdrop create one of the best moments on the album.

‘Someone Else’ then feels like a complete shift in sound. Acoustic guitar lead, this would sound out place on a Communion Records sampler. It’s a pleasant ditty. It’s with ‘Nothing Out Loud’ that the rug is pulled away again as we’re back into full blown electronics with a background noise that sounds eerie similar to the Blade Runner soundtrack. It’s also at this point that I realise that the majority of the songs seem to focus around disjointed relationships, with friends, partners or family. The music fits well with the overall theme, particularly on ‘Nothing Out Loud’ as the vocals evaporate into the music and the songs plays out with a creepy coda. ‘Don’t Remember I Forgot You’ stands out as the most obvious candidate for lead single. It’s the most overtly poppy tune on the album with a chorus you could imagine children skipping about in their hop-scotch arenas singing along.

Although there’s one more track afterwards, ‘Stillness and Panic’ feels like the album closer proper. A brooding, ambient piece with elven Annie-Lennox like vocals, the lyrics even spell out “it’s time to say goodbye”. It really does make you feel like you’ve been on some kind of hectic quest. But then there’s bonus track ‘Ukjent’. No synths in sight, it’s a very organic track that’s a little cheesy and feels out of place with everything that’s come before.

‘Stillness and Panic’ offers many things for many people. Like a bit of folksy Indie? Like Norwegian electro? Like dream pop? It’s all there. Some tracks work better than others a couple of tracks won’t live long in the memory but when Kolsto’ keeps to the atmospheric electronics it’s a triumph.