I love Sweden. It’s a country that, over the past twenty years, has produced such influential artists as The Knife, Refused, The Hives, Robyn and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Raindear (aka Rebecca Bergcrantz), however, isn’t as glowing about her country’s celebrated musical pedigree; “I feel like the whole world thinks Sweden is so great, whereas I’m honestly getting increasingly bored by it every day. Of course we have some cool stuff and maybe I’m just too blind to see what’s there, just around the corner”. She may be suffering from an over-familiarity with her homeland, but there’s certainly no lack of vision when it comes to her music. Embers is very much wide-eyed, mixing influences that reach far beyond her native Sweden.
Recorded and produced in near isolation, Embers is an incredibly personal record. There’s a darkly Gothic vibe here, mixing moments of dark-wave and synth-pop with some beautiful, ethereal synth arrangements. However, it’s the Eastern influence that permeates throughout, which gives this record its stand out moments. Tracks like the massive ‘Prison Bed’, with an edge of that fresh eastern vibe, marrying up perfectly with Bergcrantz’s bouncy and soulful vocal melodies, and ‘Party’s Over’ which takes that Eastern feel and uses it to produce one of the most striking vocal performances on the album. Bergcrantz’s voice takes on a real haunting quality, displaying some stunning vocal runs.
Even when the record moves towards straightforward synth-pop and dark-wave, there is so much going on it’s often hard to take it all in on first listen, testament to Bergcrantz’s slick and lush production. Latest single ‘I’m The Ice’, with its intense and heavy synth intro, moves into beautiful and ethereal vocal melodies, balancing the dark and light of Embers’ ever evolving soundscapes. There’s some wonderful down-tempo tracks too, with the trip-hop beats on ‘Museum’ and the industrial, scuttling percussion on the haunting ‘Old Church’ allowing Bergcrantz to showcase her vast vocal talent over an array of different styles. Penultimate track ‘We Are The Future’ takes things off course slightly, shrinking against the rest of the album’s exceptionally strong content. Still, the vocals remain strong enough to avoid skipping over it.
Embers is as big and bold in its musical approach, as it is in lyrical sentiment. Focusing on humanity’s frailties and failures, anti-love, war and that fleeting ‘moment’ we call life. You can understand why she felt the need to produce this album in such isolation. Yet it retains a quirkiness and ambiguity, reminiscent of the days when The Knife were fun and didn’t take themselves so seriously. It’s this quality that stops pretension settling in, often a danger with albums attempting to tackle such existential subject matter. Instead, it’s an incredibly accessible pop record.
Raindear may be bored by Sweden’s oft-lauded musical output, but with Embers she’s just gone and added more credence to this so-called ‘myth’.
Embers is due out 22nd April via Vanguard Music Boulevard. You can pre-order the album here.