Norwegian Grammy-nominated artist Hanne Kolstø returns with her third album Stillness and Panic: a dreamy album of arctic electronica and folk music renderings.
The new body of work stays true to Kolstø’s inclusive approach to building a record. She takes on multiple references and instruments yet somehow – almost always – unifies them with the grip of her vocals and lyrics.
Stillness and Panic is inspired by Kolstø’s long solitary hikes in the alps of Sunnmøre in western Norway. The title aptly captures the balance of tranquil and trouble, running through the album. It’s a journey where listeners are never quite sure whether they’re in a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare.
‘The Clinch’ takes on the musical form of an avalanche, starting off reasonably calm with suspicious stirrings of ominous synths and warped drum loops. Basically, at this point you can tell something’s not going quite right. The track takes a dramatic turn halfway through with a heavy collapse of brass, strings, drums and vocals – creating the effect of panic and being crushed.
The journey becomes a bit wearisome after you run headfirst into more hectic layers of sounds. It becomes a pretentious affair of noise and imposing production where you come to rely on Hanne’s voice as a guiding hand but almost inevitably always lose your grip.
The old adage ‘less is more’ could be applied to Stillness and Panic. There are welcomed glimmers of lightness on tracks like ‘Shiftswitch’, where Hanne’s vocals come up for air with wistful acoustic guitar strums.
With a style that has been earmarked as somewhere between PJ Harvey and Björk, you could see Hanne Kolstø developing a devout global following like those artists, if she allows more of her songs to stand out instead of cloaking them in sonorous productions.
“Deep inside there’s a spark to keep searching the dark til’ the morning light…” she sings on ‘One Plus One Makes One Out Of Two’ – a fitting line given that the glacial indie electro single is one of the glimmers that made the trip worthwhile.
Standout tracks: ‘Our Time Is Up’ / ‘One Plus One Makes One Out Of Two’ / ‘Shiftswitch’.