It's not a trick which all artists manage to pull off with success, but we currently seem to be enjoying a strong period of female singers whose sound manages to become bigger and bolder the more they narrow their aural scope, or peel back their instrumentation.
Take last year's hyper-lauded PJ Harvey record, for instance, or this year's excellent Fiona Apple LP – two shining examples of how sticking within an ostensibly limited musical range permits the strength of performance and song writing to resonate all the more loudly, resulting in career best efforts. And this is exactly the territory within which Rebekka Karijord finds herself with We Become Ourselves – a record at once more ambitious and much more modest than its predecessor, being built on little more than tribal beats, piano and nimbly deployed, dancing vocal flourishes. And in doing so – thanks to the strength of her vocals, and the frequent charm of the songwriting – she joins the small clutch of artists who manage to sound like a pioneer, not a follower.
Owing to the modesty of the textures, Karijord finds herself at her strongest when she permits her voice to be the assertive ringmaster at the centre of the arrangements, bursting with life and energy. With this being the case, the record starts on an extremely strong suit with the one-two punch 'Prayer' and 'Use My Body While It's Still Young' – two songs based on little more than deceptively complex, syncopated rhythms of hand claps and stomps. The music makes for a brilliantly uplifting and spunky canvas upon which Karijord dazzles with a gorgeous vocal performance of real poise and control, skipping across wordless hooks with flair and genuine capacity to surprise. The tracks in the same vein are the subsequent highlights: the carefree, whimsical abandon of 'Multicoloured Hummingbird', or the addictive and sultry 'Your Love'.
Conversely, however, Karijord finds herself make an early misstep in the form of the title track – a song where the record's strengths (the simplicity of the repetitive, mnemonic refrains and her thinly populated textures) suddenly work against her owing to what feels like little more than a drop in tempo. Without the propulsion of energised, upbeat rhythm and the joyous vocals which accompany them, the songs are far less engaging, and their lack of ornamentation more keenly felt. To be sure, there are still highlights to be found in this mode such as the moody 'Save Yourself', but in that it kicks into motion a second half comprised solely of downbeat jams (including the especially wet 'Ode To What Is Lost') the album feels like it's winding down for a great deal longer than it actually is, and dearly feels the absence of one final straight up banger towards its back end.
But since the album's flaws are chiefly in structure rather than in composition, it's easy enough to forgive – especially as the centre of these songs are, whatever their tempo or mood, contain the same strength: Rebekka Karijord's expressive and highly versatile voice.
7Russell Warfield's Score