Helene Hørlyck – A Nordic Room

01/05/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: Helene Hørlyck
Title: A Nordic Room
Label: BSC Music
Genre: Ambient / Pop

Track Listing:

01 Voices
02 What Is This
03 Beautiful Day
04 Still
05 Universe On Hold
06 Where Are You Now
07 He Said
08 Stonethrows Close To You
09 Round Mirrors
10 Service Star
11 I Begin

Helene Hørlyck’s name may sound like an unusually popular bedtime beverage, but don’t let this distract you from the seriousness of her music. Helene’s apparently been cooperating with Enigma co-producer Jens Gad for a number of years but now she’s decided to flee the nest, albeit temporarily, and to put her spirit into a solo effort. My knowledge of Ms Hørlyck’s work is non-existent, as is Last FM’s judging by her play count, but then she is “hailed among insiders” as one of “Europe’s most interesting vocalists”. As much as I would love to delve into the implications of these phrases, it’s safe to say that no-one outside the industry has heard of her, even though apparently she has done work for notorious artists such as Paul Oakenfold and Basement Jaxx.

So what happened? Helene decided to get herself a laptop and plonk some songs onto it during touring and then regurgitate them in a studio, even though she effectively makes an apology in the album’s linear notes that the choir sounds didn’t come out quite as she’d expected. However, clearly her label care enough to give her some nice digipak presentation [there goes her 20%], all coloured white and light blue in true Scandinavian clinicity, with a set of pictures of Helene playing with her sleeky blonde hair so all you frizzy girls can get jealous.

Her biography describes the music as “opera meets ambient meets pop” which is a pretty accurate description, though the concentration is more on pop with the operatic elements seemingly an afterthought. Helene has a soft, strong voice and experiments with clean and operatic singing, effortlessly traversing both styles. Whether her talents lie in this area rather than songwriting is a moot point: she’s able to write competent ambient pop tunes some of the time, while at others they’re so soporific they could put Genghis Khan to sleep after a platter of Viagra.

Don’t let that fool you into thinking that A Nordic Room is all miss and no hit, because it certainly isn’t. Album-opener “Voices” is a fantastic mix of ambient and operatic, “He Said” is one of her better pieces of ambient, whereas the album’s finest moments rest in songs such as “Universe On Hold”, “Where Are You Now” and “Stonethrows Close to You”, which are all effective and catchy works of pop with strong choruses, even touching on Madonna’s Ray of Light in places. It’s a shame that some of the other numbers – namely “What Is This” and “Beautiful Day”- aren’t as powerful, the latter especially being way too twee for any sane human to endure.

When “A Nordic Room” is good it’s a satisfying trip through some of the lighter pop elements that traverse the charts in Scandinavia, though at other times it’s way too easy to skip onto the next track than put up with the dreariness of numbers like “Round Mirrors” and “Still”. All in all it’s a promising piece of work, though one which I’m unable to visualise inhabiting many other places than your parents’ car CD player on weekend trips down to Stavanger.

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