Originally born out of a desire to explore her own musical desires as well as the power of voice, Lindy-Fay Hella (perhaps better known for her vocal work with Norse folk revivalists Wardruna) recruited family members and friends to pick up instruments and contribute wherever they felt necessary and the result is a spiritually refreshing and unambiguously organic record that might only appeal to a select few but will nonetheless enrich the ears of those who hear it.
Hella’s voice is undoubtedly the linchpin of her compositions but rather than focus on her natural ability as a storyteller, she instead combines that with the inherent tonal and emotional range of her voice, lending Seafarer a diverse musical personality as colourful as her own. While Skåddo is striking for its understated sense of chill and trip-hop leanings, Nåke Du Finn I Skogen is an exultant celebration that lets her voice cry out to the heavens. It’s also one of the richest offerings in terms of instrumentation, a feast of woodwind and percussion that even turns the croaking voice of Kristian ‘Gaahl’ Esperdal into something stirring. The fact that the same melody is used as the basis for both is remarkable as while the two cuts are radically opposed on the surface, they still share the unmistakeable mark of Hella as composer and as thematic directing force.
It’s a well thought-out but resolutely heartfelt collection, an often surreal journey through the subconscious of not just a single individual but the collective id of all its players.
Though there are stabs at more traditional song forms that meet with decent success, such as the album’s title track that uses a bittersweet sea shanty to open the album with elegance and grace, Seafarer as a whole feels aeons separated from Hella’s work with Wardruna. There’s a sinewy complexity that runs through songs like Three Standing Stones and at least part of this is down to a deft use of synthesiser to build tone and weight, its metronomic percussion forming the backbone of a rich and oddly infectious melody that ranks as possibly the album’s strongest moment.
The fact that it took Hella two years to pull together these nine tracks shows. It’s a well thought-out but resolutely heartfelt collection, an often surreal journey through the subconscious of not just a single individual but the collective id of all its players. It celebrates a voice that is, at any one time, chilling, innocent, pained, powerful and otherworldly and in its intuitive grasp of flow and drama, it evokes a sense of shared human memory that straddles the past and the future. In simpler terms, it’s a gorgeous and unique work that may sink into obscurity but more likely (and deservedly) will instead be remembered as one of the year’s most impressive releases.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes