Review : I Break Horses - Hearts (Deluxe Edition)
PopmattersThe Swedish pop scene has produced a number of groups who sing in English and have enjoyed some recognition in America. Earlier in the 00s, many of these groups played sweet, honest guitar-pop that easily fit into the indie scene – the Shout Out Louds, the Perishers, and the Radio Dept. By the middle of the decade, the exported Swedish sound began to diversify and electronics became more prominent. The second album from the Radio Dept. was largely electronic; Robyn released thumping dance tunes; Air France put together electro-disco; the Knife released darker synthesizer compositions. More eclectic groups like the Tough Alliance, Lykke Li, and jj sprouted up as well. I Break Horses, comprised of Frederik Balck and Maria Linden, formed near the end of the 00s in Sweden’s capital, Stockolm. They released their debut album, entitled Hearts, in 2011— it splits the difference between the more guitar-oriented and electronic ends of Sweden’s English-pop spectrum.
I Break Horses often start their songs slowly, with a simple guitar melody or a basic progression on the synthesizer. There is usually a second keyboard playing more atmospherically, holding single notes for long periods before they change. The songs gain power as they go, building in percussion in layers – bass drums coming in first, some sharper percussion joining them later. Everything might burst in explosions of whirring keyboards and distortion, or just simmer continuously without ever quite reaching an apex. Often the percussion and most of the instrumentation stop momentarily to give the vocals a chance to fill the breadth of the tune. The lyrics can be unintelligible, but it doesn’t matter: It’s the tone and pitch that delivers the message. The vocals are multi-tracked and female, low and smooth. Syllables are dragged out; there are a lot of wordless “whoa-ohs”. As the music explodes, the vocals never do much more than coo louder. They feel calm, a bit melancholy but a bit hopeful, woozy, languorous...full text
QromagSwedish musicians have been hot for years now (QRO's Swedish Sensations), and everyone's all a-flutter about airy, electronic beauty these days, so when you get some airy, electronic beauty out of Sweden, you've got the makings of buzz. Stockholm duo I Break Horses have buzz in spades, having in their short time already crossed the North Sea for the U.K. (QRO photos of first U.K. tour) and now are on tour with couldn't-be-any-hotter-at-the-moment M83 (QRO live review). So it's the perfect time for a U.S. deluxe edition release of their debut Hearts, which is some nice airy, electronic beauty, if hardly revelatory (especially these days).
From the brightening opener "Winter Beats" to big atmosphere finish "No Way Outro", Fredrik Balck and Maria Lindén use their synthesizers well. There is some variety on Hearts (not counting the only-added-to-justify-calling-it-‘deluxe' remixes at the end), including more fuzz to the title track, an eighties feel to "Wired", and a slow down to "I Kill Your Love, Baby!". But after the record reaches its emotional height with middle piece "Pulse", which puts a loss behind the sound, one feels a bit aired out during the simplistic "Cancer" and "Load Your Eyes" (though "Empty Bottles" does have an enchanting way about it)....full text
PoppressinternationalI Break Horses are upfront about their influences. They list My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Jesus and Mary Chain on their website and are signed to Cocteau Twins’ Robert Gutherie’s Bella Union label. Dream-pop, shoegaze, beautiful noise…whatever you want to call it. It’s a well established genre at this point, and I Break Horses don’t spend too much time trying to innovate. Instead they put all the best parts in a blender and use the pureed result to establish a very definite mood. This mood is the thing that makes Hearts, now reissued in a deluxe edition on I Kill Love and Bella Union, such a joy to listen to.
The project started in Maria Lindén’s bedroom, inhibited by the cold Swedish winters and her own love of solitude. She sought out drummer Fredrik Balck to fill in beats, and he happened to be a lyricist as well. And although the lyrics are largely too gauzy and whispery to be readily understood, Lindén douses them in emotion. Her vocals are largely the centerpiece of the album, even if they are mixed into the music rather than layered on top of it. Filling out the rest is combination of synthesizers, guitars, and various effects. It’s a syrupy mess of sweetness that is somehow both dense and ethereal.
The album begins strongly with “Winter Beats”, driven by an impossibly strong vocal melody from Lindén. The opener dissolves seamlessly into the title track, which closes with what is perhaps one of the best hooks on the record. The rest of the album might be a little overshadowed by the two openers at first listen, but repeated plays allow what are well crafted songs to fully sink into the unconsciousness. “Pulse” and “Cancer” in particular have an emotional resonance that helps make this more than just a collection of songs.
With such an ecstatic quality to the sound, there’s not a lot of overt darkness but it’s there. Some of the song titles (“Cancer,” “Empty Bottles”) suggest all is not pure happiness, and one of the album’s most beautiful tracks is ironically named “I Kill Your Love, Baby!” While the songs are often majestic, there’s a haunting, almost melancholic vibe throughout that’s hard to pinpoint. It gives Hearts more depth than it at first seems.
Hearts reportedly took three years to finish and Lindén says it won’t take as long next time. But hopefully there’s nothing lost in picking up speed. It’s probably no accident that a similar, several-years-in-the making record (My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless) turned out to be such a masterpiece (and big influence on I Break Horses). With the accelerated pace of music production these days, hearing something in which time was spent is extraordinary. If all goes well they’ll only expand on the results in their next outing....full text
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- 1. Wired
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