hanne-kolsto-albumReleased: January 2015

Hanne Kolstø has been busy recently; this album Forever Maybe is her fourth in as many years which have seen her sound evolve and her audiences increase in number. A Norwegian synth-pop songstress, Kolstø presents atmospheric songs with heart, and drive- melodies interweave with hotchpotch beats and ultimately aim towards a distinctive sound. Psychedelic, euphoric, haunting and emotional, Forever Maybe is a mixed bag of a record in terms of both sound and quality.

As she opens proceedings with the intense sound of The Horrors crossed with Katy B, Kolstø asserts “I don’t want to say anything / I don’t want to be anything”. Undefinable and original, opener Blanko is the summation of such sentiments. Throughout the album Kolstø says little with her poetry, in fact at times it can be off-putting, ridden with clichés and poorly executed rhyming couplets, but she speaks the loudest when triumphing with ad lib vocal exhibitions enhanced by production that imitates all things spectral and dream-like. Synnecrosis sees an almost tribal call and response between her vocals and the lead guitar, whilst the LP’s title track is another that lets the vocal melodies do the talking.

Kolstø’s voice is strong throughout, and the percussion on this record is particularly noteworthy, from simplistic driven drum pad beats to a disjointed cacophony of different electronic sounds converging to create a distinctive sound behind the soft synths and tender guitars. In terms of her rhythm section, however, there’s little to see here. Uninspired chord progressions and lazy usage of key instrumentation forces an otherwise meticulously planned out album into pretty obscure territory. Not bad enough to be slammed but far from synth-pop classics, tracks such as We Don’t See Ourselves and All is Contagious inoffensively skip along, sounding like they were made simply to be played in the background of a Topshop or H&M shop rather than to be taken particularly seriously.

There are thankfully more hits than misses on Forever Maybe however, with The Urge to Repeat standing out as a big number juxtaposing airy vocals with gritty guitars and killer bass. The gems on the record certainly outweigh the less impressive numbers, and Kolstø’s voice is nothing else but an enduringly powerful entity in itself, driving the record forward like such an independent and individualised singer should. Touchingly human but always carrying a sense of intrigue about her, Kolstø as a performer is suitably the main attraction here, intense and affecting, with a dash of surrealist mystery.

Far from a disaster but by no means a classic, Forever Maybe is at times bland and unoriginal, at others immersive and emphatic. As a whole it’s a record that showcases some fine vocal talent, even if the poetry and lyricism isn’t quite there and some instrumentation doesn’t come off well. For the most part Hanne Kolstø’s latest offering will please fans of dreamy synth-pop as it seeks to offer something different to other alternatives on the pop music spectrum.

★★★

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