Recorded at home with limited means as the mother of invention, Joanne Robertson and Irma Krook represent an approach that prioritises inspiration over painstaking detail. These are compositions recorded as the spark happens, moments of lightning or rawness that can only be documented quickly and simply.
Joanne Robertson returns with a treasure of jewels from a fertile period of recording and songwriting circa 2020. These are culled from the same sessions as Painting Stupid Girls so you know the peaking emotional heft is there but somehow Blue Car hits even harder. With a poignant sound quality that sounds like it was recorded in the bathroom in between heartbreaks, Robertson composing herself with a preternatural grace to throw out these stunning, beautiful vignettes like it was no big deal.
But each track feels like a big deal. The songs are elusive, perhaps intentionally so, gauzy in their production, wrapped in rain, the soundtrack to looking out the window at an empty street where once there were people. On Band Sit Together the guitar work is more complex than ever, acoustic this time, sparkling against the hiss of the tape. Take Me In has more complex chordings and a couple of endearing bloopers to remind us this is a real-ass person with their heart on their sleeve, somewhat. The recording style – you get these feeling these are dictaphone or voice note recordings capturing the moment Robertson has finished writing the song – is almost half the music, it adds such a massive weight of intimacy to proceedings, inviting you in beside the artist.
The melodies remind us a little of peak Red House Painters or Sun Kil Moon, with the inevitable early Cat Power comparisons still relevant but really at this point Robertson is in a class of her own. Blue Car feels effortless, nothing is forced, recorded in the moment, somewhere in Glasgow deep in that regretful 2020 when communiques of human survival and connection were being laid down for us in the future to reach for. An Album Of The Year for me already.
’Military Arms’ is the debut output by Gothenburg-based sound-smith Irma Krook. Up until now primarily known as bass player & founding member of death pop vanguards Makthaverskani, Krook has composed four tracks of ethereal beauty, in the sanctity of her own home.
Krook conjures up a cavern of sweet sorrow and reverb in front of us, a portal to another dimension of epic, romantic doom and emotion, gently takes us by the hand and steps in. Krook constantly faces up to massive waves of swirling harmonies that threaten to swallow her, her vocal building upon itself into towering infernos. Underneath, the instrumentation suggests the grandeur of mid 80s Europe re-told with consumer synths and classic pre-sets. An aching fragility pervades, belying the humbleness of the recording. Rhythms are rudimentary, in total service to the crushing waves of glacial harmony, synth lines are massive, permanent, revolving and making the whole exercise an abstract take on song.
What’s undeniable is the power of Krook’s voice and handle on bittersweet melody. When the music subsides as on Military Arms we get a teasing glimpse of the lower reaches of her voice with a strident violin march defenestrated by the howling reverb. Awake, At Last has a soporific drift that reminds us of Dead Can Dance covering Molly Nilsson, the hazy synth and keyboard lines weaving a mist in front of Krook’s outsider-looking-in vocal performances. Closer A Woman’s Hand takes it down to a piano caked in reverb and Krook’s wilting falsetto that further serves to pry the last chains from the listener’s heart.
Recorded simply into her phone and laptop using what ever tools she had to hand, these performances strike hard. Naked except for the tendrils of reverb and harmony, a creeping sense of loss fighting with the utter beauty of an unstoppably pretty, gorgeous voice.