Rock, December 2019

Altid Sammen
4AD Records 4AD 0172

Seven years since their last release, the Danish trio returns with an album boldly sung in their native language. We Brits, me included, are very lazy about anything sung in other than English, but Efterklang is worth trying that little bit harder for. Their song titles appear like random phrases constructed from names of items of furniture in IKEA, but the sheer beauty of Casper Clausen's voice transforms the unfamiliar words into streams of pure sound that penetrate the listener's psyche at a level deeper than mere understanding. They've always been bold innovators, but the acoustic/electronic arrangements here surpass anything they've achieved so far. An easy listen it isn't, but a rewarding one? Oh yes. JBk


Kitt Philippa
Paragon Records PAR00013

Having attracted bucketloads of online tastemaker plaudits for her singles 'Human', 'You' and 'Grace', Belfast-based singer/songwriter Kit Philippa has finally got round to releasing an album and, impressive as those singles were, the album is even better. She composes mostly on piano, but also displays a sophisticated grasp of electronic and orchestral instrumentation, both integrated with subtle percussion. Best of all, her voice is truly distinctive. It's beautiful but powerful, and she uses it to deliver unusually compelling lyrics that manage to be enigmatic yet also emotionally involving. If she ever manages to write a hit single, she'll be gigantic. JBk


Penguin Cafe
Handfuls Of Night
Erased Tapes BSM 256

Four albums into an acclaimed career, Penguin Cafe has established itself as an entity quite distinct from its illustrious predecessor, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, but devotees of either will find much to enjoy in both. Led by Arthur Jeffes, son of PCO founder Simon Jeffes, the ensemble exists in a similar contemporary chamber music space, but never plunders its heritage. On this album, Jeffes leans more towards gossamer string orchestrations and minimalist piano backings than his dad ever did, and eschews much of the quirky humour that was an essential PCO element. The result is like being in a gorgeously immersive aural flotation tank. JBk


None Of My Words
Jansen Records JANSEN109CD

Don't be too dismayed that folksy Norwegian singer-songwriter Louien says her debut album is 'about the first phase of a grieving process – hopelessness, isolation, anxiety and depression'. What she doesn't say is that it's also very beautiful, lushly orchestrated and performed by a band that understands the value of understatement. After all, when what you're backing is nine sensitively sung songs by a gifted young woman, why would you want to gild the lily? Nothing here even remotely resembles a hit single, there are no catchy hooks or singalong choruses, but Louien possesses the voice of an angel and uses it to devastating effect. JBk