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In the Studio: I Break Horses

Enter the Light and Dark Side

Oct 17, 2013 I Break Horses
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Singer/songwriter Maria Lindén describes herself as melancholy. But, casually lounging on a desk chair in her Stockholm apartment, one would be hard pressed to guess that the I Break Horses frontwoman has a dark side. Lindén peppers her statements with easy laughs, mostly directed at herself. It doesn’t even spoil her mood when a petulant Apple computer system forces her to crawl on the ground and fiddle with wires in order to play cuts from her band’s recently completed sophomore album Chiaroscuro. Having received the album masters only a few days before, the emotion Lindén is experiencing most these days is relief.

“The album is actually finished,” she says, laughing as though taken by a bout of post-creation euphoria. “That feels good. Right now, I’m trying to feel okay about it. It’s really hard for me to ever feel at peace with anything that I do.”

Recorded in early 2013 and finished in six months, Chiaroscuro represents a burst of productivity for Lindén and bandmate Fredrik Balck after a yearlong break. Lindén credits the extended time off, in part, to the stress of touring—where the crowd-averse musician was forced to find ways to connect with audiences. It was a task, she says, that drove her toward a mental breakdown.

“I felt I needed to find what’s fun about music again,” she admits, recalling her return to the studio. “I allowed myself to be more dramatic in my expression. I think that definitely has to do with the live experience. You feel you really want to give the audience a more dramatic expression.”

Although during her self-imposed hiatus Lindén didn’t listen to much music, the musician found herself gravitating towards the sounds of her youth while writing. For the thirty-two-year old, that meant glossy, sorrow-laced production, reminiscent of the 1980s.

“It’s melancholy, but in a glamorous way,” she muses. “That’s what I really, really liked, how they had all these flashy clothes … still there was so much melancholy in the melodies.”

To achieve the new direction, Lindén moved away from the synths she had used while writing debut album Hearts in favor of composing at an upright piano. She gestures at the instrument, which takes up a hefty corner of her small living room.

“I wanted to think more dry skin this time,” she says. “I wanted to start with something really organic and try not to layer it with thousands of tracks and huge reverb.”

From hauntingly dark album opener “You Burn,” to the glitchy, Pretty in Pink-worthy lead single “Denial,” Chiaroscuro ties together a sea change worth of thematic highs and lows. Lindén confesses it’s reflective of her emotional state while recording.

“My last year and this year was really a roller coaster emotionally for me,” she admits. “I got so tired of myself being this sad person all the time…When writing music, I use it a lot as therapy. In some ways the darkest sides of me come out. It started with those pieces, and then I thought, ‘Come on, write something people can dance to instead!’ For the first time I’ve tried to do some dancy stuff. That’s scary in many ways. But it’s been fun. It was time for it to be a fun process instead of a mad process.”

It’s that spirit of tonal variance that also informed the album title. Chiaroscuro, is a painting term that refers to a strong contrast in a composition’s darks and lights.

“It’s a bit pretentious!” says Lindén, letting out another in a line of self-deprecating chuckles. “I thought it suited the way I was thinking about the album while writing it. Afterwards, maybe the dark elements are taking up more percentage than the light elements. But there is some light on this one as well.”

(www.facebook.com/ibreakhorses)



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