I Break Horses: Chiaroscuro (Bella Union) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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I Break Horses


Bella Union

Jan 23, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The follow-up to Swedish duo I Break Horses’ 2012 debut Hearts finds chief songwriter and vocalist Maria Lindén deeply entrenched in expansive synthetics and, as the fits-like-a-glove title suggests, plays heavily with the idea of contrasts.

More than just developing the band’s lush baroque shoegaze, Chiaroscuro revels in the growing confidence of the Stockholm-based Lindén, giving more clarity and volume to her alluring, fragile range. She’s spoken in recent interviews about the decision to make her voice a more “personal instrument” this time around and it was certainly a smart move. As the sound of I Break Horses becomes more fragmented and machine-like, it’s the humanity of Lindén’s vocal that keeps things in balance, securing an unbreakable grasp between creator and listener.

That’s not to say the record doesn’t try to push the sonic envelope. Seven-minute closer “Heart to Know” notably recalls a slow-paced take on something from The Knife’s Silent Shout, with a neat vocal distortion and a gestural attention to melody that breaks new ground for the band. Eight tracks earlier, she’s pushing a different envelope entirely with the album’s most accessible two-tracker. The sensual urgency of “Faith” and “Denial” are predicated on motorik disco beats and breathy vocal punctures that compound their appeal.

“Faith” in particular is the lynchpin and an anchor that prevents Chiaroscuro drifting too far into abstraction, obliquely bookending where the band might go next: Berlin-era Bowie-tinged instrumentals or Moroder-esque heart-in-mouth jams? Whatever the case, the conceptual chiaroscuro provides Lindén with a structural ethos to extrapolate the confidence and direction missing from Heartsa realization that only becomes apparent in retrospect but is a vital part of understanding the emotional and intellectual appeal of this accomplished work. (www.ibreakhorses.se)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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