The Practice of Surrender by Orphan Ann
Terrifyingly good but dark Electronica from Swedish duo
Everyone remember Telstar Ponies, the Scottish indie rock band from the 90s? Without sounding melodramatic, I'd say that their debut album from 1995, In The Space Of A Few Minutes, is a classic of the period. Trading in poignant chords and minor keys, dark subject matter, menacing vibes and semi-spoken vocals, all drenched in emotive/mournful melody, they defined a set of characteristics in their music that every band or artist should adopt and pursue! Their track Innerhalb Weniger Minuten is the perfect example... have a listen:
Now, imagine this kaleidoscopic range of elements monochromatically filtered through today's DIY electronic music production ethos and we get Orphan Ann, the Swedish duo of Anja Enerud (Masskultur collective) and Sofia Al Rammal Sturdza (SARS, Född Död). And while their debut album The Practice of Surrender may sound radically different to Telstar Ponies (no massive guitar riffs or Krautrock-inspired rhythms) the parallels in resulting effect slowly manifest with repeat listens. They use doom-filled monumental drums, heartrending ascending synths, monotone monologues and haunting, choral backing vocals, all of which combine to form the most bewitching brew. Their nine-track debut album for Swedish label Moloton is a future classic in waiting.
It's not all mantric singing and alluring melody though. Some may argue that the music of Orphan Ann holds a certain Ambient leaning but lurking beneath this accessible facade is a tangled mass of complexity, Stygian and profound. The protagonists, Enerud and Sturdza, are clearly sophisticated but also disillusioned. The title track itself asks all sorts of perplexing questions, which could apply to a range of contentious issues relevant today. On third track Du kommer aldrig nära igen, translated as "You never come close again", only the violent screams make their dark intent clear; it's not a statement of self-pity but a direct threat. On Märkt (i.e. "Marked") who precisely is being singled out as an object of suspicion, hostility or vengeance? Overwhelmed and defeated by the time we reach Я уезжаю ("I'd like to check out"), this isn't a hotel they're leaving. Closing track När vi såg genom glas ("When we saw through glass") draws things to a suitable conclusion with atonal drones, deflated and worn (pleasantly reminiscent of Boards of Canada).
A superb debut album. This is is how to make electronic music: strong conceptual ideas backed-up by powerful music.