In retrospect on must concede that it was a matter of initial surprise that this young Norwegian girl’s debut should find its way into all those offices, and all those ears, and all those minds, and there bring so much joy; spawning so much acclaim.
Think about it: A hitherto virtually unknown artist, form a virtually unknown place, makes an album in a pre-war bike repair shop –so it sounds- which, by the end of the year is on BBC’s top ten album-of-the-year list. It really makes for astonishment that something so quiet and quaint could make itself heard through the immense noise of popular music, and it proves, as clearly as the light of day, that Hanne Hukkelberg is something way more than a singer with a sweet voice and nice melodic vein. Here is an artist that through her music displays something special, not simply skill or taste, but a rare musicality with strangely compelling, seemingly new, properties.
But how is one to label it?
“Crooked eccentric pop” Hanne calls it herself, “as it meets dusty jazz.”
The truth is that any musical category, even such a “meeting”, fails to pin down the strange essence of her debut, because more than just a (another) display of musical whimsicality and genre-merger it is about the “little things” the title bespeaks. More than anything the record astounds for its unbelievable “nearness;” the sounds laid down seem almost tactile, as living little things, the hearts of which you can sense throbbing though they make no sound.
One of many deeply impressed British critics referred to Hukkelberg’s music as “hyper-real,” meaning, presumably, that it achieves a unique degree of presence. And most of all her voice, which is remarkably alive: rich and diverse as a whole narrative unto itself, and her singing seems to animate the whole listening-situation.
Others compared her to “Bjørk at her softest.” But whereas Bjørk is unruly as Iceland’s weather, and private as its barren isolation, Hukkelberg’s is the sound of a forested realm, with small houses filled with quaint devices and myriad purposeful little things. With Hukkelberg’s debut one thinks rather of a miniature mechanical world –as a toy story- than of Bjørk’s organic flamboyance.
But with her new alum Hukkelberg’s direction seems to be changing. A product of her relocation in Berlin, Rykestrasse 68 is grander and more continental -urban rather than sylvan- and with affinity to the liquid light of the cinema. Little things have been replaced by bigger ones, such as Berlin itself, cabaret stages and orchestras. But her trademark use of objects as instruments is repeated, this time including also a cat. Some say the new album sounds like Radiohead and some say Kate Bush. But as she has already proven beyond any dispute, Hanne Hukkelberg most of all sounds like herself. And judging by Norwegian papers, her “presencing” musicality has achieved magic also with those bigger things: Again the corps of critics are almost unanimous in their acclaim –pointing most of all to a “quite remarkable originality”- and Hukkelberg now truly stands forth as one of the most extraordinary Norwegian musical talents of the new millennium.sd
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