Konradsen — Saints and Sebastian Stories (25 Oct. 2019)
Location: Troms ~ Oslo, Norway
Album release: 25 October, 2019
Record Label: Cascine
01 Never Say A 3:42
02 Big Bruce 0:39
03 Television Land 3:34
04 Dice 3:36
05 Cosmic Kid Vibration 0:48
06 Baby Hallelujah 2:49
07 Warm Wine 1:44
08 No One Ever Told Us 3:48
09 Odd Mistake 4:54
10 Red to Rhyme [Explicit] 4:26
11 Roasted 4:19
12 Give 3:28
13 Written to the Others 4:16
Personnel: Jenny Marie Sabel & Eirik Vildgren
• All songs written, played and produced by Eirik Vildgren & Jenny Marie Sabel.
• Except where noted Prophet 6, Yamaha DX7, Roland SH~1000, flugelhorn, piano, Korg Volca Beats, guitar, samples, Grundig Stenorette, Mellotron, sounds and noises.
• Samples of friends and family and old video tapes from Terje Konradsen.
• All lyrics by Jenny Sabel
• Recorded by Konradsen in Eirik Vildgren’s bedroom and by Kåre Vestrheim at Propeller
• Mixed by Tom Carmichael
• Mastered by Morgan Nicolaysen
• Painting by Camilla Løhren Chmiel
• Artwork by Minsk
By Tristan Gatward / 21 OCTOBER 2019, 08:41 BST / Score: 8
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
••› The same androgynous croon that so gorgeously allows RHYE to perform in the dark — that washes over Greg Gonzalez’s Cigarettes After Sex to keep their music mulled in anonymity, that flashes through Sequoyah Murray’s mutant soul with a polyrhythmic confidence — is an enabler in modern pop music.
••› With the mile~a~minute salvo peeping into celebrity gratification culture, Norwegian duo Konradsen’s debut is a calming thirteen track antidote, removing the burden of identity. Saints and Sebastian Stories plays with all the mythological dexterity of an unearthed artefact, where origin and biography barely matter.
••› Take the fourth A Side released in advance of the album, “Dice”. Nostalgia’s a nuanced thing, of course, subject to the songs your Dad played you on the drive to school, or what you could rip onto your first iPod. But here, Jenny Marie Sabel’s tender vocals extend through the most niche references, her piano keys have the gentle echo of Marble Sounds and early Death Cab For Cutie, before all of the lightly libertine charm summoned up is deftly cracked by an out of tune trumpet, interjecting field recordings, and samples of speech from family and friends. In ‘Big Bruce’, the base of that recording is an old VHS tape from Sabel’s father, of a family friend impersonating a televangelist. The meditative textures of friendship and familiarity sound like an audible equivalent of the most breath~taking Japanese kintsugi.
••› “Baby Hallelujah” is another stark standout. It’s the simplest and most human track on the album; Sabel’s austere vocals meander around ideas the afterlife with the childish inquisitiveness of standing on the highest step of a ladder to see what treats are laid out on the top shelf. Eirik Vildgren’s vocals join on “Warm Wine”, with crystalline electronics built around a modest guitar strum and the small but definite teasing of a dance track. Programmed beats are still packed with ambience, and the grandest, most pastiche narratives feel soothing.
••› This is the to and fro that builds through the rest of the album; when vocal and acoustic indulgence could take over, the crashing cymbals and brass of “Red To Rhyme” squeal into a sonic orbit of one of the many planets around Bon Iver’s 22, A Million. When instrumental indulgence could take hold, the sheer human~ness of the vocal harmonies on “No One Ever Told Us” and “Odd Mistake” — like an Empress Of LP being played at half~speed — demand an eco~friendly spotlight and our full concentration.
••› You can come here for the unsuspecting pop songs, the meditations on traditional Scandinavian folk music, the strange humour and infectious friendships. Against the great abyss of tangled internet information, Saints and Sebastian Stories is an unobtrusive gem.
℘ Konradsen, the duo of vocalist and pianist Jenny Marie Sabel and multi~instrumentalist Eirik Vildgren, trace their roots to the far north of Norway, where the black night of winter is backlit by the neon glow of the Northern Lights. It’s a fitting metaphor for the music the pair crafts — tradition meets innovation, and the natural world expressing its astral filament.
℘ Inspired by the traditional songs and hymns Sabel sang with her family as a child, and the modern pop music she and Vildgren collectively admire — the work of Sufjan Stevens, Frank Ocean and composer Christophe Chassol, among others — the duo’s debut album Saints and Sebastian Stories weaves Sabel’s soulful and transportive vocals with field recordings and samples of ambient sounds. ℘ These voices of past and present dance over minimalist piano, atmospheric electronics, programmed beats and organic horns, forming a delicate sonic narrative centered on family and community that reflects the arc of their musical journey.
℘ Sabel grew up in an intentional community in a small village in the north of Norway, surrounded by tight~knit families and cradled by the sound of her family’s piano. Vildgren had a similar rural upbringing also in the northern part of their country. As a teenager he began spending time at the Kråkeslottet community center on the island of Senja, where he connected with other local artists and musicians, and today helps organize its annual music festival.
℘ The pair met in high school, and later moved to Oslo to attend university. When they began writing their first album, it felt natural to include the many people that have nurtured and inspired them along the way. Most often revealed as textures in the broader composition, little flickers of voices from old home movies, or snippets of conversations with friends, are woven throughout Konradsen’s songs, providing a continuous sense of mystery and familiarity. “It makes me feel safe somehow,” Sabel says of these voices. “It makes the music personal, and reveals little insights about who we are.” “It’s sort of like a glimpse of something bigger...like a sneak peak or a still photo,” Vildgren adds.
℘ These appear across the band's new record, most obviously on “Cosmic Kid Vibration” and “Big Bruce,” which utilize larger snippets of voices. The latter is a recording taken from an old VHS tape belonging to Sabel’s father, depicting a family friend impersonating a televangelist, and bleeds into album highlight “Television Land,” a gospel~flecked mediation that places Sabel’s voice front and center. “And the high will find us through them/Will find us through them,” she sings over a chorus of voices, reflecting on these past and future bonds. Opener “Never Say A” displays a touch of humor via child~like synths that accent Sabel’s opening words, while “Baby Hallelujah” is a simple, honest and stirring meditation on life and the great beyond, layered with samples of the voices of close friends.
℘ Recorded with lauded Norwegian producer Kåre Vestrheim at Propeller Recordings, and at Vildgren’s home studio in Oslo, Saints and Sebastian Stories is a tender and homespun thread between past and present elevating our underlying interconnectedness through a journey in friendship and quiet reflection. Outside of the sampled voices, a host of friends also played instruments on the record, or contributed artwork, bringing the message full circle. “We really consider this community music, something that is very close to heart," Sabel says. "And we wanted to communicate that not only through the lyrics, but also through the sounds and the people in the band.” Saints and Sebastian Stories is out October 25, 2019 on Cascine and Su Tissue. © 2019 CASCINE