Written by Jack Andrew Cribb
It’s been two years since Norwegian singer-songwriter Siv Jakobsen released her EP The Lingering, which delighted listeners with its rich range of textures and melodicisms, and now, after two years of waiting, the musician is ready to release her debut album The Nordic Mellow.
If you listen to Jakobsen’s work you will hear a stunningly peaceful and charming take on folk, contemporary in its sweeping string soundscapes and delicate neologisms concerning life and love, and The Nordic Mellow is the first of her projects to demonstrate this talented mixture. It’s a ten track project that clocks in at just over half an hour, and is an absolute lesson in how to make ethereal Nordic folk.
The project begins with To Leave You, a quiet and very soporific piece where Jakobsen sings ‘I’ve built myself a fortress/ where I’ve been hiding’. It’s reminiscent of the work of The Tallest Man On Earth, particularly in a vocal respect, but Jakobsen’s are evidently more relaxed and softer. She shows off this talented voice early on, and uses it to her advantage throughout the album, as it is really quite enchanting.
Change shows how well minimal orchestral accompaniment can underscore vocals, as Jakobsen’s soft yet seemingly tortured melodies play out above the instrumentation. The production quality to this album is terrific, and Change allows the listener to isolate both the cello and the violas simultaneously, contrasting them while they harmonise. A certain Zimmer-esque tension is added to the track as Jakobsen adds a solo percussive synth noise towards the end.
“I started writing the album after having moved back home from Brooklyn to Oslo, which inevitably gave me a new perspective on my experiences whilst living in the U.S. The album is largely about leaving places and people behind, both physically and mentally.” States Jakobsen, whose lyricisms contain darkness and ennui contrast with the general meditative quality to the soothing folk. Yet it is not at all the same strain of folk you will find in The Nordic Mellow, as the third track Shallow Digger distances itself from the rest of the project by having a distinctly medieval sound, balancing on a point where instruments of the west meet the progressions and melodies of Middle eastern musicalities. It is a standout track for me, upbeat, filmic, and very inspiring, reminding me of the more experimental work of Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin.
Credit: SIV JAKOBSEN
There is a distinct sense of humanity to this work, as it seems like Jakobsen is telling much of herself that she wouldn’t show anywhere else. ‘I am no good in a face-to-face argument, so my songs are my way of expressing the words I have a hard time speaking ‘in real life.’ It is quite common human nature I think, to shy away from confrontation. Song-writing amends that for me, it allows for me to sing the words I cannot speak.’ This idea comes across in the track Blanket, which is a little less grandiose than the others, appearing to be quite raw, layered in a way which makes the vocals compete with the string section, although her voice does shine through on the quieter parts. What makes this track standout to me in relation to the aforementioned point, is that through allowing the human sounds Jakobsen makes as she sings, the inhales, the plosive sounds that jump off of the lips, to be audible, it makes the track an incredibly genuine thing to listen to. Those sounds, which appear throughout the album, add to the overall sound and effectively make the work all the more human and relatable. It makes the songs more endearing than they already are.
The Nordic Mellow will be a treat for any folk lovers. In it you will find the sweet melodies redolent in the work of Bon Iver, the upbeat and triumphant chord progressions of The Tallest Man On Earth or Matthew And The Atlas, and the integrity and openness of the work of Laura Marling. It covers a vast landscape of ideas and sounds, maybe striding along the sidelines of jazz with Like I Used To, where a double bass and the vocal duo of Jakobsen and producer Matt Ingram gives off a definite emotionality of sadness and wrongdoing, to the Laura Marling-esque Berry And Whyte, which would make the perfect soundtrack to any roadtrip.
Credit: SIV JAKOBSEN
Ending on Space, a dark piece which conjures images of midnight sailing through the waters of the far north, which could accompany Ludovico Einaudi’s Elegy For The Arctic, or Tom Adams’ A Start On Such A Night Is Full Of Promise, is a beautifully simple way to end a beautifully constructed album.
The Nordic Mellow is out on August 25th, don’t neglect a listen to it.