Bella Union could easily pull off the strapline “we release records which sound ace in the snow.” It’s not hugely artful and it lacks more than a little bit of class, but it is true. There have been plenty of opportunities to put this theory to the test of late, and one of those which best proves the point is ‘Golden Sea’. ‘When Your Blackening Shows’, their debut outing, made it to eleven in Best of 2008 list off the back of some magnificently floaty vocals and this second offering manages to go one better. Ignore the chronically primitive artwork and read on.
The word ‘glacial’ is entirely appropriate for describing Our Broken Garden’s sound, particularly the voice of Anna Brønsted. An occasional keyboard player for Efterklang, Brønsted, to all intents and purpose, is Our Broken Garden, accompanied here by several friends to flesh out the sound. And what a sound. Talking to Simon Raymonde of Bella Union about the record prior to its release he described it as “like Royksopp played on real instruments” and, while it’s not entirely representative of the sound of the album as a whole, I can see what he means. The intricate beats and cinematic strings which elevate some of Royksopp’s slower tunes towards the stratosphere are in evidence here to great effect.
Hugely out of step with what people in tight jeans called ‘the scene’ and not especially similar to anything else I’ve heard this year, ‘Golden Sea’ has made only a minor mark on the world but I can’t helping thinking that if more people heard this stuff they might actually buy it. ‘Seven Wild Horses’ and ‘The Feral’ make beautiful use of orchestration while ‘Nightsong’ is a fluttering echo of an epic dream from a cold wintery night gone by. I could continue making tortured metaphorical references but I think you get the picture.
In case you don’t, let me point you to one song in particular. ‘Garden Grow’ is the bands finest song to date and, to my ears, utterly irresistible. Kicking off with a bit of a Goldfrapp glam strut, it soon builds into something far grander than Granny Alison could ever dream of. Strings sweeping in and out without overplaying their part, solitary piano notes hover over the beat while Brønsted’s voice surges like an orchestra, having been left to its own devices in the verses. The chorus is amongst the most joyous experiences of my year – every single time I hear it. And then, just to top it all off, at 3:36 a ragged guitar part creeps in which, in its rather brief twenty second cameo, will make every hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
I genuinely believe that this record deserves rather more recognition and all round love than it has had thus far and if you can find 41 minutes in your life this Christmas to give it a listen, I think you’ll be more than satisfied.
(If you decide you love it – I can’t imagine why not – the beautiful vinyl pressing is currently down to a tenner direct from Bella Union)