I BREAK HORSES – ” Warnings “

Posted: December 27, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Stylistic shifts have been the norm for Sweden’s I Break Horses – from the traditional rock sound of Hearts, their debut from almost a decade ago, to the electronic synthpop of its follow up Chiaroscuro in 2014. Both commendable releases, they were always an act searching for a sound that truly fit their ambitions, a search this sepia-tinged, darkly cinematic release has concluded.

More than ever a solo vehicle for Maria Lindén, this is the most focused I Break Horses record to date and follows a troublesome gestation period with a back story of failed collaborations and music lost on broken hard drives. Initial sketches for the record were created as imaginary scores while watching her favourite films with the sound turned down, and these dramatic ambient pieces were used as a blueprint for the record. The original intention of an instrumental album is evident in its wide-reaching ambition and tricksy intricate detailing pushed to the fore by Lindén; her voice is used more as an atmosphere, a distant hush throughout. “Warnings” has a desaturated gloom. A feeling of colour rushing from you and filling the sky. Its long halls of reverb and empty spaceships of delay somehow encapsulates the stillness you get before a panic attack and that calm as you faint.

At times, it’s a record that luxuriates in wondering what if you had wandered up a crumbling path to a parallel world. A place that’s now just out of reach.

In almost any other year, this would be my album of the year and it was definitely my salvation for many weeks of it. Maybe the only reason it isn’t top of the tree is because the 500% slowed grooves matched my mood almost too well… and I wish it didn’t resonate so deeply. 

Lyrically musing on love and loss, on opening track “Turn” she delivers one of the year’s most direct observations on the futility of keeping a broken relationship alive: “Maybe we’re fucking with absent minds / While our hearts are breaking.” Musically venturing into new areas such as thunderous trip-hop beats, propulsive arpeggiated basslines, swirling dreampop with hypnotic synth chords, introspective coldwave, and on highlight “Neon Lights” she takes the flatness of krautrock and sprinkles it with an ’80s pop fizz, all done with a deft touch. 

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